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Two South Africa men sentenced to life in prison for raping lesbian

Case underscores violence against LGBTQ people

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Referendum 8, gay news, Washington Blade
(Photo by Bigstock)

Wednesday’s sentencing of two men for raping a 19-year-old lesbian in 2020 has caused mixed reactions among South African LGBTQ rights groups.

The judgment against Getwin Moloto, 30, and Lebohang Makola, 35, which was handed down by the Atteridgeville Regional Court in Pretoria, will see both men serving one life term each.

“On the evening of 16 Dec. 2020, the victim was trying to open a gate at her house, coming from accompanying her partner,” said Lumka Mahanjana, a spokesperson for the North Gauteng Director of Public Prosecutions. “The two, working with a third accomplice, grabbed her and carried her to a shack where they raped her.”

“While Moloto was raping her, he kept on asking her why she was taking their women. However, in the process of raping her, Makola continued to ask her to be his girlfriend,” added Mahanjana. “After the incident, the victim asked if she could use the toilet outside and they agreed, but allowed her to only wear pants. When she got to the door, she ran to her home three houses away and told her mother what had happened. Upon their return, they found the victim’s underwear in the yard which was left at Moloto’s shack. Moloto was linked to the crime after he was identified by the victim since she recognized his voice when he was raping her.”

Sibongile Mzinyathi, an advocate for the North Gauteng Director of Public Prosecutions, said crimes that are influenced by hatred towards the LGBTQ community would not be tolerated, and will be prosecuted.

Reacting to the development, Bruce Walker of Pretoria Pride said there was need not to grant anyone parole before serving at least 25 years.

“There must be a minimum of life with no early release for 25 years because the courts and police do not take this seriously,” said Walker. “I think if we lobby for the minimum sentence this will make the courts to take cases like these more seriously.”

At the same time, Ruth Maseko of the Triangle Project said they welcomed the verdict but added the courts needed to do more.

“We are happy with the sentencing as it shows that the courts are factoring in the intolerance we have for sexual violence, which is out of control in this country,” said Maseko. “What we do hope for is some prison reform. People who are serving prison sentences such as these should be educated and informed on the issues of gender-based violence, sexual assault, murder or whatever the crime may be.”

“However, the outcomes of cases are very often dependent on the quality of the investigations and what is put forward to the court,” added Maseko. “One then has to hope that there is a state prosecutor who understands these types of crimes. Sadly, none of this is going to ensure that these crimes stop happening. People’s attitudes need to change, but sentences like these are sending a strong message that these crimes will not be tolerated.”

Although South Africa is considered to be the most progressive country in Africa when it comes to the LGBTQ community, violence continues to be perpetrated towards them due to religious, cultural and societal norms. It often takes place in the concentrated and marginalized areas of the country such as townships and rural areas, as a result, most that identify as LGBTQ have to conform to the “homogenous” norms or face punitive measures as a result of their gender identity, from their community, peers, family and other sects.

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Africa

Kenyan advocacy groups join fight against femicide

30 women have been murdered in the country this year

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Kenyan flag (Photo by rarrarorro/Bigstock)

Some LGBTQ rights groups in Kenya have devised new security strategies to protect female community members from the risk of femicide that has been on the rise in the country in recent years. 

The strategies employed include hiring trained security response teams, emergency toll-free numbers for swift intervention and training queer women on safety as they go about their daily lives in homophobic societies.  

The LGBTQ rights organizations’ move to come up with their safety measures is driven by laxity by security agencies that they accuse of “personal bias, discrimination and victimization” of the complainants based on their sexual orientation whenever they seek help.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations are outlawed in Kenya under Sections 162 and 165 of the Penal Code and the queer rights groups the Washington Blade interviewed said the authorities exploit this criminalization. 

“We have contracted two security response focal persons in our organization to respond to violations of LBQ womxn in Kenya,” noted Elly Doe, the executive director of KISLEB, a Kisumu-based organization that champions the rights of lesbian, bisexual and queer women.

Doe, whose organization also advocates against femicide, said KISLEB is part of a special security situation room formed to explore ways of tackling rising cases of insecurity among the LGBTQ community in the country. 

The Initiative for Equality and Non-Discrimination, an LGBTQ rights organization also contacted by the Blade, stated it has been conducting advocacy programs that include creating safer spaces forums to address femicide and violence against women both physical and online.   

One of the forums convened last September in Mombasa, for instance, explored how communities and institutions can work together to prevent violence against marginalized women, effective support for survivors, mentorship and awareness campaigns. The participants included lesbian, bisexual, queer and transgender women, women in politics, sports, media, women living with disabilities and sex workers.    

INEND Communications Officer Melody Njuki, who expressed her organization’s concern over growing cases of femicide, oppression and violence against women, including those who identify as queer that go unchecked is caused by several social factors that include economic exclusion. 

“The intersectional issues faced by marginalized communities and structurally silenced women particularly sex workers and LBQT+ individuals adds complexity to the challenges experienced by victims of femicide due to discrimination, stigma and systemic inequalities exacerbating the vulnerability of women to violence,” Njuki said. 

Both INEND and KISLEB last month joined other LGBTQ rights groups, feminists and dozens of human rights organizations in Kenya in a nationwide street protest against rising cases of femicide and violence against women. 

The Jan. 27 protests were in response to the brutal killing of 16 women across the country since the beginning of the year. Hundreds of women, including those who identify as queer, during a Valentine’s Day vigil donned black outfits and held lit candles and red roses in honor of this year’s femicide victims, whose number had risen to more than 30.

“KISLEB as an organization that champions the rights of the LBQ womxn could not sit back and watch as women are being intentionally violated and killed yet in recent years the number has been rising rapidly and so many culprits go unpunished,” Doe said over her organization’s participation in the protest. “Participating in the protest was our way of expressing our solidarity with other women’s rights organizations in condemning femicide.”

Doe raised a concern over a rise in the number of homophobic threats against queer women, particularly on social media and residential areas, and called for police officers to be sensitized on LGBTQ issues to deal with this menace without discrimination. 

“We have also seen the cases of the murders of the LGBTQ community rising such as a trans woman activist Erica Chandra in August in Nairobi and a nonbinary lesbian woman Sheila Lumumba in April 2022,” she said. 

INEND, together with the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, and Galck+ which participated in Lumumba’s murder case last December, were disappointed with the court after sentencing the suspect Billington Mwathi to 30 years in jail. The three LGBTQ rights groups described the sentence as “lenient” and said it didn’t meet the justice Lumumba deserved — the suspect raped her before killing her.

The organizations said they wanted Mwathi to receive a life sentence because Lumumba’s killing was not just an act of violence on an individual, but an attack on the dignity and safety of the LGBTQ community.  

INEND, nonetheless, attributes the rise in femicide to victim blaming on the part of the public and some leaders, which leads to a disconnect on the protection of the victims’ rights and its subsequent erosion as witnessed in the LGBTQ community.  

“The road to genocide starts with the dehumanization of the most marginalized, then continues to devour its way up the hierarchy of patriarchal systems,” Njuki said.  

She disclosed INEND was organizing a collective movement dubbed “#EndFemicideKe” to enlighten policymakers on the dire need to enforce strict measures on the killing of women. Njuki, however, commended jurists who are members of the Kenya Magistrates and Judges Association for their partnership with INEND and willingness to show a deeper understanding of human rights particularly the protection of LGBTQ rights.

She cited last year’s launch of a judicial guidebook to help judges better protect queer people’s rights and the High Court’s ruling that allowed the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission to register as a non-governmental organization in promoting freedom of association.

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Zimbabwean vice president reiterates strong opposition to LGBTQ rights

Constantino Chiwenga condemned advocacy group’s scholarship

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Zimbabwean Vice President Constantino Chiwenga (Screen capture via SABC News YouTube)

Zimbabwean Vice President Constantino Chiwenga has expressed concerns over what he has described as foreign recruitment of LGBTQ people in the country.

Chiwenga on Feb. 15 described Zimbabwe as a Christian country and therefore does not have room to accommodate those who identify as LGBTQ. His comments were in response to Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe and the advocacy group’s annual scholarship program that provides funds to people who identify as LGBTQ.

“The government of Zimbabwe strongly and firmly rejects and denounces as unlawful, un-Christian, anti-Zimbabwean and un-African, insidious attempts by foreign interests to entice, lure and recruit Zimbabwe’s less privileged, but able students into lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activities and malpractices through offers of educational scholarships,” he said.

“Zimbabwe has legislated against all such deviances, making any offers predicated on the same aberrations both unlawful and criminal, and a grave and gross affront on our national values and ethos as a Christian nation,” he added.

Chiwenga said such scholarships are a national threat and highlighted that anyone who identifies as LGBTQ shall not be enrolled at any educational institution.

“To that end, government sees such scholarship offers as a direct challenge on its authority, and thus will not hesitate to take appropriate measures to enforce national laws, and to protect and defend national values,” he said.

“Our schools and institutions of higher learning will not entertain applicants, let alone enroll persons associated with such alien, anti-life, un-African and un-Christian values which are being promoted and cultivated by, as well as practiced in decadent societies with whom we share no moral or cultural affinities,” added Chiwenga.

The vice president also said Zimbabwe shall not be influenced by any country to change its stance with regards to the LGBTQ community.

“Zimbabwe is a sovereign, African state with definite laws and values which typify it, cutting it apart from other mores,” said Chiwenga. “Young Zimbabweans who qualify for enrolment into tertiary institutions here and elsewhere, should approach government departments tasked to give grants and scholarship support to deserving cases. They should never be tempted to trade or sell their souls for such abominable and devilish offers.”

Activists and commentators have sharply criticized Chiwenga’s comments, saying people’s sexual lives should not be of public concern.

“This scholarship has been going on for years and many graduates have been supported and gainfully employed,” noted GALZ Programs Manager Samuel Matsikure. “In the 90s it showed LGBT (people) who were bullied, outed and faced harassment would drop out of school, hence, it was important to provide them with basic education so they can support themselves in life.”

Stacey Chihera, a social commentator, said what consenting adult individuals decide to do behind closed doors should never be up for public discussion. 

“I wish this entitlement about individual sexuality was applied to corruption, service delivery and infrastructure development,” said Chihera. “What consenting adult individuals decide to do behind closed doors with their private parts should never be up for discussion! Not even by the government.”

Namatai Kwekweza a lawyer and an activist, said the vice president was scapegoating the real issues on the ground that are affecting the country on a daily basis.

“The facts being a scapegoat is necessary for an underperforming and evil government that will overzealously and hypothetically talk about morality and Christian values except when it comes to corruption, looting, genocide, abductions, torture, elections fraud, abuse of office, sexual abuse,” said Kwekweza. “These leaders must be seen more, major more and heard loudest in matters of public accountability and returning stolen loot, than in matters of moral grandstanding of which they have no moral authority in the first place.”

Consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in Zimbabwe with up to 14 years in prison.

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Queer South African man murdered in Cape Town

Activists call for president to sign Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill

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Diego Jacobs (Photo courtesy of Jacobs' Facebook page)

LGBTQ rights groups in South Africa have condemned the brutal murder of Diego Jacobs, a queer man in Cape Town earlier this month.

Reports indicate Jacobs, 21, was brutally murdered on Feb. 3 while walking home with two friends. A former neighbor who had previously harassed him about his queer identity reportedly attacked him.

The 20-year-old former neighbor who is currently in police custody is alleged to have started uttering homophobic slurs before stabbing him in the neck with a knife. Reports indicate Jacobs tried to avoid a conflict with him.

OUT LGBT Civil Society Engagement Officer Sibonelo Ncanana has urged law enforcement officials to thoroughly investigate the incident and ensure the alleged suspect is given a hefty sentence.

“No individual should ever face violence or discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Ncanana. “This tragic incident serves as a stark reminder of the ongoing challenges and dangers faced by LGBTIQ+ individuals in South Africa.”

“The attack also highlights the importance of enacting the long-awaited Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill, which was passed by Parliament in December last year. Two months later, the bill continues to await President Cyril Ramaphosa’s signature,” added Ncanana. “We once again call on the president to take action and assent to the bill urgently, before any more lives are lost to hate and intolerance.”

Embrace Diversity Movement Secretary General Mpho Buntse said Jacobs’ death was a heinous attack that required law enforcement officials’ urgent attention. 

“The EDM is shocked to learn of the brutal killing of Diego,” said Buntse. “This act comes at a time when we had thought that the spike in hate crimes of this nature are a thing of the past. We view this as a deliberate push back to our efforts to end hate related crimes. Beyond this obvious knowledge, we call upon law enforcement officials to ensure that justice is served.” 

Buntse, like Ncanana, urged Ramaphosa to sign the Hate Crime and Hate Speech Bill into law “to ensure that hate is punished by law.”

“As a movement we demand that this be done before the upcoming elections,” said Buntse. “Failure to do this will be a clear demonstration that there is a lack of political will to protect the queer community.”

Ruth Maseko of Fantastic Family LGBTIQ said they were aggrieved Jacob’s death and echoed other activists who urged Ramaphosa to sign the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill.

“We are deeply saddened by the needless loss of another young life,” said Maseko. “The fact that these crimes continue based merely on how a person identifies in terms of their sexual orientation, gender identity, and /or expression is an insult to our humanity or lack thereof.”

South Africa is the only African country that constitutionally recognizes LGBTQ rights. The country’s LGBTQ community, however, continues to face attacks based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity that often lead to death.

The attacks have largely been attributed to religious and cultural beliefs that run counter to LGBTQ rights. 

Activists who support the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill say it will help curb homophobic and transphobic attacks. Some religious leaders, however, have criticized it and urged Ramaphosa not to sign it.

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