SOUTH AFRICA: Law Failing Lesbians on “Corrective Rape”

Published on IPS, by Nathalie Rosa Bucher, Sept 1, 2009.

CAPE TOWN, Aug 31 (IPS) – “Women are getting killed in the Western Cape,” says Ndumie Funda, who runs LulekiSizwe in her “cabin” in the township of Gugulethu near Cape Town.

The project is named after her late fiancée, Nosizwe Nomsa Bizana, who was gang-raped by five men and subsequently succumbed to crypto meningitis, and Bizana’s friend Luleka Makiwane, who contracted HIV when she was raped and later died of AIDS.

The initiative provides support for lesbian women in the township, most of them teenagers and young adults, many in their final years of high school. According to Funda, young lesbian women aged between 16 and 25 are most vulnerable and often get evicted by their families.  

“Police are often remiss in their investigation and victims are often subjected to secondary victimisation from homophobic police officials, the justice system is slow, struggles to cope with cases of gang attacks and it is hard to convince prosecutors of the importance of hate as a motivation for crimes,” Emily Craven, Joint Working Group co-ordinator explains.

There are no authoritative figures on exactly how many incidents of hate crime are committed in South Africa …

… Media’s role:

Asked about the role of the media in creating awareness about the issue, Muthien thought that the media had helped by publicising the problem and making it more public. “The ways in which it has been reported in the popular media, however, is deeply problematic, either sensationalised or ripped out of context, there’s no exhortation when those cases come to the fore, for communities to take charge, to say that the lesbian who was so brutally murdered, has a mother, might have children, has a father, has brothers, sisters, had neighbours.”

“In Khayelitsha you have sections where due to active community policing forums you have lower rates of violence especially gender violence and curative rape. We need to work more consciously at that level seeing that the criminal justice (system) has failed us.”

“People hush but I’ve never been threatened,” says Funda who has managed to gain the respect of some community members and insists that to do the work she does, she has to live in Gugulethu. Besides offering support, at times shelter to women in distress, she also runs a street soccer club and is affiliated to a range of other LGBTI organisations. “We even hosted Township Pride in 2005 and 2006 right here at the Gugulethu Sports Complex and received an amazing response from the community.”

“Mandela said ‘my road is long’. Same here. Nobody knew Madiba. Or Biko. But we fought for them. I’ll fight until the last drop of my blood,” Funda states defiantly. END/2009. (full text).

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