IMAGES: Noxolo Nogwaza Funeral on Facebook
The South African government announced that it will establish a task force to address the escalating incidents of anti-LGBT attacks in its nation—most recently the brutal gang "corrective rape" and murder of a young lesbian near Johannesburg last month.
The announcement came after a parliamentary meeting involving senior officials from the country's law enforcement, legal and social program departments.
More than 170,000 people from all around the world signed a petition calling for the South African government to act after Noxolo Nogwaza, a 24-year-old lesbian, was gang raped, stoned and stabbed to death using shards of broken glass nearly two weeks ago. The petition was sponsored by Change.org, a global human rights campaigning website.
The new task force will tackle issues such as whether crimes against the homosexual and transgender community should be considered hate crimes, whether a rape motivated by sexual orientation should receive a harsher sentence and increased sensitivity training for police, social workers and judiciary officials. The team is scheduled to begin work in July.
Despite being the only African nation where same-sex marriage is legal—and boasting perhaps the world's only constitution where equality in sexual orientation is specified—the reality is much different for many Black South Africans. Life in the impoverished townships is far less tolerant. South Africa has the highest rates of rape in the world. So-called "corrective rape" attacks are said to be "on the increase" against lesbians in the townships, where rape and attacks against black gay men have also risen dramatically.
The practice of so-called "corrective rape" became a household word by the 2008 rape and muder of female footballer and gay rights activist Eudy Simelane—who was killed in the exact same township Nogwaza would later be killed. Four men were initially charged with the attack. Two were acquitted, one is serving a life sentence and another is imprisoned for 22 years. Prosecutors denied that Simelane's sexuality had been a motive.
South Africa boasts an estimated 5.7 million HIV positive persons—more than any other nation in the world. The rape of lesbians, gay men and transgender women also acts to spread the virus.