Friday, April 29, 2005

Hate crimes against black lesbians in South Africa

Malena Amusa:

Steve Biko’s famous maxim “Black man you are on your own!” has found expression in South Africa’s only organisation specifically for black lesbians who are going it alone.

On Freedom Day, the Johannesburg-based Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW) marked the second anniversary of its “Rose has Thorns Anti-Hate Crimes Campaign”, which generated a petition urging the government to act against hate crimes against black lesbians.

FEW complains that neither the police nor the black community takes such violence seriously. “Hate crimes happen because people want to remind black lesbians that they are women, and of their role in society,” said the organisation’s Kekeletso Khena.

A 2004 survey conducted by OUT, an advocacy organisation for lesbians and gay men, revealed that black homosexuals are much more afraid of hate crimes than whites, with rape being the most feared form of violence.

Ten percent of the 145 black lesbians surveyed said they had experienced sexual abuse between 2002 and 2003 — 6% more than white lesbians.

“There’s a culture of treating women like children; when she’s out of line, you spank her,” said Khena (22). Her account of “coming out” is punctuated with tales of rape, rejection, and lack of family and community support.

She said the experience of black lesbians is significantly different from that of their white counterparts. “Unlike whites, black lesbians didn’t have access to a club culture where they could be with people who understood them.

“When a white woman is beaten up or raped, she’s got a job and legal aid, access to psychological therapy and her family’s support.”

Khena said she was first raped by a group of men at the age of 13. One told her he committed rape “because of girls like you”. Her mother told her “this is what happens to girls like you” — which she took as a reference to her not being a typical girl. She continued dating men despite being a lesbian, and was raped a second time by an ex-boyfriend. “I didn’t want to be a lesbian because of the stigma.”

A close friend raped Khena a third time because “he wanted to remind me what it’s like to be a black woman”. The aim was “to convert her to hetero-sexuality”. “I contemplated suicide and cried for months,” she said.

News and Blogosphere:

Discrimination mars Freedom Day celebrations


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