Global human rights organisation Human Rights Watch has formally written to the South African government about killings and assaults on LGBTI people “in circumstances that suggest their sexual orientation or identity was the reason that they were targeted.”
By Kikonyogo Kivumbi
South Africa is widely seen in Africa, and many parts of the world, as a leader in legislative protection of LGBT people.
But a worrying rise in anti-LGBTI hate crimes threatens not only the country’s tourism prospects, but also progress on LGBTI rights throughout the continent. At least 20 LGBTI people in South Africa were victims of hate-inspired murders last year. (See list below.)
Last July, the South African government issued a statement indicating that it was working to stop the killings. However the killings have continued. South Africa’s human rights record is to be peer-reviewed by U.N. member nations during the U.N. Human Rights Council’s 41st session slated for 7-18 November 2022.
The government is not doing enough, says Mpaseka “Steve” Letsike, co-chairwoman of the National Task Team and head of the LGBTI organisation Access Chapter 2. Letsike told BBC news in an interview: “We are not getting it right. There’s a huge gap. We need to invest our energies into prevention, into conversations, into dialogues.”
The government is doing some of this — funding awareness campaigns and training police and health workers. But “it’s still a drop in the ocean,” says Letsike.
A Jan. 18 letter from HRW to John Jeffery, the Deputy Minister for Justice and Constitutional Development, expressed “grave concerns” at the killings.
The letter asked for information regarding the steps that have been taken to investigate and prosecute the killings of 20 LGBTI individuals in 2021.
In the letter, Graeme Reid, director of HRW’s LGBT Rights Program, noted that the international Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in November 2021 “expressed grave concern about the ‘particularly high levels of gender-based violence of women and girls facing intersecting forms of discrimination [including] LBTI women. ” and sought information about how South Africa plans to protect those women from gender-based violence.
HRW also asked for that information, seeking “implementation plans regarding the following recommendations issued by the CEDAW Committee:
- Raise awareness of women’s human rights among traditional and community leaders and the general public, with the active participation of LBT women;
- Ensure systematic training for judges, prosecutors, police officers and other law enforcement officers on the strict application of criminal law provisions on gender-based violence against women and gender-sensitive investigation and interrogation procedures, and create an enabling environment for women and girls to report gender-based violence by addressing the stigmatization of victims, discriminatory stereotypes and judicial gender bias;
- Ensure that allegations of gender-based violence against women facing intersecting forms of discrimination are promptly investigated, that perpetrators are prosecuted and adequately punished, and that survivors have access to victim support services and adequate reparations; and
- Provide information in South Africa’s next periodic report on the situation of women facing intersecting forms of discrimination, including lesbian, bisexual and transgender women and intersex persons, migrant, refugee and asylum-seeking women, women living with HIV/AIDS, women with disabilities and women with albinism, and on measures taken to address such discrimination.
LGBTI Individuals Killed in South Africa in 2021
These 20 LGBT people were murdered between February and October 2021, as documented by journalists/activists from MambaOnline:
- Bonang Gaelae, 29, whose throat was slashed in Sebokeng on February 12, 2021.
- Nonhlanhla Kunene, 37, whose body was found half naked in Edendale, Pietermaritzburg on March 5, 2021.
- Sphamandla Khoza, 34, who was beaten, stabbed and had his throat slit on March 29, 2021 in Kwamashu, Durban.
- Nathaniel ‘Spokgoane’ Mbele, who was stabbed in the chest in Tshirela, Vanderbijlpark on April 2, 2021.
- Khulekani Gomazi, 27, who was beaten to death on April 3, 2021 in Mpophomeni in KwaZulu-Natal after being accused of sexual assault.
- Andile ‘Lulu’ Nthuthela, 41, whose mutilated and burned body was found on April 10, 2021 in KwaNobuhle, Kariega.
- Lonwabo Jack, a young gay man who had just celebrated his 22nd birthday on April 17, 2021. His lifeless body was found lying on the street the next day in Nyanga, Cape Town.
- Lucky Kleinboy Motshabi, 30, whose body was found in a field in the town of Dennilton, Limpopo on April 24, 2021. He was naked with stab wounds on his body.
- Phelokazi Mqathana, 24, who was stabbed to death on the weekend of beginning May 1, 2021 in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. It was reported that a man stabbed her after she rejected his advances.
- Lindokuhle Mapu, 23, who was stabbed to death in Mfuleni, outside of Cape Town, on May 9, 2021.
- Aubrey Boshoga, 48, whose body was dumped outside his house in Johannesburg on May 29, 2021.
- Masixole Level, 28, whose body was found on a street in Kwazakhele, in the Eastern Cape, on June 6, 2021.
- Anele Bhengu, 28, whose stabbed and mutilated body was discovered in KwaMakhutha, KwaZulu-Natal, on June 13, 2021.
- Lulama Mvandaba, who died days after being beaten outside a bar in Khayelitsha in the Western Cape in June 2021.
- The body believed to be that of gay man Sam Mbatha was discovered in his burnt-out car in Klipgat in the North West province on June 17, 2021.
- Motse Moeketsi, 36, whose body was discovered in Freedom Park in Gauteng after he was reported missing on June 18, 2021.
- Sheila Lebelo, a 33-year-old lesbian who was killed in Atteridgeville, outside of Pretoria, in June 2021.
- Thapelo Sehata, 23, who died in hospital in August 2021 following an assault in the town of Senwabarwana in Limpopo.
- Sisanda Gumede, a 28-year-old lesbian, who was stabbed to death in KwaZulu-Natal on September 26, 2021.
- Zimasile Zubair Shabangu, 35, who was stabbed to death in the early hours of Oct. 4, 2021 at another person’s home in Northriding, Johannesburg.
Kikonyogo Kivumbi, the author of this article, is the executive director of the Uganda Health and Science Press Association. Contact him at [email protected]