’Corrective Rape’ Still A Threat to South African Lesbians
Lesbians in South Africa are still faced with the danger of "corrective rape" at the hands of homophobic men, a March 8 TIME Magazine article reported.
The article relates the story of Millicent Gaika, a resident of a South African township called Gugulethu, near Cape Town. Gaika headed home at about 11:00 one night in 2009 when she was approached by a man who requested a cigarette. But when she gave him one, the man assaulted her, subjecting her to beatings and repeatedly raping her in a shack. The assault continued for five hours, the article said. During the assault, the man told Gaika, "You think you’re a man, but I’m going to show you you’re a woman." He was later arrested and charged for the attack.
Gaika, for her part, has become the face of a national problem facing lesbians. In South Africa, the phenomenon of "corrective rape" by men determined to "cure" lesbians through forced sexual intercourse has reportedly been on the rise.
"South Africa should be a beacon of tolerance," noted the TIME article. "Its constitution was the first in the world to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, and the country was also the first in Africa to legalize same-sex marriage."
Those legal guarantees have not translated into social acceptance, however. Even as gays and lesbians in other African nations face deep-seated prejudices and growing legal oppression, in South Africa--where homosexuality is not criminalized--GLBTs, especially lesbians, can still be subjected to bias-driven violence.
Three years ago, in April, 2008, female soccer star and open lesbian Eudy Simelane was attacked by three men who raped and murdered her. The men stabbed Simelane 25 times--an instance of "overkill" that is all too familiar in cases of bias-driven hate crimes targeting GLBTs.
The attack may have been motivated by more than a desire for coercive sexual "correction," reported an Aug. 26 article that appeared in the Irish newspaper The Independent.
The very fact that Simelane was a star in a sport regarded as part of the male domain made her a target, the article indicated.
"Men are unemployed and feel traditional male preserves such as football or drinking in a bar are under attack. That was Eudy’s crime," said the director for the Lesbian and Gay Equality Project, Phumi Mtetna. "An aggravating factor was that she did not look like a typical female."
Mtetna said that instances of "corrective rape" are probably under-reported. "Most survivors of these attacks do not report them," the article quoted her as saying. "We believe there are hundreds of people who have been targeted."
Such attacks are part of a larger trend, Mtetna asserted. "People are just getting killed here because they are different, like HIV-positive people have been killed in the past." Moreover, Mtetna noted that gay and lesbian victims cannot necessarily rely on the authorities for assistance.
"If a lesbian tries to report a rape, police will say something like, ’Who would rape someone looking like you?’ " the article quoted her as saying.
A Feb. 10, 2009, article at American GLBT athletic news site Outsports.com reported on the killing and the then-impending trial. The article said that protesters had turned out in force to decry anti-GLBT violence. The site deemed Simelane to be the South African equivalent of Matthew Shepard, an openly gay young man whose fatal beating and abandonment outside the Wyoming town of Laramie came to symbolize anti-gay violence in the United States.