This page showcases previously written articles from an earlier blog publication by Melanie Nathan. It is repeated here for information purposes. Nathan has spoken on the issue of so called corrective rape in South Africa and is available for speeches and media commentary on the subject. She can be contacted at [email protected]
Lesbian Corrective Rape Victim has her Day in Court
By Melanie Nathan 11-05-2010.
(Updated February 14, 2011) 4,444 Face Book Shares/ 56,000 visitors
This is the face of South African lesbian who was beaten and raped for five hours by a man who told her he wanted to “turn her into a woman”. This is the face of a warrior who despite all odds, trauma, and police victimization, found her way to Court today by public transportation, to testify against her brutal attacker, who remained free on bail to -in essence- board the same bus. The Police were simply not willing to give this young woman a ride to the Court.
A spokesperson for Millicent Gaika contacted us back in April and we have been shedding light on the plight of Lesbian “corrective rape” in South Africa ever since. Today was Millicent Gaika’s day in court.
Her attacker acted like an animal who wanted to kill, strangling her with barbed wire; “I thought he was going to kill me; he was like an animal. And he kept saying: ‘I know you are a lesbian. You are not a man, you think you are, but I am going to show you, you are a woman. I am going to make you pregnant. I am going to kill you.” The attacker was known To Gaika, a neighbor.
“He started hitting me and I fought back. Then he started doing what he did to me. He pulled off my clothes and pushed me down on the bed. He did it more than once. He was holding me down, strangling me and pushing his hands hard on to my neck.” The attack ended only ended after neighbors finally heard her screams, broke down the assailant’s door and found Gaika naked from the waist down on a bed and bleeding. They then held the assailant until police arrived.
Millicent was in severe shock and traumatized to the point of wanting to kill herself. She made contact with me mere days after it happened through Ndumie Funda from LulekiSizwe, a small unfunded groups that helped Millicent and other survivors. Millicent sent me the shocking photos with a brave plea to publish them so the world could see. It was then I realized that I was dealing with an extraordinary group of young women. This bravery continued as today Millicent was able to testify in Court, despite threats on her life and the release of the perpetrator back into the same neighborhood, on minimal bail.
It took everything she had to get to Court today, Friday- but she was propped up by other such victims and has not given up, despite the repeated threats and fears, determined to bring ‘the animal’ to justice. What makes this so much worse for Millicent Gaika is that this is not the first time Millicent has suffered such brutality. She was raped by a group of four men some years back, same motive and testified against them – they are serving 15 year sentences.
Today after the hearing I received this very perplexing and outrageous email and I have Left it in the original English (by Ndumie Funda) who has been caring for Millicent since the attack. English her second language readers may find this difficult to understand – but to change the emotion and terror behind its originality, I must report verbatim:
“Meza, (that is my SA “sister” name) – I’ve never been so tired like yesterday in my in tire life,we arrived in Wyneberg court at 8.30am,Millicent was ready to take a stand she was called in at 10am ,were not allowed to enter the court reason for the they said journalist were going to wright the false story.I then spoke to Milicent about that and she was fine with getting everybody in including the journalist.Then i again the persuaded her not to allow anybody in while she was testifying not even her own mother was allowed to get in inside.We all sit in the bangers next to us was the Andile Ncoza the guy who raped Millicent,all he does was steering as me with those angry eyes .not forget last week while i was driving passing his house he was standing out side ,when he saw my car he was swearing at me and saying i’m gonna get you bitch.Back to Milly she was alone testifying nervous and the court was surrounded with cameras,i remember her telling me yesterday that while she was standing in front of the magistrate facing Andile Ncoza the whole picture came back,1pm was lunch time and Andile was walking to the shop all the Luleki Sizwe together with Milly’s friends and his niece who happened to be a lesbians were singing a song called Elizuma lilapha lisenzeli wari/it means this rapist is making us worried cameras where on him.He could’nt come out of the shop ,his niece that happened to Milly’s friend throw him with water some spit in his face .we spand the whole day in court we left 4.30pm,next court case is next Wednesday in Wynberg court f 5th floor “
Is this how Justice is metered out in South Africa, that the trauma of the victim is exacerbated by the unjust freedom of the perpetrator, caught in the act, during the time of trial, while a victim is giving testimony? What is wrong with this picture. DO the South African authorities have no solicitude, responsibility, compassion?
That Millicent is completely without protection at this time is nothing short of an absolute outrage – that such bravery is rewarded with more fear?
Here is a call to the Cape Argus and other Papers in South Africa and around the world to comment on this flagrant disregard for the life a woman who is deeply committed to fight for her her own justice. Millicent is a hero.
It is amazing to me how the group impacted by this threat has not yet resorted to street justice – after all they are under direct threat of attack and the authorities don’t give a damn!
Ndumi Funda, the founder and director of Luleki Sizwe Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Women’s Project in Nyanga:-
“This needs to be stopped. We know of so many that this happens to and nothing is done about it. How many more young lesbian women must die?”
In South Africa one of out 4 people are HIV positive or have aids, and many lesbians have contracted HIV/AIDS because of these rapes and have died.
A statement released by South Africa’s national prosecuting authority said: “While hate crimes – especially of a sexual nature – are rife, it is not something that the South African government has prioritized as a specific project.”
We demand that South African President Zuma change that and do something!
FEBRUARY 14 – 2011
UPDATE: Minister of Justice has agreed to meet on REFORMS-
Over 1 million signatures supporting the petition for corrective rape reform have been collected worldwide, also calling for the harshest sentences to perpetrators of corrective rape and that government acknowledges the existence of corrective rape which, it says the government seems to deny at present.
“We will meet with Luleki Sizwe to discuss the matter. I called them last week to enquire about the logistical aspects of this meeting. They indicated that they would like the meeting to take place in Cape Town. In all likelihood the meeting will take place in Cape Town”, Tlali Tlali spokesperson for the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development said.
BY MELANIE NATHAN
6 November 2010
Dear Millicent and all comrades accompanying the trial
The Lesbian and Gay equality Project sends it full solidarity to Millicent and all of you during this time. We all know too well that claiming/demanding justice is no easy for many people who experience and suffer multiple forms of oppression. That discomfort and fear makes many unable to walk the path that you are so bravely engaged in right now.
Millicent, you will be speaking for so many who have been unable to. We send you positive energies to continue boosting your courage and strength. All the best Sister!
With lots of love, respect and solidarity for the days ahead!
Phumi -Phumzile S. Mtetwa , Executive Director -Lesbian and Gay Equality Project
VIDEO STORY ON GERMAN TV -http://mediathek.daserste.de/daserste/servlet/content/5769222?pageId&moduleId=329478&categoryId&goto&show
More Unions in South Africa Speaking out Against Corrective Rape & Homophobia
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