The South African government has finally set up a national task team to tackle hate crimes against lesbians and gays, the justice and constitutional development ministry said.
The task team is to address hate crimes against LGBTI (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex) South Africans after 170,000 activists from around the world demanded action on ‘corrective’ rape, an increasingly common hate crime in which men rape lesbian women to 'turn' them straight or to 'cure' them of their sexual orientation.
It followed the murder of lesbian activist Noxolo Nogwaza, 24, who was stoned, stabbed with broken glass and gang-raped. Nogwaza was found in Kwa-Thema Township, Johannesburg on Easter Sunday along with used condoms, a beer bottle and a large rock were found on or beside her lifeless body.
This is just 4 weeks after the body of 20 years old Nokuthula Radebe was discovered and which has never been reported in the media.
"Corrective rape" is an increasingly common hate crime in which men rape lesbians to "cure" them of their sexual orientation.
“The decision to set up a task team was taken on Tuesday during a meeting at Parliament of senior officials and activists. It would begin deliberations on 15 July. “It would include six representatives from the judiciary and the police and social development, and six representatives from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community,” spokesperson, Tlali Tlali said.
"The team will be charged with developing a legislative intervention plan, a public awareness strategy, and LGBTI-sensitive shelters," he said.
Fight for LGBTI rights
In response to the government action, Ndumie Funda, founder of Luleki Sizwe, an organisation that advocates for the rights of township lesbians, said: "It shows that they are willing to work with the gay community, but we continue to fight for LGBTI rights until the last drops of blood are spilled."
Benjamin Joffe-Walt, a representative of Change.org, said what the campaign accomplished was "remarkable".
"In less than six months, a tiny group of township activists have mobilised more than 170,000 people from 163 countries and gotten the highest levels of government to address their basic demand, that the sadistic crime of 'corrective rape' be taken seriously."
Intervention options discussed at the meeting included:
amending the sexual offences act so as to include sexual orientation as an aggravating factor, which would lead to heavier sentences.
as a preventative measure, allowing the use of magistrates courts as equality courts to address any harassment, discrimination or hate speech.
consultations on the minimum sentences for hate crimes, inclusive of rape on the basis of sexual orientation.
emphasising the need for sensitivity around LGBT cases in the service charter for victims of crime.
sensitivity training for the South African police, justice ministry and National Prosecutors Office.
Human Rights Watch told French news agency AFP that evidence suggested Nogwaza had been targeted because she was a lesbian, and that the murder "appears to be the latest in an epidemic of brutal homophobic attacks".
The attack is said to be reminiscent of the 2008 murder of Eudy Simelane, who played for the SA women's national soccer team. Simelane's partially-clothed body was found in an open field in KwaThema. She had been gang raped, beaten, and stabbed 25 times in the face, chest, and legs.
Police spokesman Colonel Tshisikhawe Ndou said on Wednesday no arrests for Nogwaza's murder had been made yet, and investigations were continuing. (Zaakirah Rossier, Health24, May 2011)
(Source: Sapa, Image: Change.org)
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