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South Africa creates historic task force to fight corrective rape, create LGBT hate crimes laws

CAPE TOWN, South Africa -- In March I attended the first meeting at the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DOJCD) in South Africa, as a spokesperson with Ndumie Funda of Luleki Sizwe, and we outlined the need for reforms and hate crimes legislation, especially against corrective rape of lesbians in South Africa.

Today, Eugene Brockman and Henry Bantjes, report for LGR, from the second meeting following the one back in March. It was decided that the meetings would result in the formation of a Task Force, history in the making, as South Africa moves forward toward supporting and enforcing the LGBT community's rights under its all inclusive Constitution.

The right to safety is imperative and as it stands, the culture of homophobia must change in South Africa to one where a lesbian is free to work outside her home without fear of brutality, rape and murder.

The agenda for this second meeting might have been to address corrective rape, but the result is an intervention plan and task team against all forms of hate crime against LGBTI citizens of South Africa. I sincerely hope this does not take the focus off corrective rape which is endemic in South Africa, especially heightened by the Easter day brutality where a 14-year-old lesbian was savagely beaten, raped and murdered in such a crime.

Department of Justice representative Mr. Tladi Tlali observed: “The fact that there was a meeting on the 14th of March and again a meeting today, with the representatives of various departments of government and the progress we have made proves that this is a sensitive government that listens and is open to collaboration with its people.”

Through the work of Ndumie Funda’s against corrective/curative rape of lesbians, she has been able to make her small organization Luleki Sizwe into a pioneer for LGBTI rights. Ndumie made headlines by first raising a 170,000 signature petition, then a secondary petition on Avaaz.org which reached 920 000 signatures, and now Ndumie has successfully engaged the government and department of justice on addressing targeted rape and assault against lesbians.

A group of LGBTI representatives from Triangle Project, Free Gender, End Hate Crime, Rape Crisis etc. invited by Luleki Sizwe attended the meeting along with representatives from governmental departments of justice (DOJ), national prosecutors office (NPA), social development, crime victims empowerment groups and SAPS.

An intervention plan was announced that has been put together with a six-person task team that represents a cluster of government departments spanning from judiciary, policing, social development, etc. The government has also put it to Luleki Sizwe and other NGO’s in attendance to select 6 further national representatives of the LGBTI community with grassroots following and support, who are in existing working structures for the LGBTI community.

On the agenda for the task team will be:

  • the terms of reference for operation.
  • situational analysis for needs of victims of hate crime based on sexual orientation.
  • a legislative intervention plan,
  • a public awareness strategy co-developed with LGBT NGO’s and communities.
  • LGBT sensitive shelters and social development.

The hardest of these would be the way forward with a legislative intervention plan. Though there are the beginnings of a hate crime bill the government and Department of Justice do recognize (especially with the recent murder of Nxolo Nogwaza) that corrective rape is reaching a fever pitch and should be addressed as a crisis. Therefore the NPA and DOJ are looking at methods to strengthen the Constitutional rights afforded its LGBT community. Possible methods are to:

  • amend the sexual offences act, with sexual orientation as an aggravating circumstance, which would lead to heavier sentences.
  • the use of any magistrates court as an equality court to address any harassment, discrimination or hate speech. This could be a viable preventative measure, which does not require paying for a lawyer.
  • to consult on the minimum sentences for hate crimes inclusive or rape on the basis of sexual orientation.
  • to stress LGBT cases for sensitivity in the service charter for victims of crime.

Henry Bantjez & Ndumie Funda at today's meeting

There was a strong emphasis placed on sensitivity training in both of the SAPS, DOJ, NPO and Social Development structures in the short and medium term. Luleki Sizwe also stressed that the department of Education should get involved to create tolerance within the youth of South Africa.

There was also a commitment on long term issues, such as national public awareness and engaging with traditional and spiritual leaders to break through homophobia in communities.

Ndumie Funda from Luleki Sizwe stated in retrospect that: “I acknowledge the response from the government. It shows that they are willing to work with the gay community, but we continue to fight for LGBTI rights until the last innocent drops of drops of blood are spilled because of hate.”

LGBTI representatives will meet on the 10th of May to decide on the final six representatives who are to be announced on the 12th of May 2011 to the Department of Justice.

The intervention plan and task team will gear into action on the 15th of July, a day before Youth Day, celebrating the historic uprisings of Soweto.

This is an amazing accomplishment after two years of begging for attention. I am pleased to note that LezGetReal and Melanie Nathan in her capacity as Ambassador to Africa for MEUSA, played an integral two year role in the publicity generated that served as the impetus for the Petitions mentioned above, as well as Melanie’s draft reforms which continue to serve as the basis for the demands and changes needed.

NDUMIE FUNDA needs financial support to continue this extraordinary work on behalf of lesbian victims of corrective rape . Donations are welcomed at www.Lulekisizwe.com

Article contributors are Henry Bantjes, Eugene Huge Brockman and Zanele Muholi.