We remember Nelson Mandela

GLAAD joins millions around the world in mourning Nelson Mandela. Mandela died today, December 5, 2013. He was a human rights leader for South Africa and an inspiration to the world.

Nelson Mandela was a native South African, born in Mveso, Transkei, South Africa. Mandela got his start in the political movement early by joining the African National Congress in his 20's. In 1964, Mandela, along with fifteen other members of the African National Congress, was accused of 221 acts of sabotage designed to overthrow the apartheid system. Mandela led the underground revolution since they were outlawed four years prior to the trial. Under the new General Law Amendment Sabotage Act of 1962 and the Suppression of Communism Act, the defendants faced the threat of the death penalty. The court convicted him as guilty for four counts of sabotage. 

The United Nations Security Council started investigating the trial and the apartheid regime. They released Mandela from prison 27 years later, on February 11th, 1990. Mandela ran for President of South Africa in 1994, and won in the first democratic multi-racial election.

Mandela worked towards peace initiatives for the unity of all people. His government worked towards ending all discrimination and providing a nation of peace. He used his anti-apartheid ideals to form a new constitution for South Africa based on equality and diversity. In 1996, he signed the new constitution into law.

"We, the people of South Africa, recognize the injustices of our past; honor those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land; respect those who have worked to build and develop our country; and believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity."

Laws criminalizing LGBT relations were still in place despite the post-apartheid constitution of 1994, which made South Africa one of the first countries on the globe outlawing discrimination based on a citizen's sexual orientation. Two years after the new constitution was signed, Mandela overturned the apartheid laws criminalizing LGBT individuals in South Africa. He also integrated laws making it possible for gay and lesbian couples to marry, adopt children, and receive access to In Vitro Fertilization and surrogacy services. The new constitution in South Africa was one of the most liberal constitutions in the world, being the first country to write discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation into federal law.

"Nelson Mandela is an inspiration to millions around the globe and a personal hero to me.  He overcame hardship and discrimination to craft the first constitution that recognized the dignity and humanity of all people, including LGBT people," said Wilson Cruz, GLAAD's National Spokesperson. "We will continue to learn and grow from his legacy, even as we mourn his passing and honor his memory."

Nelson Mandela has been awarded over 250 awards over four decades, including the Congressional Gold MedalUnited Nations Prize in the Field of Human RightsLenin Peace Prize, and most notable, the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993