Expressing freely: A lively street parade during the annual gay pride march in Cape Town, South Africa.
I was in Australia last week in the quaint town of Daylesford — Australia’s top spa destination, located about an hour-and-a-half drive away from Melbourne city. Previously a gold rush town, it had a certain funk and quirky aura to it which was definitely what I needed after a few months of uptightness enclosing me.
I noticed rainbow-coloured flags hung prominently outside most of its stores and cafes and asked my travelling buddies what they were.
“Daylesford is a liberal gay town. The rainbow flag shows either they’re gay, or support gay rights”
Interesting. I guess we learn something new every day.
I am an open-minded individual when it comes to taboo topics, thanks to my upbringing. I respect those who live alternative lifestyles and I’m always quite protective over those who choose to live this way and have many friends of colourful backgrounds to show for it. Hence my topic this week.
I would like to highlight a petition that I’ve signed to ramp up pressure for concrete action against ‘corrective rape’ — a criminal practice, whereby men rape lesbian women, purportedly as a means of “curing” the woman of her sexual orientation. How this absurd idea come about in this day and age, is simply disgusting and so very hard to comprehend.
This vicious crime is recurring in South Africa, where lesbians live in terror of attack. The term ‘corrective rape’ was first used in the early 2000s by human rights NGOs to describe rape against lesbians. A notable attack of this kind came in 2008 when the body of Eudy Simelane, star player for South Africa’s national football team, was found in a creek partially-clothed. She had been gang raped, beaten and stabbed 25 times in the face, chest and legs. She was one of the first women to live openly as a lesbian in KwaThema, Gauteng.
A year later, another rape victim lodged a report in the town of Gugulethu, Cape Town. Thirty-year-old Millicent Gaika was stopped by an acquaintance for a cigarette. She obliged and was then pushed by that man into a nearby shack, beaten and raped for five hours.
According to Gaika, her assaulter repeatedly said, “You think you’re a man, but I’m going to show you (that) you’re a woman.” Gaika too, lived openly as a gay woman.
You would think that South Africa, often called the Rainbow Nation, would be fighting hard against those marginalised right? Especially with it being revered globally for its post-apartheid efforts to protect against discrimination. According to Avaaz.org, local organisations record multiple ‘corrective rapes’ every week, and impunity continues to reign despite it being the first country to constitutionally protect citizens from discrimination based on their sexuality.
Sickening to the stomach, 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. The 2008 gang rape and murder of Simelane, the national hero and former star of the Banyana Banyana, did not turn the tide. Despite this high profile case, South Africa’s minister of justice and constituitional development, Jeffrey Radebe, insists that motive is irrelevant in crimes like ‘corrective rape.’
South Africa is not just known as the land of Safari Adventure, but infamously as the rape capital of the world. A South African girl born today is more likely to be raped than she is to learn to read. According to Channel 4, one quarter of South African girls are raped before turning 16. This has many roots summarized by Avaaz.org — 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, there is no serious action taken.
I have a three-year-old daughter whose innocence will be protected by me for as long as I can. There has been some unkind speculation surrounding us, but I will shield her from all the nasties until the time is right for me to tell her what she needs to know. I will not know if she will grow up to like boys or girls, but naturally as a mum, I pray that she will find the wisdom and the clarity of mind to do what’s best for her and most of all, I pray that God will protect this beautiful child who has only brought light and laughter during my darkest moments.
‘Corrective rape’ and the petition against it is ultimately a battle with poverty, patriarchy, and homophobia. To stop this tide of rape, will require bold leadership and concerted action to spearhead transformative change in South Africa and across the continent. I hope and pray for all my sisters and our daughters in the world, that there will be a swift shift in public attitudes towards rape and homophobia, not just in South Africa, but all around the world.
Daphne Iking has signed the petition to South African president Zuma and Minister Radebe to publicly condemn ‘corrective rape’, criminalise hate crimes and ensure immediate enforcement, public education and protection to the victims of this terrible crime. Pledge your support through Avaaz.org