- September 13, 2013
Post submitted by Jane Thirikwa, HRC Global Engagment Fellow
In May 1996, South Africa became the first jurisdiction in the world to provide constitutional protection to LGBT people, via section 9(3) of its Constitution, which disallows discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation and other grounds. It is also the only African country that recognizes same-sex marriage.
However, despite progressive strides toward equality, the country has seen a dramatic rise in brutal attacks against lesbians. The most common of which are “corrective” rapes, also referred to as “curative rape,”where men rape lesbians in the belief that it can make them straight, and activists have been calling for it to be legally recognized as a hate crime.
Free Gender, a black lesbian human rights organization based in Cape Town, applauded the recent sentencing to ten years in prison of a man found guilty of rapingZukiswa Gaca, a lesbian, four years ago. Activists have decried the culture of impunity around these crimes, which often times goes unrecognized by the state and unpunished by the legal system.
According to Funeka Soldaat from Free Gender, Gaca was so traumatized by her ordeal that she attempted to take her own life by throwing herself under a train. She was saved by a stranger who pulled her back from the tracks and took her to the police. Her case was only taken seriously by the authorities when their incompetence made international headlines.
Another horrific assault case finally took a positive turn. In April 2010, Millicent Gaika was raped, beaten and strangled by Andile Ngcoza over a five hour period in Gugulethu. Gaika survived and Ngcoza was arrested and was eventually found guilty by the Wynberg Regional Court in 2011. In spite of the severity of the attack, he was out on a mere ZAR 60 ($6) bail and failed to appear in court for sentencing and had been on the run ever since.
However, he was finally re-arrested by police this past weekend, following a prolonged campaign by activists in which they distributed pamphlets urging the community to come forward with information about his whereabouts.
These horrific crimes— and those like them that happen across the world — are reminder of the work that still remains in order to achieve full LGBT equality. HRC envisions a world that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all. To learn more about our work to leverage our domestic LGBT work to have an international impact, visit http://www.hrc.org/issues/international