Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Horrible news of the day

by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux

This is horrific. Last April, Eudy Simelane, the former star of South Africa's female soccer team, was found in a creek outside Johannesburg, raped and murdered. She had 25 stab wounds in her face, chest and arms and had been gang-raped. This is just one example of the extreme homophobic violence that has been sweeping South Africa - Simelane was a strong advocate for LGBT rights and was one of the first people in her community to live openly as a lesbian.

Simelane's death is referred to as "corrective rape" - committed by men who want to "cure" women of their lesbianism. And although the numbers of these crimes are rising, the South African government is doing virtually nothing to stop it. Research released last year by Triangle, a leading South African gay rights organisation, revealed that 86% of black lesbians in the part of South Africa where Simelane lived said they lived in fear of sexual assault. The group says it is dealing with up to 10 new cases of "corrective rape" every week. And although it isn't said explicitly, the implication is that these killings are also racially based.

The Guardian has a great article about this - they asked lesbians who live in Johannesburg and Cape Town about the threat of violence in their lives. The responses are shocking.

"Every day I am told that they are going to kill me, that they are going to rape me and after they rape me I'll become a girl," said Zakhe Sowello from Soweto, Johannesburg. "When you are raped you have a lot of evidence on your body. But when we try and report these crimes nothing happens, and then you see the boys who raped you walking free on the street."

The article goes on to describe the possible reasons for this rise in horrific crime - apparently an increasingly macho political establishment which is not prosecuting sexual violence is partially to blame. Human rights campaigners are hoping that the publicity surrounding the trial of Simelane's assailants, which will begin in July (other men have been charged, but only one convicted - the judge claimed, during the sentencing, that Simelane's sexual orientation had nothing to do with her murder). Let's spread the word - this is a terrible breach of human rights and the South African government needs to start addressing these crimes immediately.

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