“Is there another word you can use instead of lesbian?”

Homophobia in South Africa, often violent, also extends to its court system.

Screenshot from "Eudy Simelane: A LIfe Cut Short." (Credit: The Other Foundation).

A South African Judge, Ratha Mokgoathleng, unable to contain his homophobia, said this to a prosecutor in the case of the murderers of Eudy Simelane, a lesbian woman brutally raped and murdered in a township outside Johannesburg. The New York Times reports that one the killers has been sentenced to life in prison.

To contextualize the outcome of the case, my friend, Dan Moshenberg, forwarded me links to the case:

The facts according to Johannesburg’s Mail and Guardian:

A man was jailed for life on Tuesday for the murder and gang rape of Eudy Simelane, a lesbian South African international footballer. Themba Mvubu (24) from KwaThema, was found guilty of murdering, robbing and being an accessory to the rape of 31-year-old Eudy Simelane. Activists at the magistrate’s court in Delmas, Mpumalanga, hailed the judgement as “extremely important” in drawing attention to cases of murder and so-called “corrective rape” against lesbians in South Africa. Simelane was one of the first women to live openly as a lesbian in KwaThema township, near Johannesburg. A keen footballer since childhood, she played for the South African women’s team and worked as a coach and referee. She hoped to serve as a line official in the Soccer World Cup in South Africa. But in April last year she was accosted while leaving a pub and robbed of her cellphone, trainers and cash. She died from wounds to the abdomen after being gang-raped and stabbed 12 times. Her naked body was dragged towards a stream and dumped.

Writing on the blog BlackLooks, Sokari Ekine, notes:

In summing up the case the judge only managed to concede that [Eudy Simelane’s] fame as a footballer may have contributed to her rape and murder – but still failed to acknowledge her rape and murder as hate crimes. It’s a relief for everyone – family and friends of Eudy to have finally received justice. The campaign around Eudy’s case has been central to raising awarness of hate crimes against lesbians in South Africa and for that we must acknowledge the work of The Lesbian and Gay Equality Project and it’s director, Phumi Mtetwa who worked tirelessly to make sure the case was given the highest possible profile. Recognition must also go to all the friends and supporters who attended the court hearings despite the lack of funds to transport and accommodate them during the endless postponements and delays. I wonder whether people reading about the case realise how difficult and what a strain it has been for everyone involved to keep up the pressure. The battle for this one case, to get justice for Eudy Simelane, has been one but the struggle against hate crimes and for justice in a climate of increased lesbiaphobia and homophobia is only just beginning.



Further Reading

Our turn to eat

Reflections on Malawi’s recent election rerun, false starts and the hope that public representatives in Africa become accountable to their electorates’ aspirations.

The culture wars are a distraction

When our political parties only have recourse to the realm of identity and culture, it is a smokescreen for their lack of political legitimacy and programmatic content. It is cynically unpolitical, and it’s all bullshit.