|Saturday's burial of Noxolo Nogwaza|
Updated to add: Justice Ministry spokesperson Tlali Tlali announced May 4 that a national task team is to tackle hate crimes against lesbians and gays and would begin deliberations on July 15.
The team would include six representatives of the judiciary, the police and the social development department, and six representatives of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community.
"The team will be charged with developing a legislative intervention plan, a public awareness strategy, and LGBTI-sensitive shelters," he said.
In another development the influential Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) has called the latest rape and murder "an act of male chauvinism and patriarchy", and said it was disappointed that the perpetrators were still on the run.
"We request the community to refuse to be silent and assist the police with whatever information they can give that can lead to the speedy arrest of those criminals," they said.For more background on this development see LezGetReal.
Both South African (SA) and international activists and NGOs are stepping up the pressure on so-called 'corrective rape'.
This follows the rape and murder of lesbian activist Noxolo Nogwaza. According to reports her body was found lying in an alley in Kwa-Thema, a township outside Johannesburg, at about 9am on Sunday, 24 April with her head completely deformed.
According to a statement by Ekurhuleni Pride Organising Committee (EPOC) and Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL):
“Witnesses said that an empty beer bottle and a used condom were stack up her genitals. Parts of the rest of her body had been stabbed with glass and a large pavement brick that is believed to have been used to crash her head was found by her side.”Noxolo was raped and murdered in a similar manner to the murder of another member of EPOC three years ago. Eudy Simelane's body was found in an open field in the same area (Kwa-Thema). Last year, a gay man in the same township was attacked by eight men, who attempted to rape him and were heard saying, "we are determined to kill all gay people in this area and we will do it."
Activists are calling for vigils outside SA embassies and consulates. There will be national demonstrations held in SA before and on the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) 17 May and activists are encouraging embassy/consulate demonstrations around the same period.
Victor Mukasa, Project Coordinator for the Human Rights Defenders Project at CAL said:
“The South African community needs to stand up to the government against these barbaric acts, it is time for South Africa to rise up and fight against these crimes, when LGBTI people are killed and hunted down like snakes.”Ntsupe Mohapi, Chairperson of EPOC said:
“The community can’t keep quiet, as people of Kwa-Thema we are tired, we are Africans, we were born here and we are not going anywhere. If people are targeting you it makes it even harder.”
“It doesn’t stop here we will pester the police until justice is done”, added Mohapi.Nogwaza was an active member of EPOC, which has organized LGBT pride marches for Kwa-Thema and nearby townships in Ekurhuleni district since 2009. Members of EPOC are well known in the community for being lesbian, gay, and transgender, and some have faced harassment and attacks as a result of their visibility.
EPOC activists report that physical and sexual attacks often go unreported. According to Human Rights Watch, there is rampant verbal abuse and threats against people on the grounds of their gender expression and sexual orientation in Kwa-Thema, Duduza, Vosloorus, Tsakane, and other townships in Ekurhuleni.
Dipika Nath, a Human Rights Watch researcher, said:
"Police and other South African officials fail to acknowledge that members of the LGBT community are raped, beaten, and killed simply because of how they look or identify, and they are attacked by men who then walk freely, boasting of their exploits."
"Lesbians, transgender men and women, and gay men in Kwa-Thema and other townships are acutely aware of the chasm between their constitutionally guaranteed rights and their everyday experience of violence.It is literally a matter of life and death for the LGBT community that state officials bring the perpetrators of this and other crimes against this community to justice."Earlier this year a online petition calling for the Minister of Justice Jeff Radebe to meet with 'corrective rape' activists drew over a million signatures.
In March, the township support group Luleki Sizwe, represented by Ndumie Funda and Melanie Nathan, with Benjamin Joffe Watt of Change.org (who had initiated the online petition campaign) participated in a meeting with the Justice Ministry.
Luleki Sizwe proposed an ongoing commission to explore, legislate and implement reforms for prevention, health and safety of lesbian victims of so called 'corrective rape' and to bring public awareness and education to local communities. The Ministry agreed to the proposal and is meeting again with activists today.
Melanie Nathan, activist and Editor at LezGetReal, and who has been raising the issue for over a year as well as working with local grassroots groups and activists, said that Nogwaza's murder showed again that the government should "keep their word" and "move rapidly toward educating the public, enforcement, hate crimes legislation, harsh bail and sentencing laws, instituting reforms for the health and safety of victim."
She called for Radebe "to make a statement in condemnation of the CULTURE of rape against all women and specifically corrective rape of lesbians ... condemning these actions as un-african and contrary to the South African post apartheid Constitution."
South African President Jakob Zuma has been criticised for his failure to speak out against 'corrective rape' and for his signalling on LGBT issues, in particular his posting of the homophobic newspaper columnist Jon Qwelane as ambassador to Uganda.
Nathan and SA activists say that Qwelane's recall would be "a sign of solidarity to our sisters who have died under a culture where anti-gay sentiment is rampant."
Activists have called for local police to investigate the murder of Nogwaza (this follows prior criticism of a failure by the justice system to investigate and prosecute such crimes).
Human Rights Watch said that the government should immediately issue a public statement condemning the attack and also said that the police should step up investigations to apprehend Nogwaza's killers.
EPOC and CAL have asked for calls, faxes or email to Tsakane Police Station to demand a speedy and thorough investigation into the rape and murder of Noxolo Nogwaza.
The reference number of the case is 635/04/2011.
Tel: +27 11 363 5347/8/9
Fax: +27 11 363 3454
His Excellency Jacob Zuma
President of the Republic of South Africa
Tel: +27 12 300 5200
Fax: +27 12 323 8246
His Excellency Kgalema Petrus Motlanthe
Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa
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Mr. Jeffrey Thamsanqa Radebe
Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development
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Mr. Nathi Mthethwa
Minister of Police
Tel: +27 12 393 2810/2811
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Gen. Bheki Cele
National Commissioner of Police
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Fax: +27 12 393 1530