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SOUTH AFRICA – April 18, 2008: While awaiting verdict for Zoliswa Nkonyana’s murder on 21 April next week, a hearing is taking place for an 18-year-old Linda Masondo who became a victim of rape not long ago in Mpumalanga, allegedly for being a lesbian.
Nkonyana , bludgeoned and stoned to death in 2006 in Khayelitsha – Western Cape, was 19 years old while Masondo of Nelspruit in the Mpumalanga province is 18 years old.
Masondo’s perpetrator is said to have wanted to show and remind her that she is a woman despite her cross-dressing.
Masondo, who comes from Bugha township, was asleep at home on 23 February this year when she heard people scratching windows about 03am. After not responding, the suspects came to the front door and started shouting her name while kicking the door.
“I recognised the voice of one of them as just one guy I know, and I shouted back asking what he was doing here at that time. I did not open the door but as I was busy calling for my brother on the other room to come help me, the door opened”, she muttered.
Masondo said that one guy ran away and one remained who told her to dress so they could go.
However, she retaliated that she wasn’t going anywhere, but “he pointed me with a knife and dragged me outside. I shouted [calling] for my brother and the guy started stabbing me in the head and arms with the knife saying that I was stubborn.”
Masondo tried to jostle him down but the suspect eventually overpowered her and pulled her towards a nearby river.
“When we got there he told me that he was leaving the area and that he wanted to say goodbye by showing me that I am not a man that I think I am. He then ordered me to undress, and when I refused he ripped my clothes off. He raped me repeatedly, I cried and screamed but no one came to my rescue”, she cried.
Afterwards, the man told Masondo to go with him to his home so he could borrow her some clothes to wear. “I refused and went straight home with the torn clothes”, Masondo explained.
When Masondo got home, her aunts – who were called by Masondo’s brother after realising that there was something wrong with her seeing a broken door – accompanied her to the Kabokweni police station by her aunts.
A rape case was opened and Masondo also went to iThemba Hospital where she received counseling, post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) and morning after pills.
“This has been a very bad experience in my life, but I still walk the streets and will not give anyone the satisfaction of moping (sic) and hiding, just because they decided to do something bad to me. I will continue to live my life.”
“I was scared to sleep at home after that incidence and I moved to my aunt’s place, who is supporting me at present, but at some point I will have to go back to my place and continue to live my life”, Masondo added.
Speaking for People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA), Carrie Shelver said that the fact that such violations among lesbian still occur, clearly shows that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people have made an impact but not enough in fighting for their rights.
“It is sad to see that some human rights organisations feel that it is not their responsibility to fight human rights violations faced by lesbian people. More work still needs to be done in order to cancel this exclusion”, Shelver berated.
She advised Masondo to call POWA offices in Gauteng should she need any legal support or the over-phone counseling.
“As part of our frontline services, we offer face to face services to people in Gauteng because our offices are based here. But for those who are outside can receive over the phone services. What we do is [to] question the police and the criminal justice system. We put these issues in the media with a view to show that this is a national problem and to put pressure on authorities to react”, she added.
According to Constable Muzi Ngomane of Kabokweni Police Station, the two suspects have been arrested in connection with the incident. He said they face charges of rape and house-breaking with intention to rape, and they will appear in court today 18 April, 2008.
On the other hand, Commission on Gender Equality (CGE) is relieved that Nkonyana’s case is finally going back to court almost two years later after the incident happened.
“We hope that the case will be finalised during this specific date because we believe that the family needs some closure in this issue”, said Keegan Lackay, legal officer of the Western Cape office of CGE.
Melvyn Geldenhhys, who is the investigating officer in Nkonyana’a case, confirmed that the case is returning to court. He revealed that nine men, then between the ages of 18 and 25, had been arrested in connection with the case. They all face charges of murder, while some of them are also charged with attempted murder and assault with intention to cause grievous bodily harm.
Supporting the development in the case, the Western Cape Alliance of the 07-07-07 Campaign, which together with CGE have been monitoring the case, said that, with almost two years since the incident, hate crimes against black women who love women are on the increase.
“Many of these crimes go unreported or supported due to lack of empathy and urgency by the South African Police Services, where LGBTI people are often exposed to secondary discrimination. Furthermore, the silence of provincial and national leadership on the issue of violence and abuse towards LGBTI people indicates a lack of concern for the rights and welfare of all citizens”, the alliance said in a statement.
Meanwhile there are no new developments in the case of Sizakele Sigasa and Salome Masooa, who were murdered in July last year, allegedly because they were lesbians. “The investigation continues and is hotting up”, Captain Wayne Ellapen of Meadowlands Police Station said.
“We sincerely hope that in the coming weeks and months many of the other outstanding cases of hate crimes being investigated throughout the country are also brought to a conclusion with arrests and prosecution. We further hope that the tragic and brutal details of this case will push political, community and religious leaders to publicly speak out against prejudice and violence aimed at the LGBTI community”, the Joint Working Group (JWG) said in a statement.
The JWG stands in solidarity with the Western Cape 070707 alliance, and it is calling on all member organisations, allies within broader social movements and members and friends of the LGBTI community to support actions undertaken by the alliance and to join the movement at the Khayelitsha Regional Court on 21 April when the accused will make their first appearance.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
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