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Wed Jul 23 12:01:16 SAST 2014

Task team to tackle anti-gay hate crimes

Sapa | 04 May, 2011 15:100 Comments
File picture: Fassbender of Germany (R) and Zamponi of France compete in the figure skating event during the Gay Games.
Image by: THOMAS PETER

A national task team is to tackle hate crimes against lesbians and gays, the justice and constitutional development ministry said on Wednesday.

The decision came in response to a 170,000-strong, Change.org campaign calling for action on "corrective rape", spokesman Tlali Tlali said in a statement.

It followed the murder of lesbian activist Noxolo Nogwaza, 24, who was stoned, stabbed with broken glass and gang-raped in Kwa-Thema township, Johannesburg last month.

Used condoms, a beer bottle and a large rock were found on or beside Nogwaza's body. She was a member of the Ekurhuleni Pride Organising Committee.

"Corrective rape" is an increasingly common hate crime in which men rape lesbians to "cure" them of their sexual orientation.

Tlali said the decision to set up a task team was taken on Tuesday during a meeting at Parliament of senior officials and activists. It 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 response to the government action, Ndumie Funda, founder of Luleki Sizwe, an organisation that advocates for the rights of township lesbians, said: "It shows that they are willing to work with the gay community, but we continue to fight for LGBTI rights until the last drops of blood are spilled."

Benjamin Joffe-Walt, a representative of Change.org, said what the campaign had accomplished was "remarkable".

"In less than six months, a tiny group of township activists have mobilised more than 170,000 people from 163 countries and gotten the highest levels of government to address their basic demand, that the sadistic crime of 'corrective rape' be taken seriously."

Intervention options discussed at the meeting included: amending the Sexual Offences Act to include the victim's sexual orientation as an aggravating factor, which would lead to heavier sentences.

Preventative measures such as allowing for equality courts to address harassment, discrimination or hate speech, and consultations on minimum sentences for hate crimes, including rape on the basis of sexual orientation, were also considered.

The National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa on Wednesday called on the ANC Women's League to raise awareness of gay and lesbians rights.

"The front-line role of the ANCWL will go a long way in creating a climate of understanding and acceptance of gay and lesbian people as an... integral part of our society," spokesman Castro Ngobese said.

"Gay and lesbian people have a right to exist and be free in our country without any fear or threats of murder or intimidation."

Human Rights Watch told French news agency AFP on Tuesday that evidence suggested Nogwaza had been targeted because she was a lesbian, and that the murder "appears to be the latest in an epidemic of brutal homophobic attacks".

The attack is said to be reminiscent of the 2008 murder of Eudy Simelane, who played for the SA women's national soccer team. Simelane's partially-clothed body was found in a field in KwaThema. She had been gang raped, beaten, and stabbed 25 times in the face, chest, and legs.

Two men were found guilty for the killing, and two others acquitted.

Police spokesman Colonel Tshisikhawe Ndou said on Wednesday no arrests for Nogwaza's murder had been made yet, and investigations were continuing.

The Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) called the crime "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,"

Cosatu gender co-ordinator, Gertrude Mtsweni said: "Our country does not deserve such an act in this 21st century."

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