Archive for the ‘Lesbian Gay’ Category
Joint Action Group For Gender Equality (JAG) is greatly concerned with recent announcement in Star (Dec 29) that the Islamic Development Department of Malaysia (Jakim) intends to take action against Azwan Ismail for posting a video on YouTube entitled “I’m Gay, I’m OK” as part of a video campaign launched in response to accounts of suicides and attempted suicides by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) teenagers and adults.
We are appalled that government authorities have not condemned the threats of murder and violence against Azwan Ismail and other members of Seksualiti Merdeka who were involved in the campaign, but instead have fanned violence and hatred with homophobic and discriminatory statements.
Women have never been strangers to discrimination. That is why women’s groups seek to uphold Article 8 of the Malaysian federal constitution that clearly guarantees that, “All persons are equal before the law and entitled to equal protection of the law.”
JAG stands by Seksualiti Merdeka’s attempt to reach out to Malaysians who face overwhelming feelings of loneliness, fear or hopelessness resulting from the stigma and discrimination against them for being LGBT. They should not be persecuted for trying to address a human issue with understanding and compassion.
JAG is deeply concerned with the culture of hatred and intolerance bred in Malaysian society today against those who are different, be it on the basis of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. This demonisation of the “other” goes against the true inclusive and tolerant spirit of being Malaysian.
As Louise Arbour, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has stated:
“Neither the existence of national laws, nor the prevalence of custom can ever justify the abuse, attacks, torture and indeed killings that gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender persons are subjected to, because of who they are or are perceived to be.
“Because of the stigma attached to issues surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity, violence against LGBT persons is frequently unreported, undocumented and goes ultimately unreported and unpunished. Rarely does it provoke public debate and outrage. This shameful silence is the ultimate rejection of the fundamental principle of universality of rights.”
Azwan Ismail is not the first gay Muslim man in Malaysia nor will he be the last. Being gay is not a crime, however, hate speech as per Sections 211 and 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 and making threats to commit acts of violence as stated in Section 503 of the Penal Code are crimes under Malaysian laws.
We urge Malaysians to stand up to such hatred and violence and reach out to all those who are discriminated against in peace and compassion.
Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) comprises Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), Sisters in Islam (SIS), All Women’s Action Society (Awam), Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (Empower) and Perak Women for Women Society.
Earlier this year Millicent Gaika, a 30-year-old South African woman, was tied up, beaten, strangled, tortured and raped for five hours by a man as he screamed that he would “cure” Millicent of her lesbianism.
Ndumie Funda, a local community activist whose lesbian partner was murdered in the course of a similar “corrective rape,” reached out to Millicent through a small local charity she set up to rescue and support survivors of “corrective rape.” But last month they both had to go into hiding after the South African government released the perpetrator they had helped to jail on 60 rand (less than $10) bail.
Ndumie, Millicent and others decided to fight back against the rapists and the lack of accountability for their crimes. From a Cape Town safehouse for survivors of ‘corrective rape,’ the women created a petition on Change.org targeting South African Justice Minister Jeffrey Radebe.
Please, they wrote, declare ‘corrective rape’ a hate crime, which would both empower and require South African police to take a harder line on the vicious crime.
More than 500 “corrective rapes” are reported in South Africa each year, and more than 30 South African lesbians have been murdered because of their sexuality over the past decade. Worse, for every 100 men charged with rape in South Africa, 96 of them walk free.
We can help here. Last year, South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority went on record refusing to formally declare ‘corrective rape’ a hate crime, saying “It is not something that the South African government has prioritized as a specific project.”
But with enough international pressure on the South African government, such heinous crimes might finally be taken seriously.
More than 2,000 Change.org members have added their name to the petition created by Ndumie and Millicent.
Thank you for taking action,
The Change.org Team
P.S. Every time a new person signs the petition, the Justice Minister’s office automatically gets an email. So once you join, will you forward this to friends and family, and post on Facebook, so that they hear a global outcry?
More than 70 gay rights activists were detained in the Nepali capital earlier this month in a crackdown on a rally to demand government identification papers for transgender people, police and activists said.
Nepali men and women who identify themselves as transgender are seeking citizenship certificates with their gender marked as “third sex” instead of male or female.
Sunil Babu Pant, lawmaker and founder of the Blue Diamond Society, a gay rights group, said more than 70 people were detained near the prime minister’s office and parliament.
“We are running out of patience and are demanding our rights,” Pant told Reuters from a detention centre.
“Without the citizenship papers, the sexual minorities are unable to get a job, enrol in schools or colleges, seek treatment in hospitals and travel,” he said. “They cannot even inherit parental property.”
In 2007, the Supreme Court ordered the government to amend laws to end discrimination against homosexuals, and give them the same rights as other citizens.
Government officials were not immediately available for comment.
Kathmandu police chief Ramesh Kharel said the activists were detained for “violating the norms” by gathering at a place where demonstrations were not allowed.
Hindu-majority Nepal has become more gay-friendly over the last few years, but homosexuality still remains taboo for many people in this conservative Himalyan nation.
Same-sex marriages have taken place in public and gay beauty contests are held.
A travel agency run by gay people is offering to organise same-sex weddings at Mount Everest in a move to promote the scenic mountainous nation as a gay-friendly tourist destination.
The Polish minister for equality has been accused of homophobia for outing a gay man on television and saying Catholic schools should have the right to sack gay teachers.
Elżbieta Radziszewska made the remarks about gay teachers to Catholic newspaper Gosc Niedzielny. She said that Catholic schools should be allowed to sack or refuse to employ gay or lesbian teachers, although she later said she would defend a teacher sacked from a state school for his or her sexual orientation.
She appeared on a breakfast show on TVN24 but provoked further anger when she apparently outed Krzysztof Śmiszek, the deputy president of the Polish Society of Anti-Discrimination Law (PSAL).
The pair were arguing about her remarks on gay teachers when Ms Radziszewska used Mr Śmiszek as an example of why cases should be treated individually.
According to the Warsaw Business Journal, she said: “If, for example, Mr Śmiszek, in a situation when we know that he is a member of the homosexual society and an activist for the Campaign Against Homophobia and it’s no secret who his partner is…”
Ms Radziszewska was asked by the programme’s presenters whether she should be on the other side of the argument but she apparently said that was the way she saw it. She later apologised but said Mr Mr Śmiszek’s sexual orientation could easily be discovered on the internet.
Mr Śmiszek has reacted furiously to her comments and intends to sue.
“This is pure homophobia,” he told daily Gazeta Wyborcza on Tuesday. “In no other EU country would such a person still hold their post. I do not hide my sexual orientation, but it’s my private business. My personal rights have been violated.”
Several members of Ms Radziszewska’s Civic Platform colleages in the coalition government have criticised her, although others on the right claim she is the victim of a witch-hunt.
She has also been criticised by women’s groups, who accused her of not doing enough for women’s equality.
Homosexuality is legal in Poland but couples cannot adopt children and there is no legal recognition of their relationships. The Polish capital Warsaw hosted EuroPride this year.
Mexico’s Supreme Court has ruled that a law allowing same-sex marriages in Mexico City is constitutional, rejecting an appeal by federal prosecutors who argued it violated the charter’s guarantees to protect the family.
The justices’ 8-2 ruling handed a legal victory to hundreds of same-sex couples who have been married in Mexico’s capital since the landmark law took effect March 4. When approved last December, it was the first law in Latin America explicitly giving gay marriages the same status as heterosexual ones, including adoption.
The court, however, must still rule on the adoption clause and whether the ruling will affect states outside of the capital. It is expected to address adoption on Monday.
“We are very happy,” said Mexico City lawyer Leticia Bonifaz, who argued Mexico City’s case. “It fell to us to carry to a conclusion a struggle that has taken a long time.”
Justices who voted on the majority side stressed that while Mexico’s constitution enshrines protection for families, it does not define what a “family” is.
“It does not appear to me to be unconstitutional,” Justice Jose Gudino said during Thursday’s session. “The concept of the family established in the constitution … is an open concept.”
Jaime Lopez Vela, a leader of the group Lesbian, Gay, Transsexual and Transgender, was among a group of activists who celebrated the ruling outside the court.
“Now we hope that the final ruling declares it all constitutional,” he said, referring to adoption.
The law was opposed by Mexico’s Roman Catholic Church and the conservative government of President Felipe Calderon.
Rev. Hugo Valdemar, the spokesman for Mexico City’s Roman Catholic Archdiocese, said “we regret this ruling because in our opinion, it affects the fundamental nucleus of the family.”
Federal prosecutors had cited an article in Mexico’s constitution that suggests – but does not state – that families are constituted by men, women and children. The article states: “Men and women are equal before the law. This protects the organization and development of the family.”
Justice Guillermo Ortiz, who argued against the law, said “marriage is reserved exclusively for couples who can procreate, because one of the big issues of marriage is the protection of children.”
But another judge, Jose Fernando Franco, argued that “procreation is not an essential element of marriage.”
“Those who wish to procreate are free to do so, not only within marriage but in any way they see best, and this happens and can happen in heterosexual marriages, and those that are not, or among single persons,” Franco said.
The justices who voted to uphold the law differed in their reasons why: Some stressed the constitution’s protection of an individual’s right to choose a marriage partner, and others the right of local legislatures to enact laws governing the issue.
Justice Luis Aguilar Morales argued against framing the ruling around the individual rights issue, something that might force other states to adopt similar measures.
“If Mexico City wants it a certain way, that does not necessarily mean that the rest of the states have to do the same,” Aguilar Morales said. The issue will apparently be worked out in subsequent discussion and the writing of the final ruling.
Armando Martinez, president of a local Catholic lawyers’ group, said his organization will be even more concerned if the court rules ultimately upholds the part of the Mexico City law that lets same-sex couples adopt kids.
“That would directly affect the rights of children,” Martinez said. “We will seek impeachment hearings against any justices that vote in favor of adoption.”
City authorities said that as of earlier this week, 320 couples had been married under the law: 173 weddings between men and 147 between women.
Argentina became the first country in Latin America to legalize marriage for same-sex couples with a law approved in July. Mexico City remains the only city in Mexico with a similar law.
Earlier this month, Iceland’s Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardotti married her longtime partner Jonina Leosdottir, making her the first head of government in the world to marry a same-sex partner. The couple married last Sunday, which was both the international day for gay rights and the day that a new law legalizing same-sex marriage in Iceland went into effect. Sigurdardotti called the new law “cause for celebration for all Icelanders”, according to the Examiner.
The legislation is particularly notable because it goes one step beyond being gender neutral and explicitly states that “woman and woman” and “man and man” are included in the definition of marriage, according to On Top Magazine. The bill, first introduced in March of this year, was voted in by 49 of 63 members of the parliament on June 12. The remaining 12 members of the Icelandic parliament abstained, making the vote unanimous. The law replaces a 1996 law that allowed registered partnerships for same-sex couples. Sigurdardotti and her partner had this type of union prior to their wedding. Married partners will now have all the legal benefits and responsibilities that heterosexual married couples have.
In 2009, Sigurdardotti became the first woman and openly gay Prime Minister in the nation’s history. Sigurdardotti became interim prime minister when Former Icelandic Prime Minister Geir Haarde resigned in January as a result of Iceland’s economic collapse. She was then appointed by Icelandic President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson and had previously served as the welfare minister under Haarde. She is currently the only openly gay national leader in the world.
The Scandinavian countries are often recognized internationally for their socially progressive policies and overall tolerance of differing lifestyles. In 2009, for instance, Iceland had the highest gender equality index of the 134 countries that were analyzed in a World Economic Forum study. Frederick Federley, a highly respected Swedish attorney, is openly gay, according to the Associated Press. Denmark started to register same-sex partnerships over 20 years ago and was the first to do so.
Currently, same-sex marriage is legal in six other European countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Norway, Sweden, and Portugal).
* Egypt, Qatar, Sudan among those opposing the group
* Britain, U.S. advocate accrediting gay-lesbian NGO
A United Nations committee that decides which nongovernmental organizations can be accredited to the world body moved on Thursday to keep out the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.
The group, which had applied for “consultative status” at the U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) three years ago, is an international NGO and advocacy group focusing on protecting the rights of homosexuals and lesbians worldwide.
Diplomats from Western nations that support gay rights complained that Egypt and other developing states that have been criticized by rights groups for discriminating against gays and lesbians prevented the committee from voting on whether to accredit the group, thereby leaving it in limbo.
“IGLHRC is disappointed by the vote of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations to block action on our application,” Cary Alan Johnson, head of the New York-based group, said in a statement to Reuters.
The U.N. NGO committee has 19 members, among them the United States and Britain, who supported the NGO. Among those who voted against it were Egypt, Sudan, Qatar, Pakistan, China, Russia, Angola, Burundi and Sudan. Turkey abstained.
Johnson said it was “a clear case of discrimination against an organization because it defends the human rights of LGBT people around the world and promotes non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.”
LGBT refers to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.
The U.S. delegation defended the work of IGLHRC (http://www.iglhrc.org).
“This NGO is committed to combating discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” the U.S. statement said. “It has contributed to valuable research on HIV/AIDs and its work is well known to this committee.”
A Western diplomat told Reuters that “unfortunately we didn’t have the votes” on the committee to overcome opposition from countries like Egypt, Qatar, Sudan and others. The diplomat added that IGLHRC clearly fulfills all the criteria for U.N. accreditation.
The British delegation issued a statement expressing its “deep regret” for the decision to reject a U.S. proposal to take action on IGLHRC’s application for a U.N. accreditation. The British statement said the move not to accredit the group was proposed by Egypt on behalf of African countries.
“This act of simple discrimination runs contrary to the principles of the U.N., of ECOSOC and of the NGO Committee,” it said.
One envoy told Reuters on condition of anonymity that the United States and Europeans would push for the U.N. Economic and Social Council itself to move to accredit the group, a strategy that he said would have a better chance of success.
The US justice department has confirmed that federal laws giving protection against domestic violence also apply to gays and lesbians.
A memo posted yesterday by the department said prosecutors should enforce criminal provisions in the Violence Against Women Act in cases involving gay and lesbian relationships.
These provisions include those related to domestic violence, stalking and protection order violations.
The Defence of Marriage Act says that federal law can only consider the words “spouse” and “marriage” to relate to opposite-sex couples.
But David J Barron, the acting assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, said that domestic violence laws also contain phrases such as “dating partner” and “intimate partner.”
“The text, relevant case law and legislative history all support the conclusion” that the law’s criminal provisions “apply when the offender and the victim are the same sex,” Mr. Barron wrote.
Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese said: “Today’s memorandum by the Department of Justice is one step forward in ensuring that LGBT people are protected by our federal domestic violence laws.
“Some of our families, like all Americans, experience domestic violence and those impacted by such violence should enjoy equal protections, and equal dignity, when they seek assistance from law enforcement. We thank the Department of Justice for releasing this important interpretation.”
A 2010 report by the National Centre for Victims of Crime and the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programmes found that gay couples are just as likely to be affected by domestic violence as heterosexual couples.
The first gay marriage in Portugal was celebrated Monday as a lesbian couple exchanged vows in a civil ceremony, one week after a law allowing same-sex unions went into force.
The divorced women, Helena Paixao, 40, and Teresa Pires, 33, were married in Lisbon before about 30 people.
The lesbians, who have two daughters from previous marriages and have been together for eight years, were also the first gay couple to submit a request to be married back in 2006, which launched the debate on legalising homosexual unions in Portugal, a predominantly Catholic country.
After their request was rejected four years ago, the couple began a long legal process but the rejection was upheld by the constitutional court last July.
Portugal’s majority leftist parliament passed the law legalising gay marriages in February. It changed the definition of marriage in the civil code by removing the reference to two people of different sexes.
However, the new law explicitly states married homosexual couples do not have the right to adopt children.
Pope Benedict XVI criticised gay marriage and abortion as “insidious and dangerous threats to the common good” during a visit to Portugal last month.
Portugal follows Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Norway in allowing same-sex marriages.
They were pardoned during a visit by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
But a government minister told the BBC the men could be re-arrested if they continued their relationship.
The case sparked international condemnation and a debate about homosexuality in the country.
Monjeza, 26, and Chimbalanga, 20, were released from prison on Saturday evening, hours after Mr Mutharika announced their pardon.
Gift Trapence, director of the campaign group Centre for the Development of the People (Cedep) which had been supporting the couple, said they had been taken separately to their home villages.
“The prison authorities told them they had been given instruction from above that they should take them to their respective homes,” he told the AFP news agency.
Mr Trapence said they had been “warmly welcomed by their respective relatives” when they arrived home.
But Patricia Kaliati, Malawi’s Minister of Gender and Children, said Monjeza and Chimbalanga’s release did not mean they could continue their relationship.
“It doesn’t mean that now they are free people, they can keep doing whatever you keep doing,” she said.
Ms Kaliati said they could be rearrested if they “continue doing that”.
The men’s lawyer said they were unlikely to be treated in the same way if they were arrested again.
“The pardon only applies to the offence under which they were convicted. If, for example, they go back and the state is of the view that they have recommited the offence, the pardon will not apply,” said Mauya Msuku.
Monjeza and Chimbalanga were arrested in December last year, a day after they celebrated their engagement and had been in custody ever since.
They were convicted of engaging in gay sex under a law dating back to colonial rule by Britain and sentenced to 14 years with hard labour.
Judge Nyakwawa Usiwa-Usiwa said their actions went “against the order of nature”.
But on Saturday, Mr Mutharika said he was pardoning the pair on humanitarian grounds.
“In all aspects of reasoning, in all aspects of human understanding, these two gay boys were wrong – totally wrong,” he said.
“However, now that they have been sentenced, I as the president of this country have the powers to pronounce on them and therefore, I have decided that with effect from today, they are pardoned and they will be released.”
His comments came after a meeting with UN chief Mr Ban, who praised the decision as courageous.
But Ms Kaliati insisted that the president had not bowed to international pressure in releasing the men.
She said Malawi would not now reconsider its laws against homosexuality.
“We have our own rules and laws which we are following, and our own constitution. Our constitution is not the same as your constitution,” she said in her BBC interview.
Many of Britain’s former colonies have similar laws outlawing homosexuality – India overturned it last year.
In Uganda, MPs are debating whether to strengthen the laws to include the death penalty for some gay people – a move which has infuriated Western governments and human rights campaigners.
Armed with a search warrant from Chief Superintendent Peter Magwenzi, Detective Inspector Chibvuma, on Friday evening led a team of police officers to search for dangerous drugs and pornographic material at the GALZ offices in Harare’s Milton Park. The police arrested two GALZ employees Ellen Chademana and Ignatius Muhambi, who were detained at Harare Central Police Station on Friday and were still in police custody Saturday.
The police accused GALZ of contravening Section 157 (1) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9:23 and Section 32 (1) of the Censorship and Entertainment Control Act Chapter 10:04 by allegedly keeping pornographic material and dangerous drugs. Although two lawyers from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) representing the two GALZ workers, had by Saturday not yet ascertained how much material was taken by the police, various computers and some documents were seized by the police during the raid.
ZLHR lawyers Dzimbabwe Chimbga and David Hofisi attended at Harare Central Police Station on Friday evening, but police remained adamant that the two GALZ employees would be detained despite complaints from Chademana about her diabetic condition. On Saturday the police refused to allow the lawyers access to their clients. It remained unclear what charges would be preferred against the two GALZ employees but lawyers said they would continue to make attendances at Harare Central Police Station.
President Robert Mugabe’s government has a history of harassing lesbians and gays. In the past President Mugabe has attacked homosexuality, which he has described as foreign to African culture. He once described homosexuals as “worse than dogs and pigs” when they attempted to assert their rights. Last week a Malawian Judge sentenced a gay couple Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza to a maximum of 14 years in prison with hard labor under Malawi’s anti-gay legislation. The case has drawn international condemnation and sparked a debate on human rights in this conservative southern African country.
Meanwhile the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) condemned leaders of Malawi, Zimbabwe and Uganda for their anti-gay stance. “SAMWU has become increasingly concerned by the homophobic utterances of several national leaders on the continent over the last few years. Mugabe in Zimbabwe, Museveni in Uganda and a few others have made intolerable comments about the rights of consenting adults to engage in a same sex relationship. One has to ask what is it exactly that irks these ‘revolutionary’ leaders? What are they afraid of? However, recent events in Malawi have surpassed even these levels of ignorance and prejudice,” Tahir Sema, SAMWU national spokesperson told The Zimbabwean in Johannesburg.
“We call upon the SADC countries and the African Union to disassociate themselves from the judgement that has been made in Malawi, and further to urge the immediate release of the two individuals concerned, for all charges to be dropped, and for a complete review of colonial homophobic legislation. We also call for an end to police and media harassment of minorities that serves no purpose but to encourage division and misery. This is the very least that should be done at this time. Homosexuality exists in all of our societies. It is a reality, however difficult it is for some to accept this simple fact.”
A Malawi gay couple were sentenced to the maximum 14 years in prison with hard labour for holding the country’s first same-sex wedding, which landed them with a sodomy conviction.
Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza were arrested on December 28 after their symbolic wedding and accused of violating “the order of nature”. They have been in jail ever since.
Homosexuality is illegal in Malawi and most other African countries.
“I sentence you to 14 years imprisonment with hard labour each,” magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwa Usiwa told the two men in a courtroom in the commercial capital Blantyre.
“I will give you a scaring sentence so that the public be protected from people like you so that we are not tempted to emulate this horrendous example,” the judge added.
“Malawi is not ready to see its sons getting married to its sons.”
The couple looked subdued when the sentence was handed down and were quickly rushed out of the packed courtroom.
As they were escorted away under heavy police guard, hundreds of curious onlookers outside the court shouted at them, with one woman yelling, “Malawi should never allow homosexuality at any cost.”
The sentence could be appealed, said the judge.
Former colonial power Britain and the United States expressed “deep disappointment” at the ruling.
“We view the criminalisation of sexual orientation and gender identity as a step backward in the protection of human rights in Malawi,” said a statement by State Department the United States.
“The sentence is entirely disproportionate and against international human rights principles,” said Ireland’s overseas development minister Peter Power.
“We are working with our partners for a strong EU response,” he added.
Homosexuality is illegal in most African countries. Nearby South Africa is the only country on the continent to recognise same-sex marriages.
Thirty-eight out of 53 countries criminalise consensual gay sex, which is punishable by death in some nations, according to Human Rights Watch.
In January, the Malawi couple appealed to the Constitutional Court to toss out the case, but the top court refused to consider that appeal.
Their lawyer Mauya Msuku, who has been hired by the country’s underground gay-rights group, the Centre for the Development of People, argued that laws banning homosexuality “violate the right to marry and find a family”.
Msuku said he would consult with his clients on filing an new appeal.
In an unusually graphic language, Usiwa Usiwa convicted Monjeza of “having carnal knowledge of Tiwonge through the anus, which is against the order of nature.”
Chimbalanga was found guilty of “permitting buggery”, which the judge said was similarly contrary to the natural order.
Human rights organisations said the sentence was a blow for minority groups and the fight against AIDS.
Undule Mwakasungura, director of Malawi’s Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation, said the sentence would drive gays into hiding.
“We have many of them who need to publicly access information and HIV and AIDS medical care. It’s a big let-down,” he said.
Richard Bridgen of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre said the sentencing was a “real tragedy for Malawian society.”
“The deep point is that they have the right to be different… the right to live the life they choose,” said Bridgen.
But Protestant churches in Malawi have urged the government to uphold its ban on homosexuality, which religious leaders described as “un-Christian”.
* Gay Malawi couple separated in prison
* http://www.petertatchell.net/international/tiwonge-&-steven-split-up-by-malawi-authorities.html for information about how to support the campaign against this sentence and link to a petition
The attorneys representing Chilean Judge Karen Atala, a lesbian who brought her case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights claiming discrimination in the loss of custody of her three daughters, accused the Chilean state of sending out “unequivocal” signals of a lack of will to implement the regional body’s recommendations.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), a Washington-based Organisation of American States (OAS) body, found that “the Chilean state violated Karen Atala’s right to live free from discrimination,” and issued recommendations.
But Supreme Court chief magistrate Milton Juica said Thursday that he would not join the working group proposed by the government to comply with the suggestions issued in February.
“The courts do not discriminate in any way,” Juica said, referring to the case. “We are not going to take part in any working group.”
Although the government of right-wing President Sebastián Piñera said it accepted the IACHR’s recommendations, Juica’s remarks are “an unequivocal signal of the state’s lack of will” to live up to them, said Jorge Contesse, director of the private Diego Portales University’s (UDP) human rights centre.
In a May 2004 decision, the Supreme Court stripped Atala of custody of her three daughters because she was living with her lesbian partner, Emma de Ramón, a history professor.
In so doing, the Court overturned the rulings of two lower courts that had granted her custody after she separated from her husband, who is also a judge.
With no further chance to appeal the ruling, Atala took her case to the IACHR in November 2004, with the backing of the UDP human rights centre, Corporación Humanas, a women’s rights organisation, and the Lawyers Association for Public Freedoms.
In March 2006, the Chilean government and Atala’s defence counsel began to negotiate a friendly settlement agreement, but the effort failed.
The IACHR declared the case admissible in July 2008, and early this year it issued its final report, which found that Atala’s rights were violated and urged the state to make reparations to her and to take steps to adopt legislation, policies, and programmes to prohibit and end discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The Piñera administration announced this week that in line with the IACHR’s recommendations, it would set up a working group comprised of representatives of all of the concerned parties, to propose public policies and legislative reforms aimed at preventing a repeat of what happened in Atala’s case.
But the Supreme Court has refused to participate.
In the next few weeks, the Chilean government is to submit to the IACHR a report on the steps it plans to take. The Commission must then decide whether or not to refer the case to the Costa Rica-based Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
Atala’s defence attorneys believe the case will end up in the Inter-American Court if the Supreme Court does not agree to join the working group.
The Supreme Court’s decision surprised Atala’s lawyers because of Juica’s well-known work in cases of human rights abuses committed during the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet (1915-2006).
“What stands out about this case is the concept of human rights held by the Supreme Court, because human rights not only involve the widespread, systematic violations that occurred during the dictatorship, but also have to do with people with a diverse sexual orientation,” said Contesse.
Atala “is happy with the Commission’s decision, and is waiting to see what happens. This has been a long process, and the damage is irreparable,” Corporación Humanas lawyer Helena Olea told IPS.
“Chile has not shown signs of moving in the direction of living up to recommendations in favour of sexual minorities,” said Contesse, who pointed out that for years the country has been debating a draft law containing anti-discrimination measures.
According to the lawyer, the IACHR report is “historic and unprecedented. This is the first decision of this kind on the rights of people of diverse sexual orientation to be handed down in the inter-American system” of human rights.
The resolution in this case “was awaited in countries like the United States, Colombia, Argentina. Karen Atala’s case is forging new ground,” Contesse told IPS.
The Inter-American Court has issued rulings against Chile in several cases: in 2001, for violating freedom of expression by censoring the film “The Last Temptation of Christ”, and in 2005 for trying cases involving civilians in military courts.
In 2006, two other sentences were handed down, involving access to public information and the incompatibility of the 1978 amnesty decreed by Pinochet, which let human rights violators off the hook, with the American Convention on Human Rights.
The Philippine Supreme Court last week overturned a decision barring a gay rights group from contesting national elections in May and recognized it as a legitimate political party for the first time.
Voting 13-2, the court threw out decisions by the Elections Commission denying accreditation to Ang Ladlad (Out of the Closet) on grounds that it tolerates immorality and offends Christians and Muslims.
The justices said the party had complied with all legal requirements, and that there is no law against homosexuality.
“I felt vindicated,” said the group’s leader, Danton Remoto, an English professor at the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila University. He said that Ang Ladlad had struggled for recognition and accreditation for the past seven years.
The Elections Commission caused outrage among gays and liberals in November by saying the group cannot run as a political party because it “tolerates immorality which offends religious beliefs.” Three of the commissioners cited passages from the Bible and the Quran to justify their ruling, claiming that Ang Ladlad exposes young people to “an environment that does not conform to the teachings of our faith.”
Homosexuals are generally accepted in the Philippines and many prominent Filipinos are openly gay, despite the dominant Roman Catholic religion’s rejection of same-sex relations.
The group has received support from Leila de Lima, head of the independent Commission on Human Rights, who denounced the November ruling as “retrogressive” and smacking of “discrimination and prejudice.”
The group filed a case in January with the Supreme Court, which said that government is neutral and no legal impediment should be imposed on groups on religious grounds.
“The denial of Ang Ladlad’s registration on purely moral grounds amounts more to a statement of dislike and disapproval of homosexuals, rather than a tool to further any substantial public interest,” the court said.
Ang Ladlad is one of more than 100 parties seeking to win 50 of the 286 seats in the House of Representatives allocated for marginalized sectors.
Hate has no place in the house of God. No one should be excluded from our love, our compassion or our concern because of race or gender, faith or ethnicity — or because of their sexual orientation. Nor should anyone be excluded from health care on any of these grounds. In my country of South Africa, we struggled for years against the evil system of apartheid that divided human beings, children of the same God, by racial classification and then denied many of them fundamental human rights. We knew this was wrong. Thankfully, the world supported us in our struggle for freedom and dignity.
Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people are part of so many families. They are part of the human family. They are part of God’s family. And of course they are part of the African family. But a wave of hate is spreading across my beloved continent. People are again being denied their fundamental rights and freedoms. Men have been falsely charged and imprisoned in Senegal, and health services for these men and their community have suffered. In Malawi, men have been jailed and humiliated for expressing their partnerships with other men. Just this month, mobs in Mtwapa Township, Kenya, attacked men they suspected of being gay. Kenyan religious leaders, I am ashamed to say, threatened an HIV clinic there for providing counseling services to all members of that community, because the clerics wanted gay men excluded.
Uganda’s parliament is debating legislation that would make homosexuality punishable by life imprisonment, and more discriminatory legislation has been debated in Rwanda and Burundi.
These are terrible backward steps for human rights in Africa.
Our lesbian and gay brothers and sisters across Africa are living in fear.
And they are living in hiding — away from care, away from the protection the state should offer to every citizen and away from health care in the AIDS era, when all of us, especially Africans, need access to essential HIV services. That this pandering to intolerance is being done by politicians looking for scapegoats for their failures is not surprising. But it is a great wrong. An even larger offense is that it is being done in the name of God. Show me where Christ said “Love thy fellow man, except for the gay ones.” Gay people, too, are made in my God’s image. I would never worship a homophobic God.
“But they are sinners,” I can hear the preachers and politicians say. “They are choosing a life of sin for which they must be punished.” My scientist and medical friends have shared with me a reality that so many gay people have confirmed, I now know it in my heart to be true. No one chooses to be gay. Sexual orientation, like skin color, is another feature of our diversity as a human family. Isn’t it amazing that we are all made in God’s image, and yet there is so much diversity among his people? Does God love his dark- or his light-skinned children less? The brave more than the timid? And does any of us know the mind of God so well that we can decide for him who is included, and who is excluded, from the circle of his love?
The wave of hate must stop. Politicians who profit from exploiting this hate, from fanning it, must not be tempted by this easy way to profit from fear and misunderstanding. And my fellow clerics, of all faiths, must stand up for the principles of universal dignity and fellowship. Exclusion is never the way forward on our shared paths to freedom and justice.
Desmond Tutu is archbishop emeritus of Cape Town, South Africa. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984
After fleeing abuse at Fort Campbell, a lesbian now living in Canada is hoping for asylum on the unusual grounds of anti-homosexual persecution within the U.S. military. Her case could affect other claims by asylum seekers from democracies.
For months, Pvt. Bethany Smith silently endured taunts and physical abuse from her fellow soldiers at Fort Campbell, Ky., for being a lesbian. But when she received an anonymous note one day with a threat against her life, Smith decided she had to get out of the Army.
More than 12,000 service members have lost their jobs because of the U.S. military’s so-called “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. A disproportionate number of those discharges are women, according to 2008 statistics gathered by the Washington-based Servicemembers Legal Defense Network from the government under the Freedom of Information Act.
With the help of an acquaintance, Smith abandoned Fort Campbell and drove for two straight days to Canada, where she hoped to seek asylum. She crossed the border on Sept. 11, 2007.
More than two years later, Smith, now 21, is fighting to stay in Ottawa, where she works for a call center.
Her efforts to obtain refugee status were boosted in November when a Canadian federal court judge decided her case should be reconsidered by the country’s refugee board, which had earlier rejected her claim.
Smith assumes she would face a court martial for desertion in the United States and possibly further charges for having same-sex relations. She also believes that a court martial would consist of her peers, who would likely share the same views about her sexual orientation as her tormentors.
Smith’s case, believed to be a first, is based on anti-homosexual persecution within the U.S. military, says Liew, rather than on a reluctance to serve overseas, as has been the case for a multitude of other U.S. soldiers who have fled to Canada to avoid serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Even so, the court’s decision in Smith’s favor could have far-reaching implications for other refugee claimants, Liew said.
“One of the most important things that came out of this case is that every case should be looked at individually and on its own merits and facts,” she said.
Canada has been reluctant to offer asylum to U.S. soldiers avoiding war in Iraq and Afghanistan, though it had welcomed defectors during the Vietnam War. In 2008, Jeremy Hinzman, the first U.S. Army deserter to seek asylum in the country, was ordered to be deported after the Federal Court of Appeal decided he would not face serious punishment upon his return.
Under the U.S. military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which has been officially followed since 1993, gay and lesbian individuals are allowed to serve in the military as long as they do not engage in homosexual conduct.
Federal Court Justice Yves de Montigny, however, noted this policy had mixed results in quelling anti-homosexual discrimination. He pointed out that a soldier, Pvt. Barry Winchell, who was believed to be gay, had been beaten to death in 1999 at the same base where Smith was posted.
He also noted that the military code still makes it an offense to have sexual relations with a person of the same sex.
In his decision, de Montigny wrote that Smith “provided evidence that she was afraid that her superiors may have been involved in the harassment and threats targeted at her.”
The judge also said her case aligned with evidence indicating that U.S. military commanders are too often complacent and sometimes even actively abusive toward gays and lesbians.
He said Smith offered evidence that the military is not discharging as many gay and lesbian personnel as it did before 2001 due to the need for more soldiers in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
De Montigny disputed the refugee board’s earlier findings that Smith had not presented “clear and convincing” proof of the inability of the United States to protect her and had not proved she faced “a risk to her life or risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment upon return to the United States.”
In its earlier ruling, the board had also concluded that the acts of harassment and intimidation and written threats did not constitute persecution in this particular case, according to court documents.
Liew said she and her client will now go back to the refugee board for another hearing, but did not know when.
Extracts from a longer article at http://www.womensenews.org/story/lesbian-and-transgender/091204/lesbian-who-fled-army-opens-legal-ground-in-canada
Life imprisonment is the minimum punishment for anyone convicted of having gay sex, under an anti-homosexuality bill currently before Uganda’s parliament. If the accused person is HIV positive or a serial offender, or a “person of authority” over the other partner, or if the “victim” is under 18, a conviction will result in the death penalty.
Members of the public are obliged to report any homosexual activity to police with 24 hours or risk up to three years in jail – a scenario that human rights campaigners say will result in a witchhunt. Ugandans breaking the new law abroad will be subject to extradition requests.
“The bill is haunting us,” said Mugisha, 25, chairman of Sexual Minorities Uganda, a coalition of local lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex groups that will all be banned under the law. “If this passes we will have to leave the country.”
Human rights groups within and outside Uganda have condemned the proposed legislation, which is designed to strengthen colonial-era laws that already criminalise gay sex. The issue threatened to overshadow the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Trinidad and Tobago, with the UK and Canada both expressing strong concerns. Ahead of the meeting Stephen Lewis, a former UN envoy on Aids in Africa, said the law “makes a mockery of Commonwealth principles” and has “a taste of fascism” about it.
But within Uganda deeply-rooted homophobia, aided by a US-linked evangelical campaign alleging that gay men are trying to “recruit” schoolchildren, and that homosexuality is a habit that can be “cured”, has ensured widespread public support for the bill.
Homosexuality has always been a taboo subject in Uganda, and is considered by many to be an affront both to local culture and religion, which plays a strong role in family life. This stigma and the real threat of job loss means that no public personality has ever “come out”.
Even local HIV campaigns – which have been heavily influenced by the evangelical church with a bias towards abstinence over condom use – have deliberately avoided targeting gay men for both prevention and access to treatment.
“This means many gay men here think Aids is a non-issue, which is so dangerous,” said Mugisha, who together with a few colleagues, has risked arrest by agitating in recent years for a change in the HIV policy.
At the same time, some influential religious leaders have warned about the dangers of accepting liberal western attitudes towards homosexuality.
Both opponents and supporters agree that the impetus for the a more hardline law came in March during a seminar in Kampala to “expose the truth behind homosexuality and the homosexual agenda“.
Edited version of longer article at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/nov/29/uganda-death-sentence-gay-sex
Some governments’ broad counter-terrorism laws are punishing women and gays and suppressing groups pushing gender equality, a U.N. envoy of human rights and counter-terrorism said on Monday.
Many of these people are caught between being victims of extremist groups and victims of counter-terrorism measures, said Martin Scheinin, a U.N. special rapporteur on promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism.
“There’s been a lot of progress in acknowledging terrorism can most effectively be fought with compliance with human rights, nevertheless there’s still a lot to do,” Scheinin, who is appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council, told reporters.
Scheinin drew examples of gender-based rights violations stemming from counter-terrorism laws from previous reports.
He said in Algeria women had been arrested and accused of being extremists after they reported sexual violence by armed Islamists, while in Nepal transgender people attacked by insurgents were also targeted by police under the guise of counter-terrorism.
Palestinian women suffered because Israeli checkpoints delayed them reaching hospitals, said Scheinin.
Tightened immigration in many countries raised the possibility of asylum seekers, often women, being accused of providing “material support” to extremists when instead they were victims, he said.
“The breadth of Governments’ counter-terrorism measures have resulted in significant gender-based human rights violations,” he wrote in latest report to the United Nations.
“In many instances, governments have used vague and broad definitions of ‘terrorism’ to punish those who do not conform to traditional gender roles and to suppress social movements that seek gender equality in the protection of human rights.”
Scheinin also raised concerns about the use of rape and other forms of gender-based violence during the interrogation of suspects and the use of profiling.
“Women fall double victims of such profiling practices, first because terrorist organizations, in order to avoid the profile of authorities, may force women or recruit women to become a new wave of suicide bombers,” Scheinin said.
“Second when states detect this they may target women or specific groups of women such as pregnant women as perceived suicide women because of how they dress and look,” he said.
Scheinin made 17 recommendations to U.N. member states.
Among those he said countries should give more attention to gender sensitive reparation schemes for victims of terrorism and should not detain and ill-treat women and children in order to push them to reveal information on male family members.
Themba Mvubu, 24, from Kwathema, was found guilty of murdering, robbing and being an accessory to the rape of 31-year-old Eudy Simelane.
Activists at the magistrates court in Delmas, Mpumalanga province, hailed the judgment as “extremely important” in drawing attention to cases of murder and so-called “corrective rape” against lesbians in South Africa.
Simelane was one of the first women to live openly as a lesbian in Kwa Thema township, near Johannesburg. A keen footballer since childhood, she played for the South African women’s team and worked as a coach and referee. She hoped to serve as a line official in the 2010 men’s World Cup in South Africa.
But in April last year she was accosted while leaving a pub and robbed of a mobile phone, trainers and cash. She died from wounds to the abdomen after being gang-raped and stabbed 12 times. Her naked body was dragged towards a stream and dumped.
“Eudy Simelane suffered a brutal, undignified death,” Judge Ratha Mokgoathleng told the court, where the victim’s parents sat with heads bowed. “She was stripped naked, stabbed, assaulted, raped. What more indignity can a person endure?”
He continued: “The accused has shown no remorse whatsoever. He steadfastly maintains he was not to blame for the death of the deceased. That is his right. It’s painful to send a young person to jail, but if the young person behaves like an adult with criminal conduct, he cannot expect to hide behind his youthfulness.”
Mvubu, wearing a hooped brown and cream sweater, sat looking at the floor with hands behind his back for much of the hearing. Questioned by reporters, he muttered “I’m not sorry” as he was led from the dock to jeers from the public gallery.
He was the second man convicted of the crime. Earlier this year Thato Mphithi pleaded guilty to murder, robbery and being an accomplice to the attempt to commit rape. He was imprisoned for a total of 32 years.
Two more men, Khumbulani Magagula, 22, and 18-year-old Johannes Mahlangu were acquitted today of their alleged part in the attack. “God will be their judge,” said Judge Mokgoathleng.
The most likely motive for the attack was that Simelane and her killers were known to each other, the judge added. “I’m told she was a famous athlete,” he said. “It was an attempt to obliterate the evidence.”
At an early stage the court ruled out Simelane’s sexual orientation as a motive in her killing. But lesbian political activists have regularly attended the hearings and welcomed the way it has raised awareness of their cause.
Phumi Mtetwa, executive director of the Lesbian and Gay Equality Project, said today: “This judgment is extremely important. It doesn’t state that she was killed as a lesbian but because she was known.
“How did people know her in the township? She was a soccer player who was ‘butch’ and was known. People are killed because of who they are.”
Simelane’s mother, Mally, 65, said: “I’m happy. I’m released. My life will come right again.”
See earlier postings about corrective rape
“Women are getting killed in the Western Cape,” says Ndumie Funda, who runs LulekiSizwe in her “cabin” in the township of Gugulethu near Cape Town.
The project is named after her late fiancée, Nosizwe Nomsa Bizana, who was gang-raped by five men and subsequently succumbed to crypto meningitis, and Bizana’s friend Luleka Makiwane, who contracted HIV when she was raped and later died of AIDS.
The initiative provides support for lesbian women in the township, most of them teenagers and young adults, many in their final years of high school. According to Funda, young lesbian women aged between 16 and 25 are most vulnerable and often get evicted by their families.
“Police are often remiss in their investigation and victims are often subjected to secondary victimisation from homophobic police officials, the justice system is slow, struggles to cope with cases of gang attacks and it is hard to convince prosecutors of the importance of hate as a motivation for crimes,” Emily Craven, Joint Working Group co-ordinator explains.
There are no authoritative figures on exactly how many incidents of hate crime are committed in South Africa.
The horrific levels of sexual violence in South Africa have been well documented and publicised. According to police statistics, 36,190 rapes and attempted rapes were reported to the South African Police Service (SAPS) between April and December 2007.
The number of unreported cases, however, is estimated to be ten times that. A study released by the Medical Research Council (MRC) in June this year found that of the 1,738 men interviewed 27.6 percent had perpetrated the rape of a woman or girl.
There are no solid statistics for the frequency of what is known as “corrective rape”.
“While the problem has most certainly existed for years, our recorded understandings of the problem has mushroomed over the last couple of years,” Emily Craven of the Joint Working Group explains. While she has recorded an increase in reported cases – early June even saw the first trial for a rape case of a gay man – Craven suspects that this is still only the tip of an iceberg.
“There is no awareness around hate crimes and corrective rape,” activist Ndumie Funda insists. “We need a programme of action, we need intervention and research, a budget to find out the problems lesbian women encounter.”
Bernedette Muthien, co-founder and director of Engender, a Cape Town-based NGO, insists on the term “curative rape”: “Curative is more powerful. It’s rape as a cure for your queerness,” she says. The 07-07-07 Campaign, named after the gruesome double murder of Salome Masooa and Sizakele Sigaza on Jul. 7, 2007, used the term “hate rape” in a recent press release.
“From New York to Afghanistan, to the Balkans, across Africa, Latin America. I’ve been to many conferences and asked the questions. (Curative rape is) a global phenomenon and it’s often friends and family,” says Bernedette Muthien, co-founder and director of Engender, a Cape Town-based NGO.
“It has always been in society since the onset of patriarchy and been used as a tool to control people’s sexuality, women in particular ways and also some men. Many, many of my women friends and comrades themselves are survivors of curative rape.”
The MRC report urged a much broader approach to rape prevention. “This must entail intervening on the key drivers of the problem which include ideas of masculinity, predicted on marked gender hierarchy and sexual entitlement of men,” it reads.
Craven said that one of South Africa’s peculiarities is that legally-speaking, it is one of only seven countries in the world that allows same-sex marriage; its progressive constitution and laws were intended to protect LGBTI people but fear and violence reign in the LGBTI community. “People trust those laws and their decision to come out on the basis of them in fact places them in danger by making them targets.”
Speaking at the Western Cape End Hate Alliance March gathered in St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town on Aug. 7, Nozizwe Madladla-Routledge, former deputy minister of health and still member of the African National Congress (ANC) National Executive Committee (NEC) said: “We don’t have enough understanding of the constitution especially around equal rights. Everyone has inherent dignity.”
She also advocated guidelines to be developed. “We need to include these issues into the school curriculum, address issues around gender and sexuality we’ve avoided for too long.”
A number of high profile cases, such as the murder of Eudy Simelane, a star player for Banyana Banyana, South Africa’s national women’s soccer team, the murder of Zolizwa Nkonyana in Khayelitsha in 2006 or the double murder of Masooa and Sigaza, have resulted in campaigns to create more awareness and demand justice.
“These cases certainly have given momentum to our cause and they are very important to us not just in terms of getting justice for the victims involved – though this is of course a huge priority – but also in terms of setting some legal precedents around hate crime and hate motivation for crime and to send a strong message to the population that no matter how much you may hate gay people you will not get away with assaulting, raping, murdering LGBTI people,” Craven states.
“There is no specific hate crimes legislation in South Africa and so setting precedent by getting a judge to find and record that homophobic hate motivated an attack is very important.”
Also speaking at the End Hate March, Craven stated that hate crimes were not “normal murders” and accused government of refusing to engage with the problem. “The police and prosecutors refuse to investigate on the basis of hate, the criminal justice system generally is slow and we live in a violent society. For every one murdered there are scores of victims,” she said.
In the case of Nkonyana, the trial has been delayed 20 times.
“Zolizwa is certainly not the only one; people are reluctant to report cases,” Funda says. “Cases are not taken serious, the police laughs, they’ll tell you ‘you’ve asked for it because you behave like a man’,” she adds.
“Masculinity is key to our understanding of all homophobic hate crime and all gender based violence which we feel homophobic attacks are a part of,” Craven elaborates.
South African kwaito singer Thandiswa Mazwai denounces rape and child abuse on her latest album “Ibokwe”; “same sex is shame sex, is assault with intent to grievous bodily harm, is justifiable homicide, constitutional suicide,” rails poet Khadija Tracey Heeger in “Untitled Poem”.
Dancer and choreographer Mamela Nyamza has conceptualised “Kutheni”, a performance piece in which two women in love are faced with hatred and violence.
“Kutheni”, Nyamza explains, means “why” in Xhosa. The piece was staged at the FNB Vita Dance Umbrella, South Africa’s premier dance festival earlier this year, and later – more pertinently – in the township of Gugulethu.
“I always wanted to do it and I was scared. But I saw the need,” says Nyamza. “In the communities, some people didn’t know it was happening! I want the kids to be educated. The kids were explaining to me what they saw. I hope this can change these kids. Art is a way of changing one’s life.”
“I wanted to bring it to the people and where it all happened,” says Nyamza. “People didn’t bring up issues, they’d say: “Well done, when are you doing it again?”
The piece was staged at KwaMlamli, a shebeen frequently turned into an art space by local art collective Gugulective.
Nyamza said that people were excited about a performance happening in their area. “The neighbours were so supportive, they watched the cars… They were seeing new art, not the African dance they’re used to – which I love, but let’s go beyond our roots,” Nyamza explains.
“Kutheni” has since been performed at schools in other disadvantaged areas.
“We understand hate crime broadly – it’s not just about one person saying I am a lesbian and another saying I hate lesbians and killing them or raping them. It’s about gender presentation, it’s about subverting male power in society, it’s about women who don’t need men either for financial support or sexual pleasure, it’s about women who wear clothes that are considered unfeminine or drink in taverns late at night or fight back when attacked.”
Asked what she thought was at the root of the violence against LGBTI people, Funda said that perpetrators of hate crimes were themselves scared of something they didn’t know, fuelled by the inability to accept their own sexuality.
Even out and outspoken lesbian say women must be careful. Butch lesbians challenge African patriarchal tradition. “I haven’t been to the bush (reference to Xhosa rite of initiation where young men get circumcised and spend time in the bush), I’m not a man!” Funda concedes.
“I’m very careful. I don’t go to the shebeens. I avoid notorious areas such as Nyanga (neighbouring township). I’m careful about who I sit with, who I talk to,” Funda says.
“Townships and rural areas are seen as having higher levels of homophobic hate crimes,” Craven explains. “This is where we find that schools show high levels of corrective rape and other abuses of LGBTI learners. Especially in rural areas, beyond the reach of LGBTI organisations and NGOs, the outlook with regards to support for survivors is bleak.”
Asked about the role of the media in creating awareness about the issue, Muthien thought that the media had helped by publicising the problem and making it more public. “The ways in which it has been reported in the popular media, however, is deeply problematic, either sensationalised or ripped out of context, there’s no exhortation when those cases come to the fore, for communities to take charge, to say that the lesbian who was so brutally murdered, has a mother, might have children, has a father, has brothers, sisters, had neighbours.”
“In Khayelitsha you have sections where due to active community policing forums you have lower rates of violence especially gender violence and curative rape. We need to work more consciously at that level seeing that the criminal justice (system) has failed us.”
“People hush but I’ve never been threatened,” says Funda who has managed to gain the respect of some community members and insists that to do the work she does, she has to live in Gugulethu. Besides offering support, at times shelter to women in distress, she also runs a street soccer club and is affiliated to a range of other LGBTI organisations. “We even hosted Township Pride in 2005 and 2006 right here at the Gugulethu Sports Complex and received an amazing response from the community.”
“Mandela said ‘my road is long’. Same here. Nobody knew Madiba. Or Biko. But we fought for them. I’ll fight until the last drop of my blood,” Funda states defiantly.