Student activists at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, are planning to stage an anti-homophobia protest today after a symbolic ‘pink closet’ sculpture intended to highlight the effects of homophobia was burnt down.
The bright pink closet was erected in the university’s Jameson Plaza for the launch of Pink Week, and was set ablaze on Monday, after having been on display for less than 12 hours. The closet had previously been displayed in 2007, when it was defaced with graffiti.
The Pink Week campaign is hosted by the university and Rainbow UCT, which is run by an LGBTI student group to celebrate and raise awareness of sexual diversity.
Speaking to Cape Times, Dylan Jack van Vuuren, chairman of Rainbow UCT, said the closet had been left in its burnt-out state to highlight prejudice on campus.
Mr van Vuuren said: “We request that university management, including Campus Protection Services, acknowledges that this is a hate crime and an indication of a larger problem found within the UCT community and broader South African society, which needs to be addressed.”
The Rainbow UCT plan to gather at the Rondebosch campus this afternoon with a banner declaring “Gay Rights are Human Rights”. They will then proceed to deliver a memorandum to university management.
Campus authorities have opened a case of destruction of property, but there have been no arrests reported so far.
In a statement, Mr van Vuuren said: “The remains of the Closet have remained in position for the duration of Pink Week, and have been integrated into somewhat (sic) of an art installation designed to memorialise those who have suffered injustices and lost their lives at the hands of homophobia.”
He added that friends of the society had sent flowers and a new metal closet had been erected as a symbol of the community’s strength.
Rainbow UCT said the message they wished to send with their planned protest was that hatred, regardless of whether it occurred within the campus boundaries or on a national level, was not to be condoned.