Lesbians living in South Africa are being subjected to “corrective rape” and severe violence by men trying to “cure” them of their sexual orientation, human rights groups have said.
A report by the international NGO ActionAid, backed by the South African Human Rights Commission, said the horrific crimes against lesbians were going unrecognised by the state and unpunished by the legal system.
The report called for South Africa’s criminal justice system to recognise the rapes as hate crimes in an attempt to force police to take action over the rising tide of violence.
The ferocity of the attack became clear in April last year when Eudy Simelane, former star of South Africa’s national female football squad, became one of the victims. Miss Simelane, and equality rights campaigner and one of the first women to live openly as a lesbian, was gang-raped and brutally beaten before being stabbed 25 times in the face, chest and legs.
But scores more women have been deliberately targeted for rape, the Guardian reports.
“Every day I am told that they are going to kill me, that they are going to rape me and after they rape me I’ll become a girl,” Zakhe Sowello from Soweto, told the paper. “When you are raped you have a lot of evidence on your body. But when we try and report these crimes nothing happens, and then you see the boys who raped you walking free on the street.”
Research shows 86 per cent of black lesbians from the Western Cape live in fear of sexual assault. Triangle, a gay rights organisation, said it deals with up to 10 new cases of “corrective rape” every week.
“What we’re seeing is a spike in the numbers of women coming to us having been raped and who have been told throughout the attack that being a lesbian was to blame for what was happening to them,” Vanessa Ludwig, the chief executive at Triangle, told the paper.
Support groups claim an increasingly macho political environment led to inaction over attacks.
A statement released by South Africa’s national prosecuting authority said: “While hate crimes – especially of a sexual nature – are rife, it is not something that the South African government has prioritised as a specific project.”
Human rights and equality campaigners are hoping that the public outrage and disgust at Miss Simelane’s death and the July trial of the three men accused of her rape and murder will help put an end to the spiralling violence.