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Is SA’s judicial system doing enough to protect rights of lesbian, trans women?

Gender-based violence is widespread and entrenched in South Africa with President Cyril Ramaphosa recently describing it as our second pandemic.

The rainbow flag, a symbol of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. Picture: Pixabay.com

JOHANNESBURG - As South Africa observes women’s month, there are concerns that the country’s judicial system is not doing enough to protect the rights of lesbians and transgender people.

Gender-based violence is widespread and entrenched in South Africa with President Cyril Ramaphosa recently describing it as our second pandemic.

But even with one of the most advanced constitutions in the world, homosexual women say they still feel discriminated against as many cases go unreported.

While South Africa’s Constitution affords all its citizens equal rights, the experiences of many lesbian women reveal a different reality.

Many are still stigmatised, ostracised, persecuted and attacked because of their sexual orientation.

Siyamthanda Nyulu, a lesbian woman from KwaLanga township in Cape Town said she was raped at a social gathering with friends.

“It was said we were at this buy and we left, and people said they saw this guy holding me and dragging me and were confused about what was happening. When I woke up, I realised that I don’t stay here, and I didn’t know who the guy next to me was. I got dressed, the first thing i did was try to go out.”

Zimkhitha Mpanzela a 26-year-old student said she lived in constant fear of being a homosexual woman in South Africa.

She recalls the first time she was physically assaulted by someone known to her.

“When the adults came and asked why he was hitting us, he was saying because we were doing “gay sh*t” in his father’s house and all of that. I was not out to my family, so I had to go home and pretend everything was okay.”

Many homosexual women are afraid to report such cases as independent researcher and LGBTQ+ activist Lethabo Mailula explained

“In the cases we have seen, judges have been reluctant to say the sexual orientation of the victim was a motive for the crime. That is also dangerous because it does away with what we could use to collate data on the occurrences of that rape. Black LGBTQ+ people are averse to addressing their cases because of the culture of nature of society; it is a patriarchal society.”

Crimes like the so-called corrective rape are not classified as such by the police ministry.

They are investigated under the family violence, child protection and sexual offences unit.

PODCAST: The Broken Rainbow - Hated for being lesbian

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