Eudy Simelane, an openly gay South African soccer star, was raped and murdered in late April of this year. Officials believe her death was a result of the homophobic attacks that have taken place since the late 90’s.
The three men accused of her rape and murder took to the trial stand on July 29. But this trial, is the just the beginning of the long cultural strides that will need to take place on order for the gay lifestyle to be accepted.
According to the BBC, 31 lesbian women have suffered from “corrective rape” and murder since 1998. According to the gay rights organization, Triangle, only two cases of “corrective rape” have ever seen a courtroom, and only one conviction.
“This is a sad fact in this country generally, women are very reluctant to come forward,” says Sharon Cox from Triangle.
“Corrective rape” is a term used to describe the rape of a lesbian woman by a man or a group of men to punish her for being gay and “correct” her behavior.
Cox said rape is equivalent to power in South Africa.
“The thinking is, all it takes is one good man to cure you of being a lesbian,” Cox said.
Triangle says it deals with up to 10 new cases of corrective rape on a weekly basis.
Gay support groups blame an increasingly intolerant political climate and lack of initiate among police when rape and hate crimes are reported. Locals believe the inaction lead to more gender-based violence in South Africa.
Cox believes that since Simelane’s case could mean conviction for the men responsible for her rape and death, her story has sparked national attention, and could quite possibly bring about change.
“If we do get sentences in these cases it will be a great step forward for human rights, for women’s rights and for gay and lesbian rights.”
South Africa has one of the highest rates of sexual violence in the world. More than 54,000 cases are reported to the police each year.