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Tuesday, 4 January 2011

South Africa's failure on 'corrective rape' of lesbians

Victim Millicent Gaika, who has just won her battle to bring the men who raped her to court
By Paul Canning

A 65,000 strong petition calling for government action on the epidemic of so-called 'corrective rape' of lesbians in South Africa is being ignored. Instead the Justice Ministry, the petition's target, is complaining about full email in-boxes and continuing to refuse to meet local activists.

"Corrective rape" is a criminal practice, whereby men rape lesbian women, purportedly as a means of "curing" the woman of her sexual orientation.

The term was first used in the early 2000s by human rights non-governmental organisations to describe rapes committed against South African lesbians. A notable attack of this kind came in 2008 when Eudy Simelane, a member of the South Africa women's national football team and a vocal LGBT-rights activist in South Africa, was gang raped and murdered in KwaThema, Gauteng.

Since 2008 the South African Human Rights Commission has been calling for government action including the creation of legislation to specifically target hate crimes, including corrective rape.

Several weeks ago, survivors of "corrective rape" started a petition on to ask the Minister of Justice to declare corrective rape a hate crime.

It has since become the largest-ever petition on, and the Chief of Staff at the Ministry of Justice has repeatedly contacted the website to complain that they are overwhelmed with the messages coming from every part of South Africa and every corner of the globe. But the minister still refuses to meet with the activists who started the campaign - Ndumi Funda and the women of the non-profit Lulekisizwe.

Ndumi wrote the following to members:
We are GOBSMACKED at the response that our petition has received. Our fight against corrective-rape has been going on for so long, under the most harrowing of circumstances, with only a few volunteers to help, and it just seemed that nobody was listening, nobody cared, and our sisters were getting raped, beaten up and murdered without anyone doing anything about it.

In absolute frustration, we decided to write a petition. This was a first for us, and never in our wildest dreams did we imagine that we would get this kind of a response. We did jokingly say that we wanted to crash the Ministry of Justice's servers, but we thought that our petition would get a thousand or so signatures if we were lucky. More than 65,000 signatures later, and the senior Ministry officials we targeted are apparently having major difficulty accessing their e-mail because of all the e-mails your signatures are generating! WOOOHOOOO! Well done & thank you!

If you haven't already signed the 'Corrective Rape' petition, please sign and share it with your friends:

Unfortunately, despite this becoming the most popular petition of ALL TIME on, and clearly getting the attention of the minister, Lulekisizwe has still not heard a word from the Justice Department! We need a meeting with the Minister of Justice so we can discuss how 'corrective rape' victims are treated, the lack of police response, how long the court cases take, why so many of the dockets get 'lost' and why the rapists get out on such low bail. Please keep the pressure up!

Thanks to a donation from an ethical cosmetics company in the UK called Lush, we were able to get another, more secure place to stay and use as a safe-house for the victims, but the rapes and assaults are continuing. We are worn out and things are far from easy, especially at this time of the year when stress levels are very high.

The one thing that is giving us hope is all of you showing love and caring by signing and sharing the petition. We are thrilled, excited and very, very humbled by the support that every one of you have shown, and all we can say is thank you and please, please don't stop. Ask your friends to sign our petition.

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