By Melanie Nathan, November 1o, 2012.
I have received reports of the yet another horrific murder of a young South African lesbian. According to Ndumie Funda, the founder and Executive Director of Luleki Sizwe, an organization that assists young lesbian victims of so called “corrective rape“ a young woman was murdered by a group of gangsters.
In an emotional e-mail message today from South Africa Ndumie reports that the young woman was killed because she was a lesbian.
“Eish Meza one my girls got killed last night by gangsters in Samora Phillipi . Her name is Sihle Skotshi and she is one of the girls that plays soccer for Luleki Sizwe. She is only 19 years. She’s one of the girls in the project that is very close to me. ” noted a devastated Ndumie.
Despite its progressive Constitution protecting LGBTI people from discrimination, South Africa suffers rampant homophobia against gay, lesbians and transgender people. At greatest risk are South Africa’s lesbians who live in Townships. In South Africa soccer has traditionally been a male sport and women in soccer teams and wearing uniforms are often targets.
Amongst others, in 2008, Eudy Simelane also a footballer who played for the South Africa women’s national football team and an LGBT-rights activist was raped and murdered in her hometown of KwaThema, Springs, Gauteng.
It is not yet known if the young woman had been raped. South African lesbians living in townships are often victims of so called ‘Corrective’ rape. The crime is endemic to South Africa and it occurs when a man rapes a lesbian to supposedly cure her of being a lesbian, and to teach her a lesson to be hetero-normative. In other words, the men who are perpetrating this violence, believe that by raping a woman they can turn her into a “real African woman.”
There are no hard statistics to point to just how prevalent or how many of these so-called ‘corrective’ rapes occur because rapes are not classified by sexual orientation in South Africa.
In March 2011, I attended Cape Town Parliament with Ndumie Funda of Luleki Sizwe at the invitation of the Minister of Justice, Hon. Jeff Radebe. We presented grievances and a request for action on the issue of corrective rape. A task team was formed by the Department of Justice in conjunction with Luleki Sizwe and other stakeholders. The Task Team has yet to present its recommendations for reforms to improve the situation for South Africa’s Township lesbians.
Lesbians living in the old “white” suburbs a seem to be untouched by the violence experienced by Township lesbians, and for the most part have yet to join their Townships sisters with support, advocacy or assistance, denoting that the old apartheid divisions remain a day to day reality.
Recently the African Traditional leaders’ denigration of the Constitution’s protections of LGBTI rights, through their attempts to rescind the equality clause, seem to have caused a spike in violence against the gay community in South Africa.
This is such a tragedy. The amount of hate against our lesbian youngsters is beyond measure and should not be tolerated. I hope the South African Government speaks out vehemently against this murder. it is yet another one too many! The authorities must take swift action against the perpetrators . It is about time that the Government helped South Africans live their progressive Constitution and finally start an educational program to counter the ignorance around human sexuality and gender identity. I extend my deepest sympathy to Ndumie and the Luleki Sizwe team as well as to the family of the young woman.
I will report updates here as I receive more details in the tragic death of young Sihle Skotshi.
Updated from Ndumie’s interview with eye witnesses:
The attack occurred at Cosovo an informal settlement in Phillipi Cape Town. Three young women left a club to pick up money from the home of one. They were confronted by five or more males who were cursing at them saying “Ayo ndawo yenu le, yindawo yamaVura” (this is not your place, it is amavura’s place) (Amavura is the gang that is known and feared in the area). The men attacked them. In the midst of the attack one of the gang members pulled out a mini spear and stabbed Sihle in the chest. One of Sihle’s friends attempted to intervene and she also got stabbed in her arm, whilst the other friend ran for help.
Sihle passed away at the hospital. Sihle’s friend held her as she took her last breath. . Sihle uttered her last words saying “Please apologize for me to my mother, and I love you all”.
The young women now have to return to that Township; the fact is they have to go back to the same township where the attack took place, living by themselves to endure more homophobia. Many in the group are already victims of “corrective rape, ” including one of the young friends who was attacked recently in a separate incident and too afraid to seek medical treatment and report the crime, for fear of retaliation.
PHOTOS Provided by Ndumie Funda, Luleki Sizwe. © All rights reserved 2012.
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