by Lesego Tlhwale
Amnesty International on the 25 of June 2013 launched a report highlighting violence, homophobia and laws targeting LGBTI people in Sub Saharan Africa. The new report entitled ‘Making Love a Crime: Criminalisation of Same-Sex conduct in Sub Saharan Africa’ is one of many reports compiled by Amnesty International; however, it is their first that focuses on LGBTI violations in Africa. Such reports, although compiled and published, are inaccessible to communities where the research was conducted. Even at launches of such reports, the subjects used are hardly ever invited.
The launched report provides an analysis of the legal environment and wider context of human rights violations against LGBTI individuals in sub-Saharan Africa, with particular focus on Kenya, Uganda, Cameroon and South Africa. The report paints a vivid picture of the violence experience by black lesbians in South African township.
“Taunts, insults and threats are a constant reality and are in fact so common that many LGBTI people do not even recognize them as a form of violence. Sexual assault and other physical attacks against LGBTI people are also all too common. Lesbians, and LGBTI people who do not conform to culturally approved models of femininity and masculinity live in fear of being assaulted, raped and murdered by men.”
However, the report by amnesty international isn’t the first report on gross violations of LGBTI’s in South Africa. In 2011 a similar report was published by Human Right Watch (HRW) entitled ‘We’ll Show You You’re a Woman: Violence and Discrimination Against Black Lesbians and Transgender Men.’
“Human Rights Watch found that lesbians and transgender men face extensive discrimination and violence in their daily lives, both from private individuals and government officials. The abusers of people known or assumed to be lesbian, bisexual, or transgender act with near-total impunity, Human Rights Watch found.”
Both reports have documented the increasingly high number of rapes and murders of LGBTI people in South Africa, in particular lesbians. As important as these reports are in making sure that such issues are brought into the open and exposes the truth about a country thought to be a haven for homosexuals, much still needs to be done in the grassroots to make sure that the victims are protected and given the opportunity get out of those situations.
A lot of black lesbians are only used as subjects in a research study and rarely given the skill set and opportunity to be researchers. Working with black lesbian communities should not end at compiling reports about their lives, intergenerational skills transfer should also be the basis of collaboration.
Amnesty International over the past few months have partnered with Ekhuruleni Pride Organising Committee (EPOC) in making sure that the case of Noxolo Nogwaza, a 24 year old lesbian activist who was brutally murdered in Kwa-Thema two years ago, is investigated and perpetrators brought to book.
According to Bontle Khalo of EPOC, “Amnesty International has been campaigning to ensure that Noxolo’s murder is investigated thoroughly and effectively, so that those found to be responsible may be brought to justice.”
Furthermore, Amnesty International has been running a campaign locally and internationally calling for Justice for Noxolo. These campaigns have been running since May 2012, and they have targeted local and provincial police authorities, as well as the Gauteng Premier.
In recent developments of the campaign, Amnesty International has been lobbying for legislation to combat hate crime, legislations that would compel the police to compile statistics of lesbian and gay murders and rapes.
“Hate-crime laws would improve the policing and judicial response to such crimes and help develop effective mechanisms to monitor such crimes”, stated the report.
The lobbying for legislation by Amnesty International isn’t far off from the tasks planned by the LGBTI National Task Team which was formed in May 2011 to address gender- and sexual orientation-based violence against LGBTI persons in South Africa.
The task team committee recently released a statement outlining that, “one of the principal goals of the Task Team is to support and to help shape the government’s approach to combating hate crimes against LGBTI people (including policy and legislation).”
Both Amnesty International which is part of collective calling themselves; the Hate Crimes Working Group Steering Committee and the LGBTI National Task Team are fighting the same course from different directions, which would make one wonder why these two bodies aren’t working together to combat hate crimes. There should be more inclusion and collaboration with the subjects, if these reports are to have a meaningful dent.
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