A South African LGBT activist has been killed in a bloody hate crime. Twenty-three-year-old Thapelo Makutle—who "identified as gay and transgender"—was found in their home in the Northern Cape province. Makutle's throat was slashed, according to local reports and the Los Angeles Times.
Shaine Griqua, director of Legbo Northern Cape, a lobby group for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, said in a phone interview that the group was trying to clarify details of the crime after initial reports incorrectly said the man was beheaded. Makutle was a volunteer with Legbo Northern Cape and worked in a furniture shop.
According to the reports, witnesses said two heterosexual men accosted Makutle about his sexual orientation and appearance. Some reports cited the witnesses as saying the men followed him home, but those reports couldn't be confirmed.
One of Makutle's friends, Mosiama Boyang, 23, was at a nightclub with Makutle the night of the slaying. He said in a phone interview that Makutle left about 1 a.m. and planned to walk home.
The news comes the same week that there are reports of an escalation in violence and so-called "corrective rape" targeting lesbians, reports NPR. South Africa has among the world's highest rates of reported rapes. Data from 2009 "indicat[es] that half of the country's women may be raped at least once in their lifetime," reports Charlayne Hunter-Gault.
Same-sex acts are currently illegal in at least 38 of 54 African countries. Four nations—Mauritania, Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan—boast the death penalty for gays or same-sex activity. South Africa and Seychelles are the only African nations that protect LGBT rights. SA is also the only African nation to guarantee marriage equality and gay adoption.
Despite these protections, the reality is much different for many Black LGBT South Africans. Life in the impoverished townships is far less tolerant. Lesbians, gay men and transgender men and women are often targeted by violent attacks. More recently: An apparent serial killer has been targeting gay men around Johannesburg. At least eight gay men have been killed during the two year killing spree in Gauteng Province. An arrest was made in March but the investigation has stalled.
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