by Lerato Dumse
From Nazi camps, Germany to Apartheid, South Africa and currently the democratic SA LGBT community is suffering from ongoing atrocities and painful residues of bloody ‘curative rapes’ and brutal hate crimes. Today marks exactly 22 days since Duduzile Zozo was found murdered in Thokoza township, Ekurhuleni district. She was buried in the same township on the 13th July 2013. It is also 6 year and 14 days since Sizakele Sigasa and Salome Masooa were callously killed in Meadowlands, Soweto.
“The reality is that homophobia remains a dangerous problem in schools and many communities. Since 2004 more than 20 lesbians, one just a week ago, transgender and gays have been brutally raped and killed in South Africa. Those are only the ones recorded, sadly many such crimes remain unrecorded due to intimidation and fear.”
Richard Friedman, director of the South African Holocaust and Genocide Centre was speaking at the opening of an exhibition at the Constitution Hill, Braamfontein Johannesburg on Sunday, 21 July 2013. The exhibition titled: In whom can I still trust? looks at the history of the persecution of homosexuals during the Nazi regime will show until the 25th August 2013.
When people speak about the Holocaust it’s the Jews killed by Hitler’s soldiers that get mentioned. Little is known about the many homosexuals who were sent to prison and even killed for being or expressing ‘themselves’. Prisoner’s “crimes” were identified by triangles in their identifying papers and if you had a pink triangle it meant you were a homosexual.
The exhibition also examines the protection of sexual minorities in South Africa. Addressing us from the women’s jail, were the exhibition is hosted, Friedman asked: “can lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people trust protection under the South African law and society, by us the people with whom they live?”
He believes that everyone has a key role to play in social upliftment and places like human rights museums and Constitution Hill can be agents for change. The exhibition aims to contribute to conversations on lgbti issues.
The people of Germany had freedom after 1945, unfortunately that was not extended to all. Gay people were not liberated. The exhibition features some of the affected homosexuals. These are the few stories documented, most of the homosexuals disappeared. Two stories that struck me was that of a lesbian couple who were forced to marry male friends to avoid persecution and a man who stole a red triangle from a dead political prisoner as that made his arrest more heroic.
Mr Kayum Ahmed CEO of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) was a guest speaker. He shared his experiences of working with different people.
“That appears to be a denial among the perpetrators of xenophobia, anti Semitism and homophobia, that the labels we ascribe to them, actually apply to them. Ironically, those who perpetrate injustices against others often rely on human rights discourse to also protect their own rights.”
Ahmed made an example with Reverend Oscar Bougard a Christian pastor who believes his mission is to take out gays and lesbians ‘because they are a bunch of idiots who confuse kids’. When a complaint was laid against Bougard with the SAHRC, he wanted his right of free speech to be protected.
Ahmed urged that difficult questions be asked. He said, “even if we have the most progressive Constitution in the world, with excellent legislation in place. And even if we had a functioning criminal justice system and everyone was educated about their human rights. Would that necessarily translate into a culture of human rights, a culture where we accept all nationals, gays and lesbians?
The answer is unfortunately not necessarily.”
While I was seating at the very cold Women’s Gaol, listening to the different speakers who agreed that black lesbians in South Africa are most affected by homophobia and its violence, suggesting the various ways it can be fought.
I looked around the room and sadly in a crowd of about 80 people, about 15 were black women and 5 of them members of Inkanyiso.
I asked myself if the only events black lesbians have access to, is running in the township streets when one of us has been murdered?
When will our discussions be translated into action?
In closing one of the solutions Kayum Ahmed provided was from a quote by Nadia Pillay. Who said, ‘its not only about changing the laws and educating people, its also about changing hearts and minds’.
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