The Erroneous Right to Kill a Lesbian

In the face of hate crimes, join us to discuss promoting tolerance and change. Take action against intolerance today.

Eleven Khayelitsha men burst into the home of 22-year old, Noluvo Swelindawo, dragged her away, murdered her and left her body alongside the highway. The alleged motive: homophobia. Of 2,130 LGBTI South Africans surveyed, 41% responded that they knew of someone who was murdered due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. African leaders have, in various statements, implied that homosexuality was never part of African culture and is yet another Eurocentric idiosyncrasy foist upon African people. As a result, some of these leaders completely reject international Gay Rights proposals. Without proper legislative support, LGBTI people are subjected to 'corrective rape', marginalisation and many other hate crimes, including, as in the case of 22-year old, Noluvo Swelindawo, murder. We've seen how intolerant the world is to anyone who doesn't match up to societies norms and standards. We are also witnessing a resurgence of conservatism, as proven by the American population's vote for Donald Trump and Britain's desire to leave the European Union. Does this mark the beginning of the end for interpersonal tolerance? In this episode, we discuss what can be done personally to become that change we wish to see in the world.


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There were some deeply disturbing newscasts about hate crimes of late. One that stuck in my mind was the recent murder of 22-year old, Noluvo Swelindawo (more affectionately known as Vovo). Bulletins allege that up to 11 Khayelitsha men burst into her home, dragged her away, murdered her and left her body alongside the highway. The alleged motive: homophobia.

Hate crimes like this are sadly not new, OUT LGBT Well-being and the Love Not Hate campaign released a report, titled, "Hate Crimes against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) People in South Africa, 2016" These are their findings, having surveyed 2,130 LGBTI South Africans. They found that most LGBT South Africans face discrimination from a young age. Many respondents said that they never reported cases of sexual discrimination to the police. Appallingly, 41% of those surveyed said they knew of someone who was murdered due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. And, there's a dark and sinister side to many of these killings: the attacks are characterised by unbridled hatred, mutilation of the corpse and the dumping of the victim's remains in public spaces.

There is an undercurrent of intolerance towards anything that stands apart from the benchmark of what society considers 'normal'. Where in our evolution as a species did we get the crazy idea that anyone different poses a threat to our existence? Yet intolerance is rife, be it sexual, religious or racial.

The High Court in South Africa once found Julius Malema guilty of hate speech but he continues to whip up his supporter's emotions along racial lines. Listen to this extract from one of his rallies:

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What precisely is Malema talking about here? If he is referring to the subjugation of many at the hands of the few, then his argument is about the merits and demerits of colonialization and slavery. If he is referring to the unequal distribution of material wealth and assets, then he is talking about capitalism. If he is alluding to the European conquest of Africa, then he is speaking of opportunism and world dominance.

You will have heard about the Pareto Principle. It's more commonly known as the 80/20 Rule. Originally, the Pareto Principle referred to the observation that 80% of Italy's wealth belonged to only 20% of the population. The principle is an observation that most things in life are not distributed evenly and this rule holds true across many general aspects of life, like: 20% of the population holds 80% of the world's knowledge; and, 20% of your effort yields 80% of your results. It is an observation about the inherent unfairness of life.

When it comes to historically disadvantaged people, I fully agree with Malema that something needs to be done to rectify the imbalance. What I think is unhelpful and inflammatory is to throw the race card into the discussion. It divides people, it creates resentment and fear. When people feel under attack, they become defensive. While Malema's observations about inequality are correct, the way he incites racial hatred is dangerous. It's like saying that violent crime is a black phenomenon — a statement that will throw a hand grenade into any conversation. Some statements divide and destroy; others unite and build.

As a nation, we know how tragic racial hatred was. Some of the population once believed that they were God's chosen because of the colour of their skins, while denigrating others by labelling them as the Devil's offspring. Apartheid principles and ideals led to much bloodshed. Some of the rhetoric about homosexuality on the African continent is similarly dangerous and could create a backdrop of beliefs that try to justify Vovo's awful murder.

President Barak Obama talked about these dangers during his official visit to Kenya:

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But listen to the Kenyan Prime Minister's reply to Obama:

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Homosexuality not just a non-issue in Kenya, it is a crime. Sodomy laws prescribe jail terms of between 5 and 14yrs for gay offenders. But there's a little twist in what President Uhuru Kenyatta said to Obama there in Nairobi, "… there are some things we don't share. Our culture, our societies don't accept … [and] it is very difficult for us to impose on people that which they don't accept…" Does Kenyatta imply that gay rights are colonial values imposed on African cultures? Is he saying that homosexuality was never part of African culture and is another Eurocentric idiosyncrasy foist upon African people?

Here's the Ugandan President's comments about Obama's gay-rights proposals:

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The gist of his message is clear, "…respect African societies and their values…" and again the implication is that homosexuality was never part of African culture and tradition. This is also a view held by President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe who, during a United Nations debate, rejected the gay rights proposals of other nations:

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Jo Ankier speaking on Lip News about Mugabe's stance, makes these comments:

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Let's reiterate what Mugabe said, "… we reject the politicisation of this important issue … we equally reject attempts to prescribe new rights that are contrary to our values, norms, traditions and beliefs … we are not gays…" This again points to the belief that gay rights and practices are only part of colonialised thinking and that homosexuality is not core to African values, norms, traditions and beliefs.

I cannot comment on whether this is so or not as I'm not an expert in this field but I have a feeling that narrowminded, colonialised religious beliefs that marched their way down the African continent with David Livingston, merged with indigenous beliefs, creating a backdrop that tacitly fortifies hate crimes against people who are somewhat different from others.

The South African government recently published a draft of the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill, under which, crimes motivated by prejudice, bias or intolerance towards the victim on the basis of race, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation (amongst other forms of discrimination) will add an 'aggravating' factor to the crime. The bill criminalises Hate Speech, which is defined as: any form of communication (verbal, written or physical) that 'advocates hatred towards any other person or group of persons; or is threatening, abusive or insulting towards any other person or group of persons'.

Many of us are so compassion-fatigued and overwhelmed by the hatred and intolerance in the world, and try to cope with it through disassociation and depersonalisation. We hide our feelings behind statistics and detach from them by saying that this is at least not happening in my own backyard.

Hide from it we may but we need to understand where such diverse and intense hatred comes from and how we can personally do something to be the change we wish to see in the world.

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