Stamp out hate crimes

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

ON DE­CEM­BER 10, 1996, in Sharpeville, Nel­son Man­dela signed the fi­nal draft of South Africa’s land­mark con­sti­tu­tion into law. Apart from guar­an­tee­ing rights and set­ting out du­ties, it out­laws all forms of dis­crim­i­na­tion, in­clud­ing on the ba­sis of sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion.

It is said that ours is one of the most lib­eral con­sti­tu­tions in the world, yet in prac­tice, it of­fers lit­tle pro­tec­tion un­less its pro­vi­sions are ac­tu­ally en­forced by au­thor­i­ties.

While South Africa is the only African coun­try that recog­nises gay rights and al­lows same-sex mar­riage, hate crimes against peo­ple based on their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion con­tinue un­abated. Cam­paign­ers have warned that sex­ual at­tacks against les­bians are con­tin­u­ing to in­crease.

Cases of cor­rec­tive rape – a hate crime in which men rape les­bians in what they see as an at­tempt to “cor­rect” their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion – con­tinue to scorch our land­scape.

The prac­tice of “cor­rec­tive rape” shocked the world in 2008 when Eudy Sime­lane, a for­mer South African in­ter­na­tional women’s foot­baller, was gang-raped, beaten and stabbed 25 times in Ekurhu­leni. One of the four al­leged at­tack­ers pleaded guilty to rape and mur­der and was sentenced to 32 years in jail. Another pleaded not guilty, but was con­victed and given a life sen­tence.

It is apt that another ho­mo­phobe was given a lengthy sen­tence on Tues­day – the start of the an­nual 16 Days of No Vi­o­lence Against Women and Chil­dren Cam­paign.

Lek­goa Motle­leng was handed an ef­fec­tive 30year jail term for the hor­rific rape and mur­der of Duduzile Zozo, a young les­bian. Her body was found with a toi­let brush shoved in her gen­i­tals.

Many les­bians have died in such ho­mo­pho­bic at­tacks which Amnesty In­ter­na­tional has cau­tioned are on the rise. For in­stance, be­tween June and Novem­ber 2012 at least seven peo­ple were killed in what ap­pears to have been tar­geted vi­o­lence re­lated to their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion.

While this prob­lem ex­ists, we ap­peal to the courts to mete out harsh sen­tences upon those guilty of th­ese bar­baric crimes.

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