Thembi* was pulled from a taxi near her home, beaten and raped by a man who boasted that he was ‘curing’ her of her lesbianism.
Thembi is not alone. This vicious crime is recurrent in South Africa; where lesbians live in terror of attack, but no one has ever been convicted of 'corrective rape'. Amazingly, from a tiny Cape Town safehouse a few brave activists are risking their lives to ensure that this heinous practice is stopped and their massive campaign has forced the government into talks.
If we shine a light on this horror from all corners of South Africa and the world and enough of us join in we can escalate the pressure, and help make sure these talks lead to concrete and urgent action. Let’s call on President Zuma and the Minister of Justice to publicly condemn 'corrective rape', criminalise hate crimes, and ensure immediate enforcement, public education and protection for survivors. Sign the petition, share it with everyone and we’ll deliver it to the government.
South Africa, often called the Rainbow Nation, is revered globally for its post-apartheid efforts to protect against discrimination. It was the first country to constitutionally protect citizens from discrimination based on sexuality, but local organisations record multiple 'corrective rapes' every week and impunity reigns.
'Corrective rape' is based on the outrageous and utterly false notion that a lesbian woman can be raped to 'make her straight', but this heinous act is not even classified as a hate crime in South Africa. The victims are often black, poor, lesbian women and profoundly marginalised. But even the 2008 gang rape and murder of Eudy Simelane, the national hero and former star of the South Africa women's national football team, did not turn the tide. Despite this high profile case, Minister Radebe insists that motive is irrelevant in crimes like corrective rape.
South Africa is the rape capital of the world. A girl born today is more likely to be raped than she is to learn to read. Astoundingly, one quarter of South African girls are raped before turning 16. This has many roots: masculine entitlement (62 per cent of boys over 11 believe that forcing someone to have sex is not an act of violence), poverty, crammed settlements, unemployed and disenfranchised men, community acceptance -- and, for the few cases that are courageously reported to authorities, a dismal police response and careless sentencing.
This is a human catastrophe. But courageous local activists have opened a window of hope to get action on targeted sexual violence and hate crimes. They have got the government's attention, now if the whole world weighs in, together we could get justice for the victims and concrete and urgent action to end corrective rape.
This is ultimately a battle with poverty, patriarchy, and homophobia. Ending the tide of rape will require bold leadership and concerted action to spearhead transformative change in South Africa and across the continent. President Zuma has himself stood trial for rape, but he condemned the arrest of a gay couple in Malawi last year and, after massive national and international civic pressure, South Africa finally approved a UN resolution opposing extra-judicial killing in relation to sexual orientation.
If enough of us join this global call for action, we could push Zuma to speak out, drive much-needed government action, and help a national conversation that could fundamentally shift public attitudes toward rape and homophobia. Sign on now and spread the word.
A case like Thembi's makes it easy to lose hope, but when citizens come together with one voice; we can succeed in shifting fundamentally unjust, but deeply ingrained practices and norms. Last year, in Uganda, we succeeded in building such a massive wave of public pressure that the government was forced to shelve legislation that would have sentenced gay Ugandans to death. And it was global pressure in support of bold national activists that pushed South African leaders to address the AIDS crisis that was engulfing their country. Let’s join together now and speak out for a world where each and every human being can live without fear of abuse.
*Name has been changed