Lesbian Couple Nokwanda Ruiters (25) and Funeka Soldaat (38) who had a wedding ceremony in Kayelitsha on 19 December 1998 to publicly express their love for each other. Picture: GALLO IMAGES
Hate crime, including rape, is pandemic in South Africa, despite police statistics showing that the numbers have dropped.
A staggering number of cases involve women being raped and brutally killed because of their sexual orientation, with perpetrators still walking the streets freely.
“Corrective rape” was a term first used in the early 2000s by human rights NGOs to describe the rape of lesbians.
Noxolo Nogwaza, 24, from Kwa-Thema on the East Rand was raped and gruesomely stoned to death at Easter time. Police confirmed she had been raped as they found used condoms with her body behind a local shopping centre.
Seven months on and nobody has been brought to book for Nogwaza’s brutal murder. Tsakane police said that they were still investigating. “We are still trying to trace the perpetrators,” said spokesperson Johannes Mabuza.
Another recent rape victim was Roz van der Vyver, 38, a Capetonian and former employee of the Baxter Theatre, who lost her fight for life after being gang-raped earlier this month, apparently after responding to a job advertised on the popular Gumtree website.
Sizakele Sigasa, 34, and her lover, Salome Masooa, 23, were raped and shot after leaving a party in Soweto in July 2007. Zoliswa Nkonyana, 19, died on the Cape Flats in February 2006 after an angry mob of about 20 young men beat her with golf clubs and stoned her. Openly lesbian Nontsikelelo Tyatyeka, 21, was reported missing by her family in Nyanga, Cape Town, last September. A year later, on September 11, police found her decomposing remains in a rubbish bin near her home. A 29-year-old male suspect was arrested and appeared in the Athlone Magistrates’ Court on a charge of murder. According to the victim’s mother, Nombasa Tyatyeka, 50, the suspect repeatedly inquired about her daughter’s whereabouts.
“As a nation we should stand up and fight against hate crimes,” said Mercy Machisa, manager of gender-based research at Gender Links, Jo’burg. Law enforcement should take lesbian cases seriously, said the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Equality Project.
“Police and investigators up to magistrate should take our plight seriously because it seems like they are not doing enough to catch these criminals.
“Our main aim is to ensure that gay rights are protected in South Africa and we aim to create awareness that gay people should be accepted,” said Busi Kheswa, programme officer for the project.
“The issue needs urgent attention. Detectives and prosecutors need training on how to deal with hate crime. People without liberal attitudes tend to be the ones who resort to rape and murder to punish lesbians and gays,” said Lisa Vetten, director for Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre in Braamfontein.
“Education about sexual orientation should also be disseminated around the country,” she said.
Ekurhuleni Pride Organising Committee (EPOC) said it was still waiting for answers from Ekurhuleni safety and security after a march on August 19 demanding protection.
“The Gauteng premier was handed a memo that day, which is set to protect from victimisation and oppression, protect schools, taverns and all public places. The 30 days for a response has passed and nothing has been done,” said EPOC committee member Bontle Khalo.
As many as 500000 rapes are committed annually, estimates the Medical Research Council in South Africa, with a quarter of all men admitting to a rape.
A 2010 study led by the government-funded research foundation showed that in Gauteng, more than 37% of men said they had raped a woman. Nearly 7% of the 487 men surveyed said they had participated in a gang rape.
In a recent survey by Community of Information, Empowerment and Transparency that sampled 4000 women, one in three reported being raped in the past year. In a sampling of 1500 schoolchildren in the Soweto township, a quarter of all the boys said “jackrolling”, a term for gang rape, was fun. A staggering number of cases involve women being raped and brutally killed because of their sexual orientation, with perpetrators still walking the streets freely.
The annual SA Social Attitudes Survey shows that a staggering 80% of South Africans were still largely prejudicial of gay and lesbian relationships.