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Noxolo's name means peace.
May 28, 2011 1:46 PM   Subscribe

'In South Africa's black townships, being gay can be fatal.' 'South Africa has a liberal constitution promising equal rights for all.' 'In a society that is deeply religious, traditional and highly patriarchal, lesbians and gay men contradict the dominant view of African manhood.' 'Across Africa, gay people are threatened, humiliated, raped, beaten, killed, jailed, outed in front-page newspaper stories, condemned by preachers as un-Christian and by politicians and traditional leaders as un-African.' 'In South African townships there's a crime dubbed "corrective rape," rape to "cure" lesbians, and sometimes gay men and transsexuals. They are told they are being taught a lesson: how to be a real woman or man, survivors say.'

'In one particularly appalling case this month, a 13-year-old girl was gang-raped because of her sexual orientation, according to South Africa's Justice Department.'

Gay people are targeted in many townships. 'Muntu Masombuka, 28, is a gay man living in Kwa-Thema. In 2006, he was walking home from church when three burly men attacked. They dragged him into a house, stripped him, tied him up, beat him and raped him. '"They said if I am a woman, they will show me what men do to women. They said, 'Boys don't walk like that.' My mind was shut down. I cried until I couldn't cry any more. I went home naked."

He knew his attackers, but says police refused to accept his report of rape.

"They said, 'How can they rape you if you are a man? You should have fought back as a man.' They said, 'Come and listen to this boy. He says he's been raped. How can you be raped if you are a man?' I was furious, because they were humiliating me."'

The rape and murder of Noxolo Nogawaza, a 24 year old lesbian in the Kwa-Thema Township in South Africa, galvanized the gay and lesbian community, 'but police spokesperson Tshisikhawe Ndou said investigators do not currently consider the murder a hate crime'.
posted by VikingSword (29 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Every society has a defenseless group upon which it inflicts it's frustrations. In the medieval West, for example, it was women and Jews.

I guess I'm trying to say that this isn't something unique to South Africa or that there isn't anything "special" about South African society that causes this to happen. Remember that next time you hear a GOP politician intoning about "urban dwellers" being responsible for rapes and murders. Scapegoating is universal.
posted by Avenger at 2:14 PM on May 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Scapegoating is universal.

Yes. What interested me in this story though, is that SA has an extremely progressive constitution, with more protections for gay rights than any other one can think of. Further, it appeared for awhile that the whole society was liberalizing attitudes toward sexual minorities. Then at some point things started going wrong. But why? This is what I can't find answers to. From the FPP main article:

"It's not clear why Kwa-Thema's tolerance evaporated. Vilakazi says there's been a backlash against South Africa's liberal post-apartheid constitution among traditional leaders, conservative elements of the ruling African National Congress and some members of the community."

What the hell happened?!

I always looked at SA as an example of how things are getting better on that front in the world. So this was particularly appalling to me, and I want to understand the reasons.
posted by VikingSword at 2:21 PM on May 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Yes. What interested me in this story though, is that SA has an extremely progressive constitution, with more protections for gay rights than any other one can think of"

Having constitutional protections is pretty meaningless in this day and age, they can easily be ignored and twisted. Look, if you will, at the United States.
posted by tomswift at 2:43 PM on May 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


So this was particularly appalling to me, and I want to understand the reasons.

Larry Kramer would tell you the reasons: They hate the faggots. They always have and they always will.

I'm not as pessimistic as Kramer. I believe that eventually gays and lesbians will be integrated into the larger society. But at least weekly if not more frequenly I'm reminded by something that gays and lesbians stand on the outside and are looking in. And while there may be hints that we're invited to sit at the table, at best it is at the kiddie table in the same room, and rarely are we treated as equals in any country, anywhere, regardless of the laws.

Africa as a continent has been really difficult of late. I don't know what the earlier attitudes toward homosexuality were within that collection of countries, but it seems like the more headway Christian groups make into society there, whether they're Catholic or Protestant, the more hate is codified toward GLBT persons.

This is horrible and yet, I thank you for posting this. It needs to be given wide publicity. This kind of action really only exists when there is no sunlight being shed upon it. And as the global society evolves toward acceptance, it will only be the publicity given to situations like this which force the societies which are not also changing to deal with the implications of their actions.

I hope this is a first step toward universal acceptance. I just fear that the path is going to take generations rather than years.

(And I say that fully acknowledging that when I was 20, the idea of gay rights in the US being as advanced as they are now was pretty much unimaginable... so perhaps it will only be years instead of generations.)
posted by hippybear at 2:43 PM on May 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


Further, it appeared for awhile that the whole society was liberalizing attitudes toward sexual minorities. Then at some point things started going wrong. But why? This is what I can't find answers to.

While South Africa's constitution is liberal in it's protection of minorities the fact is that the actual population of South Africa, especially in the African communities, is pretty socially conservative and religious.

For instance the death sentence is currently not allowed in SA and yet if there was a referendum here about whether it should be brought back I would not be surprised if it was voted in favour of overwhelmingly.
posted by PenDevil at 2:45 PM on May 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Africa as a continent has been really difficult of late. I don't know what the earlier attitudes toward homosexuality were within that collection of countries, but it seems like the more headway Christian groups make into society there, whether they're Catholic or Protestant, the more hate is codified toward GLBT persons.

This is a problem that modern SA has been facing since the end of Apartheid. See this 1997 NY Times article.
And in the political arena, a backlash [against homosexuals] is growing, particularly among Christian and Muslim conservatives and traditional black Africans.
The article also asserts:
[South African] Black society has deep homophobic streaks, based less on religion than on the overwhelming emphasis on having children to continue the family line. Ignorance in rural culture also plays a role. Sexuality is rarely discussed at home or school, so myths abound.
posted by BobbyVan at 3:09 PM on May 28, 2011


Something that stood out to me was the belief that homosexuality was a European import, the invasion of a foreign culture. What about Christianity? Football? The English language? I guess I can see why they would be motivated to pick on homosexuality and not these other cultural imports, but the hypocrisy (especially given that nobody is born a footballer or speaker of English) is remarkable.
posted by idiopath at 3:13 PM on May 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


but the hypocrisy (especially given that nobody is born a footballer or speaker of English) is remarkable.

Unfortunately, many people don't believe it's "inborn", so that won't apply from their point of view - another reason why it's such pernicious nonsense when various authorities (frequently based on religion) insist that it's "a choice"... because really, if it's "a choice", then hey, maybe some "corrective rape" will change that "choice".
posted by VikingSword at 3:18 PM on May 28, 2011


"'Muntu Masombuka, 28, is a gay man living in Kwa-Thema. In 2006, he was walking home from church when three burly men attacked. They dragged him into a house, stripped him, tied him up, beat him and raped him. '"They said if I am a woman, they will show me what men do to women. They said, 'Boys don't walk like that.' My mind was shut down. I cried until I couldn't cry any more."

Jesus wept. I think, even in the UK, it is more diffcult to be gay and black. Phrases like "batty man" abound in Black culture, and some Jamaican singers have sang homophobic songs.

Interesting recent FPP on Black Gay History Month
posted by marienbad at 3:40 PM on May 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


It gets better only if you are in the US, Canada, or other liberal democracies, apparently.
posted by Danf at 4:01 PM on May 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


It gets better only if you are in the US, Canada, or other liberal democracies, apparently.

Isn't SA a liberal democracy?

posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:13 PM on May 28, 2011


Related: 2010 Pew survey question re: attitudes towards homosexuality in Sub-Saharan African countries: 86% of SA respondents said it was morally wrong - seems to be about average for the region
posted by Bwithh at 4:27 PM on May 28, 2011


It gets better only if you are in the US, Canada, or other liberal democracies, apparently.

Well, it's not a secret that in the US being black and gay is WAY more difficult than being either black or gay, especially if you're young.
posted by hippybear at 4:34 PM on May 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I met a young guy back in the 1990s in Minneapolis who was raped quite brutally by a group of men, just like in the story above, because they didn't approve of him being gay in their neighborhood. And I've heard quite a few similar stories in many places. So this isn't something limited to SA, nor is it the case that we have things all perfect here.
posted by Forktine at 4:51 PM on May 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


this isn't something limited to SA

Dangerous Living: Coming Out in the Developing World includes interviews from Egypt (much focus on the Cairo 52), Uganda, Honduras, Namibia, the Philippines, Pakistan and Vietnam. It has been uploaded to YouTube with Spanish subtitles (as 'Vivir Peligrosamente').
posted by K.P. at 5:03 PM on May 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


One in four South African men questioned in a survey said they had raped someone, and nearly half of them admitted more than one attack.

I believe and hope that things are not also this awful in the US.
posted by Anything at 5:40 PM on May 28, 2011


What the hell happened?!

I always looked at SA as an example of how things are getting better on that front in the world. So this was particularly appalling to me, and I want to understand the reasons.
posted by VikingSword at 2:21 PM


Really good question.

Note how many of the stories of attacks on gays and lesbians involve rape, and recall that South African meme to the effect that raping a virgin would cure you of HIV, that was current few years ago and which led to so many horrific crimes.

The rate of HIV infection in adults aged 15-49 in SA was estimated to be ~17% in 2008. HIV is transmitted mainly by sex in SA, but HIV is not terribly contagious compared to some other STDs. Therefore, we might expect rates of herpes and HPV to be considerably higher, for a couple of examples, and the rates of infection by at least one STD to be much higher.

There is no doubt many infections alter the behavior of hosts so as to facilitate their transmission to new hosts. Colds making you cough is a trivial example.

I don't think it's too much of a stretch to wonder whether high rates of STD in a society would lead to higher rates of all forms of sexual activity in that society, including rape.

So I would say the answer to your question might well be that this hatred of gays and lesbians has increased because it tends to increase rapes of those gays and lesbians, and that it all could be driven-- in an iterative process with lots of positive feedback-- by high rates of STDs.
posted by jamjam at 5:44 PM on May 28, 2011


The figures are even worse in a more recent (and more limited) study.

The Guardian: A new MRC study in Gauteng, the country's wealthiest province, found that 37.4% of men admitted having committed a rape, while 25.3% of women said they had been raped.
posted by Anything at 5:49 PM on May 28, 2011


Guy not into girls? Rape will fix it! Girl not into guys! Rape will take care of that. Into the right gender but think you're the wrong one? Have you considered rape? All this raping giving you HIV? You know what can fix that?

I don't even know where to begin trying to wrap my mind around this.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:51 PM on May 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


I always looked at SA as an example of how things are getting better on that front in the world. So this was particularly appalling to me, and I want to understand the reasons.

This is the problem. Its how you are putting SA on a pedestal, when its actually in the gutter with the rest.

Sorry SA, but its true.
posted by hal_c_on at 5:56 PM on May 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you're heterosexual, how do you rape someone of your own gender?

I know I'm wired a bit differently than a lot of other hetero men, but this is one I can't fathom.
posted by maxwelton at 6:16 PM on May 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you're heterosexual, how do you rape someone of your own gender?

I think the old mantra that rape is about power rather than sex can be overstated but it seems pretty obviously on point in a case like this, maxwelton.
posted by Justinian at 6:22 PM on May 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


So I would say the answer to your question might well be that this hatred of gays and lesbians has increased because it tends to increase rapes of those gays and lesbians, and that it all could be driven-- in an iterative process with lots of positive feedback-- by high rates of STDs.

Just so you know, this comes off as pretty batshit insane.
posted by odinsdream at 6:49 PM on May 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Just so you know, this comes off as pretty batshit insane.

Yeah, I'm not sure what it even means. The hatred has increased because it means more raping, and the increased level of raping is driven by more STD infections... so, the hate is the result of more STDs?

No, that can't be right. Heterosexuals wouldn't be getting STDs from gays and lesbians. Unless they're getting infected through the raping. But then they'd have to rape more to get rid of the infections... So....

Yeah. Batshit insane.
posted by hippybear at 7:00 PM on May 28, 2011


I think the old mantra that rape is about power rather than sex can be overstated but it seems pretty obviously on point in a case like this, maxwelton.

I definitely believe that -- but this still seems utterly crazy to me. I just don't get how the fulfillment you can get from imposing a power dynamic can outweigh a taboo strong enough that these same men were willing to kill to enforce it. I am not doubting this story at all, to be clear; I just don't understand how they would be able to go through with it, at least not the same way I would at least feel like I understood a robbery or an assault or even a murder.
posted by en forme de poire at 7:42 PM on May 28, 2011


I just don't get how the fulfillment you can get from imposing a power dynamic can outweigh a taboo strong enough that these same men were willing to kill to enforce it.

In many places, the big taboo is having (or being believed to have) receptive homosexual sex -- being made someone's bitch; being the fuckee, not the fucker. So the rape can be framed as "if you are going to act like a woman, then I'll go ahead and treat you like a woman." The rapist is then framing his actions as ultra-manly, by imposing the law of masculinity; the rape victim is converted into a woman or an almost-woman. So he's not gay -- he's fucking a bitch.

Yes, it's seriously fucked up, but this is why guys can have sexual relationships (both coercive and affective) in one context, like in prison or while drunk, and be assertively heterosexual in another context, without their heads exploding from the cognitive dissonance.

(This is also why effective HIV and STD outreach focuses on behavior (eg unprotected sex, IV drug use, etc), rather than identity. Many, if not most, people engaging in high-risk activities would deny that they are a member of those groups because of the social stigmas involved. "I'm not an addict, I just like to party." "I'm not a homo, things just sometimes happen." "I'm not a whore, I just like generous men." Focusing on the behaviors allows you to introduce harm reduction strategies (eg clean needles, condoms, etc), whereas focusing on the identities means you will never reach those people at all.)

And you'll notice that this kind of anti-gay violence is most easily justified by comparing to acceptable violence against women. Remove that acceptability, and you've removed the easiest excuse for the anti-gay violence, too.
posted by Forktine at 8:26 PM on May 28, 2011 [9 favorites]


Frequently, the taboo is not against a type of sex but being willingly complicit in it. That is why a woman who has been raped is not as ostracized as a woman who has sex willingly, and why a man who rapes a homosexual is seen as an enforcer of the community instead of outside of it. Combine that with the natural tendency of all societies to make way for a show of power, and you have the reasons why a rapist may be seen as the height of community norm.

As ever, the trangressor against human society is the individual who dares to be so, and they will be obliterated by whatever means are available.
posted by Errant at 10:12 PM on May 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


*favorites Forktine's comment as an acknowledgement of the concepts explained in it and not as a supporter of said concepts*
posted by hippybear at 10:25 PM on May 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Meanwhile, South Africa is a country we are expected to believe has a thriving “pink rand” of conspicuous-consuming homosexualists (autobloggatio).
posted by joeclark at 7:01 AM on May 29, 2011


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