Johannesburg – VIJAY SHAH via CHRIS BAYNES and The Independent
A winner of the Miss South Africa beauty pageant has sparked controversy after visiting a home for children orphaned by HIV/AIDS while wearing protective gloves, the Independent newspaper of Britain reported today.
Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters visited a soup kitchen in the major city of Johannesburg to meet with the orphans. She was seen wearing gloves, which have led observers to accuse her of being racist. She was handing out hot meals to the orphans as part of the Winter Soup Drive charity event at the Ikageng community centre in Johannesburg, organised by the city’s Maslow Hotel. The Miss South Africa, aged 22 and of mixed heritage, however insisted the gloves were worn for hygienic reasons as she was working with food. On Twitter, Nel-Peters showed herself sitting down on steps with some of the Ikageng orphans, eating soup and bread rolls with them.
The picture shows Nel-Peters wearing what appears to be white latex surgical gloves as she eats a roll. It sparked a backlash from other Twitter users who claimed Nel-Peters was being racist or that she was afraid of being ‘contaminated’ by the children, many of whom had lost parents to HIV/AIDS or suffered from the virus themselves. South Africa has one of the world’s highest numbers of infected people. The 2007 UNAIDS report estimated that 5,700,000 South Africans had HIV/AIDS, or just under 12% of South Africa’s population of 48 million.
One Twitter user wrote: “I want to know why she would put on latex gloves to touch black children.” Another said: “I really can’t believe ‘our’ Miss SA is wearing latex so that she can touch these kids!” A third suggested she wore gloves “to protect herself from black kids” because she feared they would “contaminate her”. The backlash soon grew into a Twitter hashtag competition, #MissSAChallenge, which went viral this past Thursday, where users began posting pictures of themselves wearing white latex gloves, making fun of the beauty queen’s decision.
Some posted photos of themselves wearing gloves to type at a desk, make a drink, and read a book.
The Ikageng centre has spoken out against the challenge. Its programme director, Carol Dyanti, said “All volunteers, including our staff members, wore gloves during the food preparation. It was mandatory.
“It was such successful day and I am sorry that the focus is now on the glovs (sic) rather than the positive impact it had.”
Nel-Peters also spoke out against the controversy, stating in the Independent story via an uploaded video on Twitter: “We were handing out food to young kids and that was the only intention with wearing the gloves.
“It was purely to be as hygienic as possible. I really feel like my intention were really misunderstood but I would like to apologise if I offended anyone.”
Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, who was born in Sedgefield in the Western Cape province in 1995, is a model who was crowned Miss South Africa this year and will go on to represent the country at the Miss World and Miss Universe pageants this year. Latex gloves are often worn by people working in catering and hospitality, as well as in the medical field, for reasons of hygiene and safety.
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“Miss South Africa sparks uproar by wearing gloves to meet orphans with HIV” – Chris Baynes, The Independent (8 July 2017) http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/miss-south-africa-wears-gloves-to-meet-hiv-orphans-uproar-demi-leigh-nel-peters-a7829581.html?cmpid=facebook-post