ARASA LGBTI violence Press Release
African civil society groups call on the South African government to enact and enforce laws that protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex and transgender people against hate crimes
Cape Town, 12 July 2013 – Civil society groups from across southern Africa including the AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA), IRANTI, Gender Dynamix, Sonke Gender Justice and Free Gender, have called on the South African government to enforce existing laws to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex and transgender (LGBTI) people against hate crimes in the wake of the brutal killing of Duduzile Zozo, a 26 year old lesbian who lived in Thokoza, east of Johannesburg. Zozo’s body was found on Sunday, 30 June 2013 in her neighbour’s yard with her pants pulled down to her ankles with a toilet brush forced into her vagina. Family members of Zozo, who will be buried this weekend, have spoken publicly about their conviction that she was killed because she was openly gay.
This incident highlights the grim reality facing LGBTI people in Africa, whose lives are plagued by harassment, isolation, blackmail, violence, arbitrary arrest, rape, sexual assault and other cruel or degrading treatment based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
“On a daily basis, LGBTI people are being singled out, harassed and violated because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. While the impact of these violations are multiple and complex, it limits the ability of individuals to realise their socio economic rights to education, food, shelter, work and health. In southern and eastern Africa, this in turn contributes to the disproportionately high rates of HIV amongst people in adult consensual same sex relationships,” said Michaela Clayton, Director of the AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA).
South Africa is the only African country whose Constitution outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation, the South African government has failed to protect LGBTI people against hate crimes. “While the epidemic of hate crimes against LGBTI people in South Africa is underscored by the high rate of incidences of ‘corrective rape’ against lesbians, the enforcement of existing protective legislation leaves much to be desired,” added Clayton. “To make matters worse, where such cases of violence are reported, political leaders and law enforcement often ignore these cases or allow them to go unpunished. If South Africa is really committed to protecting the rights of LGBTI South Africans, they should punish perpetrators to the full extent of the law and consider hate crimes against LGBTI as an aggravating factor,” said Clayton.
Many factors contribute to violence against LGBTI people, ranging from hate speech fuelled by rigid religious and cultural norms to hate speech by political, religious and traditional leaders. “Statements by government leaders, such as recent comments by Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe, vowing that, if ZANUPF wins the next elections, they would amend laws to give offenders stiffer sentences and calling for homosexual people to be prosecuted if they fail to procreate, fuel homophobia. In order to curb these incidences, homophobia and transphobia should be addressed at the community level in an attempt to create tolerant societies that thrive on diversity and respect the rights of all citizens,” said Clayton.
“African governments should work closely to educate citizens on their rights, educate police officers, prison officers and other law enforcement officers and the judiciary on the protection of human rights and increasing access to justice for individuals at higher risk of violence. Governments should also have zero tolerance for hate speech by all, including religious and cultural leaders, and prosecute those who incite and perpetrate violence against LGBTI”.
Recognising the dire state of affairs for LGBTI people, the United Nations Human Rights Council, adopted its first resolution on the rights of homosexuals and transgendered individuals, introduced by South Africa, on June 17, 2011. The resolution expresses "grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination, in all regions of the world, committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity".
Civil society groups across Africa look to the South African government to continue to lead the way in protecting the human rights of all citizens regardless of their sexual orientation by strongly condemning all forms of violence against LGBTI people and prosecuting perpetrators to the full extent of the law.
Sirka Amaambo: Communications Officer +264 812781245 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Boniswa Seti: LGBTI Programme Officer, + 27 8511 9602 or email email@example.com