Speaking out Against Corrective Rape & Homophbia

More Unions in South Africa Speaking out Against Corrective Rape & Homophbia

Posted by Melanie Nathan May 04, 2011
Corrective Rape Equals Murder

This Union has been saddened and deeply disturbed by the murder of Comrade Noxolo Nogwaza, who was laid to rest in the presence of thousands of activists and community members on the 1st May, Workers Day.  Comrade Noxolo who was just 24 years old was found dead in the Kwa-Thema township last week and is believed to be the latest lesbian victim of so-called “corrective rape” , a barbaric practice that is supposed to ‘straighten out’ the  lesbian members of our community by subjecting them to gang rape.

Comrade Noxolo was a leading member of the Ekurhuleni Pride Organising Committee (EPOC), the key LGBTI organisation in Kwa-Thema that has attempted to ensure that the provisions of South Africa’s Constitution be respected and applied equally to all members of the community regardless of their sexual orientation. Reports of the nature of the attack on Comrade Noxolo can only be described as sickening. Suffice it to say that after enduring the most degrading of treatment at the hands of a mob of men, she was bludgeoned to death by stoning.

So far, no arrests have been made, and not a single senior politician has seen fit to offer condolences to Comrade Noxolo’s family and the community she tirelessly served to free from homophobic discrimination. This union takes the opportunity to lower its banner in respect to this comrade, and we hope many others will follow.

Corrective Rape Equals Murder

Sadly, the murder of Comrade Noxolo is not an isolated incident. Over the last ten years, no less than 30 lesbians have been murdered in this way, and that is only those cases that have been reported. The total may be far higher. In 2008 Eudy Simelane, a popular and talented South African Banyan Banyana footballer and lesbian activist, was raped and murdered in Kwa-Thema under equally horrific circumstances. Gay men have also been subjected to violent attacks. How many more innocent women and men must be murdered and attacked before those responsible are arrested?

The term ‘corrective rape’ is no longer appropriate or accurate. Given the number of murders, and the manner in which they take place, clearly the intention of those committing such hate crimes is not to ‘cure’ or ‘correct’ their victims, but to punish them by depriving them of their right to live. They also want to send a crude and threatening message to all those who wish to freely express their sexuality, that they do so at grave personal risk.

Of course we must do all within our power to understand why such terrible acts of violence are taking place in our communities, in order to strategize about how to both challenge negative attitudes and the horrendous practices that accompany them.  We must deepen an understanding of the legacy of a dehumanising apartheid, and the violent distortions it created. We must understand and challenge the persistence of a patriarchal system that reinforces notions of male superiority, undermines gender equality and effectively criminalises those who happen to be gay or lesbian. We must demand that our Government takes this issue seriously, and puts into practice the spirit of our much heralded Constitution that outlaws discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. This is the least we can do.

Homophobia Divides the Working Class

But the task before us all at the moment is to stand four square with those sections of our community who are under attack because of their preferred sexual orientation. This is not just a personal matter, but is also a profoundly political one. If we are to build a new society based on tolerance and equality, on the notion that an injury to one is an injury to all, we have to add our voices to all those demanding an end to such murderous activities, and commit ourselves to raising these issues in our own organisations. We have to strengthen linkages with those organisations that campaign against homophobia and all forms of discrimination that has the potential of dividing our class. For as long as one section of our community is oppressed, we all remain in chains.

Our sympathy and condolences go to Comrade Nxolo’s loving and supportive family, and especially to the two children she has left behind. We hope that they will one day manage to see beyond the horror of what has happened, and recognise and be proud of the wonderfully warm and courageous person their mother was.

Statement issued by Steve Faulkner, SAMWU’s International and Equality Officer, May 3 2011

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