Members of the LGBTQIA community in the Kingdom of Swaziland, which was recently renamed eSwatini, are celebrating after hosting their first Pride March.

While being openly gay or trans in the nation is prohibited, people held the march in Swazi capital of Mbabane on Saturday despite the threat of arrest and public criticism, reports the HuffPost. 

"There have not been many Prides in Africa, and this is a small country – an absolute monarchy where homosexuality is illegal – and this young guy had this vision to pull together this moment," said Matt Beard, the chief executive of the NGO LGBTI rights group All Out. 

"The first ever Pride march in the history of eSwatini just finished," Beard said in a statement to Blavity. "The community and their allies painted the streets of this country rainbow, with a beautiful, colorful parade that was literally exploding with joy. At certain moments during the parade, the infectious joy of this community was so intense, it was difficult to hold back the tears. We were loud, proud and dignified."

"Nobody came to hurl hate, abuse (or worse) at us, as had been feared," he continued. "Instead, this was a moment of community and personal empowerment. A powerful boost to so many who have had to hide, but who today experienced the giddy excitement of visibility and deep community."

Activists united under the slogan "Turn hate into love" in an effort to sway the public away from beliefs that gay and lesbian people are "satanic," among other things. Swaziland's King Mswati III has led the charge of attacking those who live out loud, according to TeleSur.

"There is persecution each and every day. We are harassed, we are violently abused, we are emotionally abused," Melusi Simelane, Rock of Hope spokesman said. "We are a small country with a very welcoming culture. Everyone is interesting to see what it is going to look like.

Participants shared their happiness using hashtags #eSwatiniPride and #SwazilandPride to show that they are no longer afraid and will defy the monarchy at every turn. 

"We are going to look back on this day and say this was the day it all started," Simelane said. "The Rock of Hope was founded in 2011, but this will be the day the government started paying attention to us."