Digital campaign to stop “corrective” rape reaches South Africa’s top leaders

Soweto LGBT protesters on the street
Protesting on Gay Pride day September 2010, women and LGBT activists carry banners to protest the 2006 brutal death of South African lesbian, Zoliswa Nkonyana.

As the outcry against corrective rape circles the digital world, social networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook and Twitter have also helped spread the news. Those who knew little to nothing about the severe violence happening across South Africa found out they can now “take action and do something.”

In a strategic move, each petitioned letter has been sent immediately to the office of South Africa’s Minister of Justice. In the first 2 weeks alone, over 100,000 signatory letters reached the office. An additional 45 plus thousand letters were sent in the following ten days.

On the enormous flood of emails, the office of South Africa’s Minister of Justice was left with no other choice. The office had to respond to the outpouring. A formal email was sent as an answer to the petitions to Ndumie Funda’s organization at Luleki Sizwe.

“Regarding the ‘Corrective Rape’- concern raised by yourselves,” said South Africa’s Minister of Justice liaison, Ms. Corlia S. Kok in her email to Funda on February 3rd, “the Department has been requested to meet with yourselves in this regard as a matter of urgency, in order to craft an intervention plan in this regard, as we regard this matter as very serious.”

Ndumie Funda announced the response of the Ministry of Justice on her blog with celebration. Not everything was a success though. On the eve when the email was received Millicent Gaika was in hiding. Her perpetrator had been let out on bail for the second time.

“Milly,” as her friends call her, is in hiding because her perpetrator has threatened to kill her.

In late March 2011, lawyers for Luleki Sizwe will hand a 50 page report on corrective rape in South Africa to the Office of the Presidency of South Africa (Jacob Zuma), along with the Office of the Ministry of Justice and the South African Parliament.

The report requests, among other pleas, that the Parliament begin to legally recognize corrective rape in South African as a ‘hate crime.’ Also on the table is a request to have corrective rape cases filed swiftly by local police jurisdictions to protect women who are living under the mortal threat of their attackers.

“The meeting is just the beginning,” says Human rights activist, Ms. Billi Du Preez, a Cape Town based volunteer with Luleki Sizwe. “We need the Justice department and the South African Police and other stakeholders to listen to what we have to say and the ideas we have, to work with us towards a final solution to end ‘corrective rape.’”

“We will not stop this petition or give up until the SA government listens!” says Ndumie Funda of Luleki Sizwe with conviction.

No matter how hard it might be, Millicent Gaika will have to face her perpetrator again. This time she will be in court. The official trial date for the rape case is now set for March 15.

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Lisa Holland reports from South Africa for Sky News on evidence of attacks against the lesbian community – resulting in what is now called by the larger society as ‘corrective rape’.
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In June 2010, GlobalGirl Media producer, Soweto, South Africa resident, Zandile, produced this video about her sister, Busi, a lesbian victim of ‘corrective rape.’ For the story, Zendile interviewed her mother about her feelings about Busi as a lesbian daughter. Because of Busi’s brutal rape, she contracted and later died from HIV/Aids.

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Shubhi Tandon, a recent Women News Network – WNN print journalist postgraduate from Cardiff University School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies UK, is a WNN intern correspondent for India. She currently covers issues surrounding human rights, international social justice and global women.

Additional material for this story has been supplied by journalist and WNN editor-at-large, Lys Anzia.
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