South African women raped for being lesbians

November 1st, 2011 - 12:04 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Nov 1 (IANS) Human rights campaigners say at least 10 lesbian women in South Africa are sexually assaulted every week by men who claim to be “curing” their victims of homosexuality, according to a CNN report.

The sexual attacks are often accompanied by “horrifying violence” that the women are left permanently scarred or fatally injured, says the Daily Mail.

Eudy Simelane, a football star and lesbian activist, was training to be the first woman referee at the 2010 football World Cup when she was murdered. Raped, beaten and stabbed to death, her body was dumped in a stream on the outskirts of Johannesburg. No part of her body had been left untouched. There were around 25 knife wounds — some even on the soles of her feet.

Four men were charged with her murder. One admitted rape and murder and was sentenced to 32 years in prison. A second man was convicted of rape, murder and robbery and jailed for 35 years. The two others were acquitted.

Zukiswa Gaca is another such woman. She was out drinking with friends in Khayelitsha township, 40 km from Cape Town.

The 20-year-old told CNN’s “World’s Untold Stories” how she was asked out by a “friendly” man at a bar.

“I told the guy I’m a lesbian, so I don’t date guys. He said to me ‘I understand. I’ve got friends that are lesbians, that’s cool, I don’t have a problem with that,” she said.

At the home of one of his friends, where they went, the man sexually attacked her.

“He said to me, ‘You know what? I hate lesbians and I’m about to show you that you are not a man, as you are treating yourself like a man’,” she said.

“I tried to explain ‘I’m not a man. I never said I’m a man, I’m just a lesbian’. And he said, ‘I will show you that I am a man and I have more power than you’.”

She told CNN that he raped her. Afterwards she went to the nearest railway line and lay down on the tracks. A train was just 100 metres away when a passerby pulled her out of its path and saved her life.

She went to the police to report the rape. She accompanied officers to identify the attacker. He was questioned but eventually released.

“Being a lesbian in Khayelitsha is like you are being treated like an animal, like some kind of an alien or something,” Zukiswa said.

In a recent report, the Human Rights Watch said attitudes towards homosexuality in South Africa have actually got worse over the last 20 years.

Siphokazi Mthathi, the South African director of Human Rights Watch, blames it on deeply embedded sexism in society.

“We’ve failed to make it understood that there is a price for rape. There is still a strong sense among men that they have power over women, women’s bodies and there’s also a strong sense that there’s not going to be consequences because most often there are no consequences,” she told CNN.

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