S.Africa to create team to curb rapes of lesbians

4th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

South Africa's justice ministry will set up a task force to address hate crimes against gays, following the brutal murder of a lesbian activist, a spokesman said Wednesday.

Noxolo Nogwaza -- a 24-year-old member of the Ekurhuleni Pride Organising Committee, a gay rights group -- was stabbed repeatedly with glass shards and left in an alley, her face and head disfigured by stoning, police said.

A beer bottle, a large rock and used condoms were found on and near her body, in Kwa Thema township outside Johannesburg on April 24.

Justice department spokesman Tlali Tlali said the plan for a task force had been in the pipeline since December, after activists wrote to urge the ministry to battle "corrective rape", forced sex with a man to "cure" their sexuality.

"We duly made contact authors and indicated willingness to meet with them. We have thus held two consultative meetings in Cape Town," said Tlali.

The team comprising justice department officials, police, social workers and gay activists will start working on July 15 to create a public awareness plan and propose a new law to prosecute the crime.

Some 170,000 people from around the world wrote to the ministry through Change.org, a networking website for activists, according to a statement from the ministry and activists.

Ndumie Funda, founder of the lesbian advocacy group Luleki Sizwe which will work with the team, said the announcement showed government was "willing to work with the gay community".

Human Rights Watch condemned the attack and said evidence indicated Nogwaza was targeted because she was a lesbian, saying the murder "appears to be the latest in an epidemic of brutal homophobic attacks".

South Africa's powerful labour coalition Cosatu also denounced the killing, calling it "shocking, demoralising and disappointing that the perpetrators are still on the run".

Police have made no arrests and do not yet consider the murder a hate crime.

© 2011 AFP

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