As the world commemorates the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia South Africa is faced with a growing wave of brutal violence against women, especially Black lesbians. In the first 5 months of 2017 alone 8 known violent hate crimes against Black lesbians and members of the LGBTIQ community have been publicised, compared with 5 in the year 2016. Bobby Motlatla, Enrico “Tamara” Van der Merwe, Sarie Sitkamer, Lebogang Moremi, Matiisetso “Nonki” Smous and Lerato “Tembai” Moloi have been attacked or killed in April and May this year. The Masithandane End-Hate Crimes Action Group urges South Africans to actively engage in efforts to protect the LGBTIQ community and to reject violence against members of our community.
South Africa’s appalling femicide rates, 1 every 8 hours, and violence against women rates of 1 in 5 women, are gaining visibility. Yet the detailed picture is complex showing that poor and working class women are most vulnerable, as well as those who are gender non-conforming. A spate of recent cases has seen different sectors of society speak out and increased media coverage of hetero- normative femicide. This, in stark contrast to the silence around similarly violent homophobic and transphobic femicide. The sensitive coverage of these hate crimes by mainstream media is crucial for raising awareness and building broad social acceptance and respect for the ‘other’. It encourages social debate and provides space for people to examine their own prejudices and the impacts of condoning hatred of any kind.
Similarly, the role of social media in increasing visibility and building awareness cannot be underestimated. Yet the Masithandane Collective cautions against the use of violent, explicit and objectifying images. “We must remember that victims are also people with names and faces. They are loved by friends, families and communities and we must honour their memories.” Says Bev Ditsie, co-founding member of the Masithandane Collective.
While government programmes are coming into place through the National Task Team on LGBTI and the Rapid Response Team, there remains room for improvement and acceleration of programmes for implementation. The successful investigation and prosecution, as well as appropriate sentencing in hate crime cases can signal to perpetrators that they will not get away with their crimes and indeed society will no longer tolerate such crimes.
It is important that everyone play a role in preventing violent hate crimes. The Masithandane Collective calls on all South Africans to take action within their own communities, we are not hopeless and helpless. These actions can include holding dialogues to build understanding and developing mechanisms to make their communities safe, accepting and respecting. From churches to civic groups, culture clubs to sports clubs, schools to universities, small businesses to big businesses, everyone is called to action. The Masithandane Collective also calls on all civil society formations to work together to roll out programmes in all communities. The clarion call “Enough is Enough” must be harnessed into specific actions to make our communities safer for all.
**Masithandane End-Hate Crimes Action Group was formed in December 2016 with the aim of mobilising communities to actively prevent violence based on hate. In response to the persistent murder of Black lesbians and other members of the LGBTIQ community, the Collective works in communities with local activists to engage communities and change attitudes especially at hotspots like shebeens and spaza shops. They also provide a platform that links communities, families and activists to existing resources and services that support efforts to address and end hate crimes.
For further details contact:
- Phumi Mtetwa - email@example.com (076 246 3018)
- Bev Ditsie - firstname.lastname@example.org (076 976 7948)
- Tapuwa More - email@example.com (060 431 4979)
Masithandane End Hate Crimes Action Group
- facebook.com/masithandane @masithandane