Tag Archives: South Africa

Hate Crime: The Rise Of Violence Against Queer Woman In Cape Town

Noluvo Swelindawo is the name of the 22-year-old woman who was assaulted, abducted and murdered in Driftsands near Khayelitsha last weekend. She had already been beaten up on Friday night and talked about being attacked the following day. Her partner, Nqabisa Mkatali found that their home had been broken into. Her body was discovered on a footbridge.

Cape Town police are still investigating the hate crime that seems to have been induced by homophobia. This assumption is supported by her loved ones.

According to Funeka Soldaat, the coordinator of a local NGO, Free Gender, says that the Cape Town community and the police don’t seem to do enough for the investigation and fight of hate crimes.

This is indicative of the general situation LGBTI activists in South Africa have to face. Phumi Mtetwa, a Research activist fellow with the Social Change Initiative, says that hate crimes and violence against LGBTI people are factors reflective of what is going on in South Africa. The community and the activist section are tired of feeling outraged and helpless. The problem, as Mtetwa says, does not have to do with the punishment of such crimes, but mostly with the lack of prevention for them. It is deemed crucial that the specificity of the nature of such hate crimes is figured out and dealt with. They are crimes caused by the harmful intersections of different systems of oppression such as poverty, marginalization, patriarchy and misogyny.

Most LGBTI people in South Africa fear for their lives, due to the discrimination they have to face due to their identities. There are laws that are supposed to protect LGBTI people, but in the province the situation continues being dangerous due to lack of social reflexes against discrimination. The laws are not applied properly, resulting to lack of necessary protection for marginalized groups. The weight, according to Mtetwa, falls upon activists, allies and organizations, to seek alternatives when it comes to advocacy work done in un-organized spaces. Unfortunately, it’s an immense weight to be shared between just five organizations doing extraordinary work: the Traingle Project, Free Gender, Iranti and Durban Gay and Lesbian Centre. People should not only expect organizations and allies to deal with what should actually be the state’s responsibility to protect its citizens.

The work that needs to be done is very deep, such as in every homophobic, transphobic, patriarchal society. Awareness has to be raised and people must be educated on understanding, supporting and protecting LGBT I people whose lives are at stake.

The Faces of Queer South Africa

South Africa is one of Africa’s most socially progressive countries. Same-sex marriage was legalized in 2006, nine years before the U.S., and South Africa was the first country to instate a constitution that forbids discrimination based on sexuality.

Unfortunately, despite the progressive legislation, LGBTQ people are far from welcome. Every day, dozens of people experience physical or sexual violence at the hands of homophobic attackers.

Photographer and visual activist Zanele Muholi is using art to combat the injustice. Her project Faces and Phases documents South Africa’s queer women, their strength and their resilience in the face of violence.


Many women in the exhibit were “correctively” raped – that is, raped by a man who believes that heterosexual sex will reverse her homosexuality. Muholi’s portraits put a face to the shocking statistic that 1 in 2 South African women will be raped in her lifetime.


Faces and Phases began in 2006. Initially, it focused on black South African lesbians, but expanded in 2008 to include queer women from other countries. Today, it includes over 300 images. In addition to resilience, her portraits tackle the theme of identity; identity is fluid and ever-changing, and the self is dynamic.


Muholi has received backlash for her visual activism. In 2012, criminals broke into her apartment and stole equipment and hard drives containing five years of work. Unable to recover the lost data, she’s spent the past several years trying to recreate what was lost. The experience has been taxiing.

Her other notable exhibits include Somnyama Ngonyama, a comment on colonialism. In these photos, Muholi dresses up as South African historical stereotypes in order to reclaim and retell her own country’s history.

Her mission with all of her art is “to rewrite a black queer and trans visual history of South Africa for the world to know of our resistance and existence at the height of hate crimes in South Africa and beyond.”

You can order the Faces and Phases book here.

Medal Winning Olympia Faces Physical Abuse In Her Own Home Due To Her Sexuality

Sunette Viljoen, the Olympic champion from South Africa – who won silver in for javelin throwing, which earned a silver medal in Rio – has opened up over the abuse she receives at home for her sexual orientation.

Earlier this summer, Viljoen, posted on Facebook that her brother had slapped her in the face in a disagreement over her sexuality.

God help me… My brother has just lifted his hands to me again… [and] slapped me through the face.”

The 32-year-old also said her father had previously hit her.

Not an activist by nature, Viljoen is sharing her story to help others facing the same “hell.”

I’m speaking out for every person out there who is being broken emotionally or physically over who they love. I will fight for you till my hands are stubs and dedicate my Olympic year to you.”

It is a month before the Olympic Games and I know the Devil is trying to work through other people to make me take my eye off God and the finish line.”


I’m speaking out for every person out there who is being broken emotionally or physically over who they love.

I will fight for you till my hands are stubs and dedicate my Olympic year to you.”

Viljoen thanks her girlfriend LiMari Louw, a TV news presenter, for supporting her through after she placed fourth at London 2012.


In an interview with TMG Sport back in 2015, she said

LiMari knows me inside out and she knows exactly what to say and when to say it‚ how to handle and how to see situations. She’s literally my psychologist.”

How Free Gender Khayelitsha Is Fighting For South Africa’s Black LGBTI Community

For LGBTI South Africans, the struggle to be recognised and accepted goes on and not just within greater (cisgendered, heterosexual) society either.

Within the LGBTI community itself, there is a huge racial divide, with white organisers seemingly not willing to play ball with black LGBTI people.

This is something that came to a head last year when Alternative Inclusive Pride protested at Cape Town Pride, calling out the event for its racism and its exclusionary practices.

While the AIP’s protest was largely deemed successful in that it raised awareness about the issue, it is not the only thing that organisers are doing to help further their cause.

Funeka Soldaat, who was also involved in the AIP protest, is part of Free Gender Khayelitsha, a non-profit organisation that aims to both offer a voice for non-heterosexual black women (and black LGBTI people), as well as addressing their problems and needs.

A recent report on IOL (via the Cape Times) further explains Free Gender’s mission, saying that “Free Gender gave hope and freedom to young black women and black people to know and believe that they could and should exist in South Africa on their terms, according to their sexuality and lifestyles”.

Moreover, the organisation “encourages [its members] to speak out, to find their voice and protect them from the vicious assaults of ill-informed and negative community members”.

According to Cape Times reporter Cheryl Roberts, Free Gender doesn’t “wait for those outside the community to look after them” either; instead, it “acts when the need and demand arises”.

And perhaps most impressively, the organisation, which has been around for five years now, does so with very little funding. Roberts explains that the organisation doesn’t have international funding, big sponsorship or funding from the city of Cape Town itself.

While it seems that Free Gender is seeking to tackle all of the difficulties faced by black, non-heterosexual women and black LGBTI people, right now, the organisation seems to be specifically addressing attacks and Pride.

Black women are often attacked because of their sexualities, something which Free Gender has also taken to the street to protest, and the group continues to rally for a more inclusive Pride; most recently it voiced its concerned with a proposed “Colourblind” theme for this year’s Pride celebrations.

This Needs To Stop: South African Woman Killed For Being A Lesbian

A young gay woman – who was only 20 years old – has been brutally murdered in South Africa over the Christmas holidays shortly after graduating high school.

Motshidisi Pascalina mutilated body was found in an open field near her home in Evaton township, Gauteng province. She was last seen on 16 December.

Cedric Davids, a member of the Young Communists’ League working committee in Gauteng, told eNCA news.

Her body was discovered in a veld two days later. We suspect she was raped. Her body was burnt. Her eyes were taken out and her private parts were mutilated.
Most of her body had sustained burn injuries. Her parents identified her by her tattoo on her leg, it was the only thing visible.”

The police’s Tsekiso Mofokeng added,

The paramedics were on scene where the woman was abused. We are investigating a case of murder. At the moment we do not know the motive for the incident and no suspect has been arrested.”

Police her sexuality is the reason for the crime. Four men have been reportedly arrested in connection to the murder.

Yesterday, a march was organised in protest against hate crimes, and the hashtag #MotshidisiPascalina is currently trending on Twitter with people expressing their shock and anger at the murder.


South Africa: Lesbians are at Risk of Contracting HIV

Many lesbians have been ignored in the fight against HIV because of the myth that they are not at risk of contracting the virus, according to researchers in South Africa.

Speaking at the SA Aids conference in Durban, Dr Gemma Oberth said both NGO and government policies and campaigns neglected lesbians.

Dr Oberth, a visiting academic at the UCT Centre for Social Science Research, undertook a literature review of eight academic studies on lesbians in Southern Africa in order to see whether these women were, in fact, at lower risk of HIV.

It has been thought that it is far less likely that a woman will transmit HIV to another (because a smaller amount of fluid is involved when two women have sex).

But this is not the reality [in South Africa] lesbian sex, injecting drugs, rape, sex with males and sex for financial survival are all interlinked”.

About a third of women in the studies said they had been raped.

Oberth said that in one study 20% of lesbians believed they had acquired HIV from a female partner and said they had never had a male partner or taken drugs. The women did not know if they had been born with HIV.

Also speaking at the Aids conference, Phoebe Kisubi, from The Netherlands, said her survey of 209 lesbians in Cape Town and Johannesburg last year had revealed a 9% HIV rate.

About 38% of the women reported that they had had sex with a partner while one of them was menstruating without taking the precaution of using some form of barrier protection.

The Proud ‘Rainbow Girls’ of South African

Proud Women of Africa is a collection of short visual stories that portrays the daily lives of remarkable women living or working in Africa. Part of this project is Rainbow Girls.

Photographed by Julia GuntherRainbow Girls documents the lesbian women of South Africa’s Gugulethu and Khayelitsha township. These powerful women are proud to be who they are despite the daily threats of violence, constant intimidation and the risk of being cast out by their own families.

Shot at the 2012 Miss Lesbian beauty competition in Khayelitsha Township, at the IAM Women’s Shelter and in private homes in Gugulethu Township.



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07_groupshotSouth Africa lesbians continue to fight for the right to be who they are. They face atrocities including rape, beatings and expulsion. All because these women are living proudly as lesbians in South Africa.

South African Activists Call Cape Town Pride ‘Racist’, Say It Should Become More Inclusive

The topic of racism in South Africa is not a new one. From 1948 until 1994, South Africa went through an awful period of racial segregation called apartheid. Although most people in South Africa were black or of other ethnic minorities, their rights were taken away from them and Afrikaner minority rule (Afrikaners are a white ethnic group) was enforced.

It’s unsurprising then, that there are ongoing complaints by South Africa’s LGBT community that the annual Cape Town Pride celebration is not just exclusionary but is inherently racist too.

While it’s unclear as to how Cape Town Pride has been racist, activists have raised issue with the fact that Cape Town Pride is mostly focused on white, gay men and fails to address the issues of queer women in townships, such as the fact that that they are often threatened with rape or have verbal abuse thrown at them.

A group of like minded activists who agree that Cape Town Pride needs to change have set up Alternative Inclusive Pride which takes place at the same time as Cape Town Pride. What’s key is that despite the timing of the AIP, the organisers aren’t calling for a boycott and instead hold seminars, parties and continue to ask for Cape Town Pride to involve the wider LGBT community in its planning.

Funeka Soldaat, a member of Alternative Inclusive Pride as well as being the chairperson of Free Gender, a lobbying group explains that “Protesting at the event was the last resort for us, we’ve been engaging with the organisers for a while, but they chose not to listen”.

However, despite the insistence that Cape Town Pride needs to change, Cape Town Pride director, Matthew van As has retaliated saying that actually, Alternative Inclusive Pride’s protest is racist.

“I don’t agree with the method they used. I find it slightly racist because Pride doesn’t see colour or gender, anyone is welcome to get involved and you can choose not to join in.

They were given until the 20 December to add any new events to our calendar, but we didn’t get anything. About two weeks before Pride, we were contacted to say there was unhappiness about the calendar. It was too late for us to change things a week before a festival.”

Matthew van As

van As also notes that his organisation has held Khumbulani Pride in Gugulethu where they have talked about homophobia in the townships.

It’s unlikely that the situation will be resolved soon but we’ll keep you posted once we know more.

South African Judge Makes a Stand, as Man Gets 30 Years For Murdering Lesbian in Hate Crime

A man accused of killing a lesbian in South Africa, has been sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Lekgoa Motleleng pleaded guilty to the murder and rape of out lesbian, Duduzile Zozo, from in Ekurhuleni, which has a history of violence against lesbians.

Violence against openly gay lesbians is literally a matter of life and death in South Africa and something has to done about it if the country wants to continue to move forward.

Motleleng was sentenced in the South Gauteng High Court sitting in Palm Ridge. Judge Tshifiwa Maumela stated that he wanted to make a difference to all vulnerable groups of society.

“No one has been given the right to correct alcoholics. No one has been given the right to correct those who take too much salt or sugar. No one has been given the right to correct others when it comes to the right to love their own gender… You can’t interfere with how someone chooses to live.” 

Judge Tshifiwa Maumela

The paper quoted the judge saying a harsh sentence for Motleleng would serve as a warning to those who threatened the vulnerable. He told the 23-year-old to change his attitude towards homosexual people.

“Lead your life and let gays and lesbians be.”

Judge Tshifiwa Maumela

Same-sex marriage is legal in South Africa, making it one of the most progressive countries on the matter, especially on the continent of Africa.

Unfortunately cultural attitudes have been slow to change. Some 30+ brutal acts against lesbians have been documented in South Africa, mostly in townships, and some suggest the number is higher because some women refuse to come forward.

Men who attack lesbian women, often in the form of rape – referred to as ‘corrective rape,’ falsely believe that male penetration will change them.


#FirstKiss Video From Cape Town to Increase LGBT Awareness in South Africa – #FirstKissSA

#FirstKissSA is a LGBT awareness project in South Africa. In this video, participants shared their views and highlight the conditions of their lives as LGBTI-identified people in South Africa, before meeting a stranger and sharing a kiss.

‘Difficult Love’ in South Africa – Photographer Zanele Muholi Captures These Stunning Images

Zanele Muholi is a visual activist and advocator of black lesbian visibility in South Africa. She awarded globally her work with the queer media and ongoing photographic portrait series of black lesbians.

“What does an African lesbian look like? Is there a lesbian aesthetic or do we express our gendered, racialised and classed selves [sic] in rich and diverse ways?”

Zanele Muholi

Combining her passion for art and her commitment to addressing social injustice, she tackles the subject of LGBTI rights across the world, focusing primarily on her home country in order to redefine the stereotypes associated with gender and sexuality.

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