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South African lesbian’s killers to be sentenced – maybe

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Summary of story from The Daily Maverick, December 10, 2011

Four  men found guilty of murdering 19-year-old lesbian Zoliswa Nkonyana in a township on the outskirts of Cape Town in 2006 are due to be sentenced on December 19, after a litany of blunders and failures by the justice system.

Ms Nkonyana was brutally stabbed to death after drinking in Phela’s Tavern with a friend and having an argument with a woman who was with a group of nine men.

Eric Ntabazalila, of the National Prosecuting Authority in Cape Town,  said the argument centred on lesbians using the ladies toilets while pretending to be ‘tom boys’.

Mr Ntabazalila said: “Zoliswa and her friend decided to leave the tavern. They were followed by a group of young men.

“The two friends separated. The group of young men caught up with Zoliswa and she was beaten up and stabbed.”

According to journalist Mandy De Wall the dead woman’s family encountered difficulties getting justice for their daughter because of South Africa’s prevailing negative cultural attitudes towards sexual orienation.

South Africa is a country with a liberal, gay-friendly Constitution, but lesbians continue to be “fixed” with rape and brutally murdered.

Yet, she continues, our government refuses to acknowledge this as a hate crime and doesn’t even keep statistics on corrective rape.

And she says that brutalising or killing someone because of their sexual orientation is not a hate crime in South Africa but is the norm.

The police are slow to investigate and often display the same patriarchal or misogynist attitudes as the perpetrators of these crimes. Most rapes go unreported.

But there are now calls for an end to “corrective rape”,  the term which refers to the rape of a lesbian woman as a means of “correcting” her sexual orientation or gender identity (see WVoN coverage); the term rapists use to justify attacks on women who defy socially prescribed gender codes.

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