Murder in South Africa Highlights Need for Hate Crime Laws
As South Africa provides leadership on LGBT rights, it needs to take further steps to protect LGBT people from violence. Despite prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people and allowing same-sex couples to marry, LGBT South Africans have been killed, and their survivors face an uphill struggle to access justice.
Last year we reported on Thapelo Makhutle, a young gay man living in Kuruman who was murdered in his home following an altercation at a nightclub over his sexual orientation. Thapelo was mutilated in such a way that it was clear to those that found the body that the killer was making a statement. Despite a quick identification of the murderer and a full confession, the case has been delayed four times. Finally, a year later, Thapelo’s murderer will face justice.
South Africa has also had a spate of ‘corrective rapes’ of lesbian women. The year before Thapelo’s murder, Noxolo Nogwaza, a South African lesbian and LGBT activist, was found raped and murdered, her body left in a drainage ditch. The perpetrator has yet to be identified. South Africa has taken an international leadership position on LGBT rights by sponsoring a resolution on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity at the Human Rights Council in June 2011 and co-sponsoring an international conference in Norway last month on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity. At home, there have also been positive signs; precedents have been set in hate crime cases; government officials have spoken out against hate crimes and South Africa has pledged to develop hate crimes policy and legislation to strengthen efforts to hold perpetrators accountable and send a clear message that such crimes will not be tolerated.
Human Rights First welcomes these efforts and urges the South African government to progress in drafting policy and legislation to address hate crimes, document and record suspected hate crimes, speak out regularly against all forms of hate crime, and work with civil society to provide support for victims of hate crimes.