Thursday, June 14, 2012



From the "I can't believe it" column comes this "unfortunately I can" story about "corrective" rapes of lesbians in South Africa.  You heard me right, "corrective rapes."

Lesbians are being raped and murdered in South Africa and, well, the truth is the South African State seems to care less.

Last year a study released by a leading South African gay rights organization, Triangle, found that 86% of black lesbians from the Western Cape lived in fear of sexual assault.  

"What we're seeing is a spike in the numbers of women coming to us having been raped and who have been told throughout the attack that being a lesbian was to blame for what was happening to them," said Vanessa Ludwig, the chief executive at Triangle told the Guardian.

Also, speaking to the Guardian, Carrie Shelver of the women's rights group Powa said, 

When asking why lesbian women are being targeted you have to look at why all women are being raped and murdered in such high numbers in South Africa.  So you have to look at the increasingly macho culture, which seeks to oppress women and sees them as merely sexual beings. So when there is a lesbian woman she is an absolute affront to this kind of masculinity.

Of course, we are all familiar with anti-gay hate crimes  throughout Africa.  Zimbabwe and Uganda come to mind, but trust me, these countries aren't alone in this dismal regard.

South Africa, though, is allegedly more "open minded."  Following the overthrow of apartheid, the new constitution of South Africa reads as one of the most progressive in the world in regards to the rights and protections for the LGBT population.  Yet Dawn reports: 

...the townships, where blacks were forced to live under apartheid, remain largely conservative with deep-set notions of masculinity, tradition and religion and little understanding of what it means to be gay.

Lesbians not only face being thrown out by their own families, but even the police, meant to protect them, are said to laugh or to call their fellow officers to listen in when the women report hate crimes.

"Corrective" rape has been described by Johannesburg based journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault as a phenomenon where lesbian women, particularly those who affect a more masculine appearance, are targeted for rape by men who claim that they are going to cure their sexual orientation. 

A report late last year from Human Rights Watch found that at least 10 lesbians are sexually assaulted every week in South Africa by men who claim to be "curing" them.  The report said the attacks are  generally accompanied by horrifying violence.

Earlier this year, The Advocate reports Noxolo Nogwaza, a member of the Ekurhuleni Pride Organizing Committee, a key South African LGBT group, was found murdered.

The committee, along with the Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL) said that Ms Nogwaza’s face was so badly beaten that she was unrecognisable. Her body had been stabbed all over with glass shards and an empty bottle and used condom were also reportedly found in her genitals...

 Pierre de Vos, the Claude Leon Foundation Chair in Constitutional Governance at the University of Cape Town, says it is not uncommon for gay people's rights to be ignored by those who execute the letter of the law.  "When I go to workshops I am shocked to hear from lesbian women and gay men that when they go to the police they are told to 'voetsek' because they are just lesbians or 'moffies' and don't have any rights,"  De Vos told the Daily Maverick. 

Now comes news that adding fuel to the fire, the National House of Traditional Leaders is calling for gay rights to be stripped from the South Africa constitution.  A Parliamentary report by the Constitutional Review Committee this April shows a submission by the leaders that proposed the "exclusion of 'sexual orientation' from Chapter 2 of the Constitution, which deals with the Bill of Rights."  The chairman of the Constitutional Review Committee is Patekile Holomisa, who is also president of the Congress of Traditional Leaders .  De Vos says Holomisa  is himself part of a far wider fight-back by patriarchal forces in South Africa.

The following is from the Black Commentator.

South Africa’s “Corrective Rape” of Lesbians 
 - By The Reverend Irene Monroe

To hear of human rights abuses of Uganda’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) population is, sadly, not new. Gay activist, David Kato, was the father of the Uganda’s LGBTQ rights movement. To many of his fellow countrymen, Kato was a dead man walking once his homosexuality became public.

The country’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill dubbed “Kill the Gays bill” criminalizes same-sex relations. And depending on which category your homosexual behavior is classified as - “aggravated homosexual” or “the offense of homosexuality”-you’ll either received the death penalty or if you’re lucky, life imprisonment.
As many as 86 percent of its lesbian population live in fear of being raped
Kato didn’t live to receive either punishment. 

On a list of 100 LGBTQ Ugandans whose names and photos were published in an October 2010 tabloid newspaper calling for their execution, Kato was murdered in January 2011.

Throughout the African continent there are stories of homophobic bullying, bashing and abuses of its LGBTQ population. None of us will forget Zimbabwe’s despot, Robert Mugabe, whose torturous action against his LGBTQ population has yet to be brought to justice. Mugabe’s condemnation of his LGBTQ population is that they are the cause of “Zimbabwe’s problems” and views homosexuality as an “un-African” and immoral culture brought by colonists and practiced by only “a few whites” in his country”

However, the one country one doesn’t expect to hear of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and human rights abuses against this population of people is South Africa.

South Africa is the first African country to openly support LGBTQ civil rights. In 2004, its Supreme Court ruled that the common-law definition of marriage included same-sex unions. And in 2005, South Africa’s Constitutional Court “made any inferior status imposed on same-sex partners unconstitutional.”

But South Africa has a serious problem with its LGBTQ population, and especially with lesbians.

And its method to remedy its problem with lesbian is “corrective rape.”

On any given day in South Africa, lesbians are twice as likely to be sexually molested, raped and gang-raped as heterosexual women. A reported estimate of at least 500 lesbians is victims of “corrective rape” per year. And in Western Cape, a province in the south west of South Africa, a report put out by the Triangle Project in 2008 stated that as many as 86 percent of its lesbian population live in fear of being raped. And their fear is not unfounded.

“Lesbians get raped and killed because it is accepted by our community and by our culture” a South African man told Time reporter, Lee Middleton, of Cape Town.

Corrective rape is the South African version of “reparative therapy.” It’s intended objective is to rectify the sexual orientation of women who are lesbians or perceived to be lesbians to that of heterosexual. The term “corrective rape” was coined and first identified in South Africa after well-known cases of corrective rapes of lesbians like Eudy Simelane and Zoliswa Nkonyanabecame public internationally. Because of the stigma associated with homosexuality and gender non-conforming behavior, members of the women’s family or their local village sometimes supervise these rapes.

Corrective Rape is a hate crime that for the most part goes unreported and unprosecuted inSouth Africa.

And these rapes are the major contributor to HIV/AID epidemic among South African lesbians.

To many South African men who hunt down lesbians or happen upon them, “corrective rape” is seen neither as a hate crime nor as a sexual assault. South African men are sexually entitled to do them. And it’s just what patriotic men are expected to do for their country and tribe in a culture that upholds violent heterosexual patriarchal views at penis point.
In depicting a double rape, hers and that of her friend’s, Lungile Cleopatra Dladla shared withThe New Yorker reporter, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, how matter-of-factly their rapist was with them.

It’s just what patriotic men are expected to do for their country and tribe
“An armed man, wearing a hooded sweatshirt, came up behind them and directed them to a field. Then he undressed us. He tied us, and then he was going, ‘Ja, today I want to show you that you’re girls.’ He raped [us] both. And then, immediately after, he dressed and untied my friend’s hand and then untied my feet and then he walked…. From a distance, he shouted, ‘Now you can dress and go.’”

Dubbed as the “Rape Capitol of the World,” (A study by Interpol, the international police agency, has revealed that South Africa leads the world in rapes.) sexual violence is a problem throughout South Africa from the highest man in office to the goat herder in a small village.

According to South Africa’s rape statistics for 2011, “it is estimated that a woman born in South Africa has a greater chance of being raped than learning how to read.”

In 2011, a woman was raped in South Africa every 17 seconds. 1 in 4 men admit to having raped and of South African men who knew somebody who had been raped, 16 percent believed that the rape survivor had enjoyed the experience and had asked for it.

For example, South African President Jacob Zuma is a celebrated and acquitted rapist. He raped the daughter of a family friend. “He said that the woman in question had provoked him, by wearing a skirt and sitting with her legs uncrossed, and that it was his duty, as a Zulu man, to satisfy a sexually aroused woman,” Hunter-Gault reported.

And “baby rape,” not a new phenomenon in South Africa, has come out of the closet. It’s the belief that having sex with a baby girl or virgin girl child cures AIDS.

But what’s not being talked about in “corrective rape” is how it, too, can be see as a cure for AIDS.

For these men who are feeling the societal pressures and scorn of raping babies and young girls, lesbians are the next best choice.

With both population of females believed to be virgins, “corrective rape” can convince a rapist that he’s doing his manly duty and he’s being rewarded by being cured of AIDS, too. Editorial Board member, the Rev. Irene Monroe, is a religion columnist, theologian, and public speaker. She is the Coordinator of the African-AmericanRoundtable of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry (CLGS) at the Pacific School of Religion. A native of Brooklyn, Rev. Monroe is a graduate from Wellesley College and Union Theological Seminary at Columbia University, and served as a pastor at an African-American church before coming to Harvard Divinity School for her doctorate as a Ford Fellow. She was recently named to MSNBC’s list of 10 Black Women You Should Know. Reverend Monroe is the author of Let Your Light Shine Like a Rainbow Always: Meditations on Bible Prayers forNot’So’Everyday Moments. As an African-American feminist theologian, she speaks for a sector of society that is frequently invisible. Her website is irenemonroe.comClick here to contact the Rev. Monroe.

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