No justice for us, say gay women

2011-01-16 00:00
Erna Van Wyk
The justice ministry says the existing legislation on sexual offences is adequate to deal with corrective rape, but it is willing to listen to a different perspective.

This comes after a month-long viral campaign by a group of activists in Cape Town to declare ­corrective rape, where men rape gay women to make them “straight”, a hate crime because women are being targeted because of their sexual orientation.

More than 135?000 people worldwide have signed the ­petition started by activists of the Luleki Sizwe group .

The campaign is now the most popular petition of all time on www.change.org, a leading website for social change.

According to Ndumie Funda, founder of Luleki Sizwe, gay women in townships are not protected from this vile practice and the criminal justice system has failed them because of the prevalence of homophobia in police stations and in courts.

While gay women face the reality that they will be raped by men who claim they are trying to “cure” them of their sexual orientation, says Funda.

“Corrective rape is a classic hate crime. Our struggle is not in town, it is in the township. Whether you like it or not, sisters are dying. We need to reconcile and say enough with the killing of innocent children,” she says.

Billi du Preez, a volunteer activist who supports Luleki Sizwe, says there is no government support for victims of corrective rape.

“All rape is terrible. Corrective rape is not just a random thing, it is perpetrated against a specific group of people,” Du Preez says.

Human Rights Commission member Pregs Govender has added her voice to the campaign, saying corrective rape needs to be raised in Parliament and by the Commission for Gender Equality.

She says state institutions are not sufficiently sensitised to deal with corrective rape.

“Women who are raped are not dealt with in a sensitive manner by police. This is further exacerbated when the woman is gay,” she says.

Minister of Justice Jeff Radebe has agreed to meet with Funda and other stakeholders to discuss ­corrective rape, but no date has been announced yet.

Ministry spokesperson Tlali Tlali says the fact that “it is called ­corrective rape does not detract from the fact that it is a crime ­punishable under our law”.

However, he agrees that “corrective rape is an indication of the motive behind those who commit it – a fact that may play a role in aggravating the sentence”.

The government is also working on hate crime legislation and hopes to pass it during the next ­financial year.