Report: Black Lesbians in South Africa Under Siege

A new report from Human Rights Watch says that South Africa isn’t doing enough to protect Black lesbians and transgender men who face violence, persecution and the danger of ‘corrective rape.’

Posted: 12/05/2011 04:04 PM EST

Although South Africa is the only African country that allows same-sex marriage and is often praised for its impressive level of tolerance, Black lesbians and transgender men face staggering levels of persecution and violence, to which the government is turning a blind eye, says Human Rights Watch.


“The threat of violence that dominates the lives of lesbians, bisexual women and transgender men, particularly in poorer and non-urban areas, beggars belief,” said Dipika Nath, researcher in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights program at Human Rights Watch. “South Africa, at the forefront of the fight for legal equality on LGBT issues internationally, is desperately failing lesbian and transgender people in their everyday lives at home.”


For the report, entitled "We'll Show You You're a Woman": Violence and Discrimination against Black Lesbians and Transgender Men in South Africa, the organization interviewed groups of Black lesbians and transgender men living in townships and rural areas and found that their inability to conform to rigid social and cultural norms impacted all areas of daily life, often resulting in disadvantages in school or work and alienation from family and community members.


In addition, many interviewed were victims of violence or rape because of their sexual orientation. Lesbians in particular, regardless of whether they appear more masculine or feminine, are faced with the threat of “corrective rape,” a phenomenon in which men rape people they presume or know to be lesbians in order to “convert” them to heterosexuality. Further, HRW says that reporting incidents of rape, violence or persecution to police are usually exercises in futility as the police themselves often engage in the same behavior toward the victims.

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(Photo: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters)

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