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South Africa protests Corrective Rape for Hate Crime Legislation

Melanie Nathan, May 15,2011,
In the context of a predominantly homophobic Africa – a continent that tops weight in favor of criminalizing homosexuality, South Africa, has an awesome constitution.   One of the few globally that specifically asserts equality with regard to sexual orientation and gender identity.  However it falls dramatically short in “walking the talk!” The South African activists are now learning to claim their Constitution for – hence Protests must increase, notwithstanding action on the part of the Government. The heat must turn to high!

After two years of advocacy and stepped up campaigns – drawing visibility to the issue of the corrective rape, oft resulting in murder, of lesbians in the Townships of South Africa, the ANC government and Department of Justice under Minister Jeff Radebe, heard the activists – most especially the voice of grassroots via the torch bearing Ndumie Fund of Luleki Sizwe.

Ndumie Funda and Mel Nathan Prepare for meeting with Minister of Justice Photo: by Henry Bantjez

In March of this year I had the great honor to work with Ndumie to present draft reforms and the idea of a commission to Mr. Tlali Tlali, of the DOJ in Cape Town’s Parliament. The meeting was a success – DOJ and NPA were going to provide a commission to work for reform.

The Government will help was the message and Ndumie and I stressed at that meeting the importance of rapid attention.  I remember saying in that meeting that as we were sitting there a young lesbian was being brutally raped somewhere in some Township in SA.

What followed before the second meeting was held,  a spate of horrific rapes and murders – showing that the crime is escalating in what activist Gareth Dallas has termed a ‘ravaging environment of escalating homophobia.”

While the Government is poised, after the second meeting, which took place this month, to gear up for the Task Group on Hate crimes,  I fear that other agendas of groups in the South African LGBT community and women’s  rights community, have crept into the picture, derogating from the purity – if you will- of the particular issue of CORRECTIVE RAPE AGAINST LESBIANS – as deserving of a task force of its own .

You may ask why?  Because it is such a particular crime of hate – not peculiar only to Townships and South Africa – yet endemic in that area – and hence earn must earn its own place and treatment.  There are reforms that we have asked for that are very particular to the issue of rape of lesbians and the motivations and they extend far and wide covering awareness, changing hearts and minds, cultural deflection, education, treatment of rape victims, witness protection, government assistance to victims and families, Police sensitivity training, harsher penalties, severe bail restrictions – all of which were first presented here on lezGetReal in a public letter to Minister Radebe over a year ago.

Now with the success of the Campaign against corrective rape – having come this far I implore the South African activist Community to take cognizance of NOT allowing the hijacking of the issue by groups and organizations which have already and will bring in other issues – which will only serve to sidetrack the reason we got this far in the first place.

SA Leathermen Turn out to Support Lesbian Sisters Holding Gay Flag of South Africa

The best way to help our lesbian sisters – (and to this end I must say a core group of Gay Men in Cape Town have come out swinging the bat to do so – providing support, love, protests such as the one featured here -personal money and transport to help get victims to protests and much more endearing friendship in cause – )  is to keep the focus on this first panel of the hate crimes tapestry – where after panels can be added and will be organically included via definitions and draft in the legislation that will result.

I am asking for all groups to back off from throwing too much into the mix at this early stage and focusing on what can be achieved and the rest will follow.  But when you add to much at the outset, you wrangle and you fight and you lose.

I am happy that this protest took place because it keeps feet to flame – and so be it.





Protest Pictures: thanks to Jaco Neiman Dallas and Gareth Dallas:

Core Group of SA GAY Men helping Lesbian Sisters

This week's Protest outside SA Parliament, Cape Town.

Gay Brothers Support of Lesbians at Protest

Protest with Magnificant Table Mountain's Approval

Protesting Corrective Rape / Photo: Gareth Dallas

Mel & Supporters of Lesbian Fight Against Corerctive Rape at CT Pride


By Melanie Nathan
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3 Responses to South Africa protests Corrective Rape for Hate Crime Legislation

  1. Christina Engela

    May 16, 2011 at 7:48 am

    Okay, fine and well – we fight for the protection of our lesbian sisters – which I am 100% in support of… but what this article says is that other hate crimes against other parts of our community are secondary, and will be added later. What if there is no “later”? 

    Now take gay bashing – that is still just common assault under SA law, not a hate crime. How about hate crimes against trans people? These also just fall under ordinary laws here. Statistically speaking, there are even fewer trans people than the rest of the community in SA, and hence even fewer hate crimes against us – but come the time to add us to laws governing hate crime, *some* might say it isn’t “worth the trouble” because of lacking statistics and an even smaller outcry – and once again, we will slip through the cracks. Is this going to be like the ENDA battle in the USA, in which the trans population is still being left out? 

    The solution in my book SHOULD have been to draft ONE piece of legislation to cover the entire community against hate crime the first time round – not to leave some of us out. – But hey, that’s just me – thinking about the bigger picture.

    Christina Engela,

  2. S

    May 15, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    So far all the cases I’ve read have been in poor townships. Is this also common in wealthier and/or better educated areas? And how is the acceptance of homosexuality in the white community? Are they closer to Europe in this regard?

    • Melanie Nathan

      May 15, 2011 at 5:21 pm

      good questions @S – Yes the Townships are very poor. They also serve as areas where people may be less educated. During the apartheid era and riots – an entire 2 generations went without education. There is also the convergence of cultural norms around perceptions of manhood etc. Its very complex. The White people seem less homophobic as a general rule and seem to have embraced the constitution. However there is still a right wing Afrikaner element and also elements of religious extremes that may well be homophobic. There are hate crimes all over. We must not forget that,