Category Archives: Gender Violence

“Mama Machel, WE! are outraged”

Zethu Matebeni of UCT speaks at the 12th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture Dialogue Series – “Gender in Dialogue”. Zethu responds to Mama Graça Machel’s statement on the ‘lack of outrage in society’ over violence against women. Instead Zethu speaks to the many outrages she feels around women, around lesbians, and transgender people who are murdered and mutilated. Thank you to Zethu for speaking out and speaking out so powerfully.


Nigeria: Chibok, A Living Nightmare, Find our Daughters

Relatives of Kidnapped Girls [Source:]
Relatives of Kidnapped Girls [Source:]
 Women across Nigeria are protesting the abduction of 234 schoolgirls from Chibok, in north east Nigeria, which took place on Monday April
the 14th. Starting from Wednesday the 30th of April, protests and rallies are planned in Abuja, Ibadan, Maiduguri, Kano, Lagos, Kaduna,

A Living Nightmare, Find our Daughters – Statement by Women of Peace And Justice


Since Monday 14th April 2014 when over 200 young female students from the Government Girls Secondary School Chibok, Borno State were abducted by heavily armed men, millions around the world have been unable to come to terms with the loss and the implications of this loss. Today, millions of Nigerian women and men call on the Federal Government and the security agencies to find and bring back these girls currently living in captivity.

These young girls are daughters, sisters, nieces; tomorrow’s women and mothers. Those directly affected grieve, and we as Nigerians and human beings, join them in their anguish and distress. We want them back. Safe in their homes where they belong.

The trend of conflicting information about the exact number of girls who are still missing and even the operations are regrettable. The fact that as yet, no credible claim of responsibility for the abduction of these girls has been made is equally disturbing. This makes it an imperative for all Nigerians to amplify and demand of those with the responsibility for the safety of all Nigerians to ACT and CONSTRUCTIVELY engage to find and return these girls to their parents.

As citizens it is our right and responsibility to ask the following questions which have been on the lips and on the minds of millions around the world. This is even as we wait, with baited breath, to be informed about the fate of these young girls whose only crime is striving for an education:

How is it possible in the age of drones, Google Maps, and aerial surveillance that over 200 girls will vanish without a trace? Is this suggestive of the weaknesses of security operations covering soft targets such as schools even after clear indications of their vulnerability?
Why was protection for our children in schools in the N.E not intensified even after the devastation and pain of the 59 innocent children murdered in FGC Buni Yadi on February 25 2014?
How is it that security is not upgraded around institutions even when warnings of potential threat or imminent aggressions are issued? The warning after Buni Yadi that girls would be targeted or that Giwa Baracks in Madiguri are two cases in point.
What is the rational explanation that in a location (Borno State) under a state of emergency; 4 trucks and numerous motor bikes can deploy, move in convoy, unleash terror on the school at Chibok and then flee with over 200 girls to a location yet to be determined by Nigeria’s security institutions?
Where are or what has happened to the much mentioned assistance to the Federal Government or collaboration with friendly governments ?
Why, despite the massive increase in security spending, (up to N1trillion in 2013 and N845 Billion in 2014), are Nigerians not safer; while our security and military personnel are said to be under equipped and ill prepared to face the ever growing security challenges confronting Nigeria?
What support plans are being made to cater for the emotional needs and management of the trauma the parents of these girls must be going through?
The Chibok incidence is CRITICAL as well as a stark reality of the vulnerability of all Nigerians but most especially innocent children seeking to actualize their right to education towards a potential improvement of quality life. There is a need to scale up security efforts and sustain vigilance until ALL the girls are found. They cannot be abandoned and all Nigerians must share in their agony and in the anguish of their immediate families. The media must step up its act especially in reporting and constructive investigative journalism.

We recognize the complexities and dangers in security and military operations, however it is our firm belief that these institutions hold in high esteem the value of Nigerian lives as well our sovereignty being their primary mandate. The reading from Chibok is WE, ALL, including the military and security personnel are at great RISK of being consumed by the aggression of those in ambush of our peace and prosperity. Extra measures that remain within the legal limits of operations and counter insurgency/terrorism must be employed. Citizens must remain vigilant and supportive of the institutions of security at all times.

We speak out today and will do so every day until these girls are ALL accounted for. As mothers, fathers and siblings we call for the urgent and complete end to the politicization of the insecurity in Nigeria. OUR pain and solution are collective.

Updates on twitter at #BringBackOur Girls and #FreeOurGirls

Policing our Sexuality: The Conservatives War Arsenal Grows {Uganda, Anti-Pornography Act}

 “Policing our Sexuality: The Conservatives War Arsenal Grows” by Happy Mwende Kinyili for the Queer African Network

The recently passed bills in Nigeria, the Same-Sex Prohibition Act, and in Uganda, the Anti-Homosexuality Act and the Anti-Pornography Act, have raised the furore of activists around the world. In particular, organising around the Same-Sex Prohibition Act and the Anti-Homosexuality Act has been loud and concerted around the world, with some leaders on the one hand cautioning the passing of these Acts, while other leaders have lauded the passing of these Acts as shining examples of the upholding of African values.

While it may not have garnered as much attention, the Ugandan Anti-Pornography Act presents an enormous challenge to significant gains made on the legal front around ensuring the freedom to inhabit one’s body and enjoy one’s sexuality free from government and patriarchal oversight. Media houses have dubbed this the ‘mini-skirt ban law’, indicating that the passing of this bill bans the wearing of mini-skirts. However, a reading of the Act does not include any such stipulation, as there is no part that talks about the dress code of women. The Act addresses many other aspects that are serious violations of freedoms, but this – the supposed mini-skirt ban – is not the force of the act, contrary to news reports. Unfortunately, the erroneous reading and reporting of this Act has led to several women and men in Uganda being stripped by mobs for wearing mini-skirt and low-slung trousers.

The fixation on the “mini-skirt ban law” had diverted attention away from the truly problematic portions of this Act. The Act places limitations on sexual freedoms by using vague language to open the door for mischievous interpretations of the Act. The definition of pornography in the Act “any representation through publication, exhibition, cinematograpy, indecent show, information technology or by whatever means, of a person engaged in real or stimulated explicit sexual activities or any representation of the sexual parts of a person for primarily sexual excitement” is extremely broad and just about anything could be interpreted as pornography. This is particularly so as the definition of ‘sexual’ is left open in the Act and the naming of anything as pornography is to be done by the Pornography Control Committee.

This Pornography Control Committee is open to individuals from the legal profession, media industry, publishing houses, arts and entertainment industry, education professionals, health professional, religious leaders and cultural leaders, who demonstrate high moral character and proven integrity. The assumption that only individuals from these formally recognised industries are in a position to define pornography and sexual is presumptive, and leaves huge segment of society ineligible to participate in defining these terms. Further, the determination of high moral character and integrity is again left open to the interpretation.

A significant caveat on the functioning of this committee is buried deep in the Act, in part 5, section 21. The functioning of this committee is contingent on funds that will be approved by both Parliament and other monies donated for the performance of functions of the Committee. This avenue makes for an extremely powerful Committee that can be swayed by a well placed donation, as it leaves open the possibility of donations from individuals and organisations who are seeking interpretations of pornography that would benefit their political, financial or social aims and causes.

Other aspects of the Act that are particularly heinous are the provisions that require Ugandan ISP providers to enforce the recommendations of the Committee to ensure the suppression of pornography. In the event that the ISP provider fails to control and suppress the passage of pornography through their services, they could face the suspension of their business. Furthermore, through this Act, there shall also, be the creation and maintenance of a Register of Pornography Offenders. Hence, any person who is convicted of an offence under this Act shall have their name entered into the registry. The Act fails to mention the use of this register other than declaring that it shall be created. This leaves yet more avenues for mischievous actions aimed at controlling the actions of individuals.

While people’s views on pornography and its use and access are varied, this Act leaves too many avenues open for abuse and harassment. For example, two women who appeared in court over a breach of contract case were jailed for three hours and their case hearing postponed because they appeared in court wearing mini-skirts. The judge presiding over their case declared that the wearing of their mini-skirts was disruptive to the session since the two women had attracted attention of people around the court who declared that their dress code was in violation of the recently passed Anti-Pornography Act. The mischief has already begun. Clearly, the ambiguity in the Act leaves it open that anything and everything can be deemed to be pornography…or go by the old adage; you know its pornography by looking at it.

Organising and protests around these three bills have been loud and concerted around the globe. Activists in the two countries have warned that the respective governments have used the passing of these bills to distract the general populace from agitating for change following significant failures by the governments to provide their citizens with essential services as well as divert public attention away from disclosed cases of corruption and mismanagement of funds by government officials. While there is significant evidence to demonstrate that distraction may be one of the reasons the governments have passed these bills, it is also important to remember that these Acts are direct attacks on gains made against patriarchal policing and control of our sexuality. Sex is used to distract attention because it can distract attention. These Acts are additional arsenal in the war chest of those who are struggling to uphold the patriarchal policing of sexuality. The passing of these bills into law are very deliberately curtailing and controlling sexuality and ensuring that the state’s gaze can at any moment be turned on you and your sexuality should you step out from the prescribed rules and regulations in any way.

5. Jjingo,. M. “Women get three-hour jail term for wearing miniskirts,” Daily Monitor March 7, 2014

Uganda Anti Pornography Act of 2014


What is this protest about?

Via @muparutsazim
Via @muparutsazim – from Free Gender
02 Mar 14

President Yoweri Museveni has done it. Against widespread expectation raised by his earlier pledge, the Ugandan leader turned around this week and signed into law the contentious Anti-Homosexuality Bill passed last December by a parliament his ruling party, the National Resistance Movement (NRM), controls. The bill had been opposed locally and internationally for a record four years, since its introduction to the legislature in 2009. It is a remarkable coincidence that Museveni’s executive action came in the week Pambazuka News has devoted to a special issue on the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and intersex (LBGTI) struggles in Africa. Our decision to dedicate a special issue to this subject was informed by the alarming reality that throughout Africa, colonial era laws that criminalised ‘unnatural acts’ are now being reinforced by independent governments, pushed by powerful lobbies, under the pretext that homosexuality is ‘un-African’ and harmful: this despite the fact that the existence of LGBTI persons in Africa since time immemorial is well documented. Colonial legislators would have had no reason to criminalise homosexuality if it is the Europeans who introduced it to the continent. Beyond repression through harsh laws, there is fierce LGBTI intolerance throughout Africa. Even in countries where the constitution proclaims non-discrimination on whatever grounds, politicians, the priestly class and other self-styled moral police are undeterred in inciting their followers against gays. Homosexual persons have been attacked and killed or injured. Many have been forced into hiding, ostracised by their families, denied employment, have been unable to rent a house, etc. In South Africa the horrific phenomenon of ‘corrective rape’ before killing has been perpetrated by men against lesbians as an alleged ‘cure’ of their sexual orientation. It is impossible to remain silent in the face of this epidemic of hate and violence against innocent people.

01 Mar 14

A dangerous new imperialism is on the rise in Africa and the Caribbean. It comes wearing a rainbow flag and dressed in pink. The recent wave of anti-gay laws on the African Continent and a two month visit to Jamaica where LGBT activists and homosexuals are in a battle for self-definition have helped to crystalize this suspicion. To be clear I am a Black, gay Jamaican male who has loved and lived for over 30 years in America. I identify myself thusly so you can understand that this is not a conclusion I come to easily. It comes from observing keenly the struggle for Gay Rights in America, Africa and the Caribbean for the past 30 years.

24 Feb 14

Coming out will not be easy or even an option for everyone, but if you do decide to come out, I wish you luck! Visibility definitely matters. The truth is, I never wanted to have a conversation about who I have sex with, but because the government and the population is having that conversation, I too am forced to. The simple fact at the end of the day is: I am human. I am Nigerian. I am gay. Now my social experiment may or may not work. What I do know is that I must try. I will attempt to change minds, tackle homophobia and let Nigerians see a real life gay person: one introduction at a time.

Bisi Alimi -
Bisi Alimi –

Nigerian gay rights activist, Bisi Alimi, who had to leave the country in 2007 out of fear for his life, spoke to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on his feelings about the law and the fate of the Nigerian LGBT community.

18 Jan 14

24 Feb 14

Kill them. This sentiment has been expressed about homosexuals in Nigeria, both in the streets and in the media, especially since the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act came into operation on January 7, 2014 – again, and again. And again.

24 Feb 14

Yet Smith fails to articulate the self-determination demonstrated on the part of LGBTQI Africans as proof against an imagined Africa where all people think negatively about queer and trans people. Even in Uganda, on the very day of the passing of the anti-homosexuality bill, queer and trans Ugandans, and their allies, are asserting their disapproval through a global media campaign aptly titled, #IAmGoingNowhere, according to Hakima Abbas, co-editor (along with Sokari Ekine) of the Queer African Reader.  That there are those placing their lives on the line, today, should be ample enough proof that not all Africans are homophobic. It should also remind us to resist the urge to cast our critical gaze upon other geographical spaces before we cast it upon ourselves.

Via @HOLAAFrica
Via @HOLAAFrica
01 Mar 14

If Kenya is not Uganda or Nigeria, why are we at the brink of legislating laws that further criminalise same sex sexualities?  Kenya will soon follow Uganda and Nigeria in enacting new anti-gay laws, my crystal ball predicts. And it might be sooner than you expect. According to several media reports on radio and TV, several lobby groups, politicians and religious associations, have come out publicly to call for stricter – read, extreme – laws against homosexuality in the country. Unfortunately, 90% of Kenyans support their decision if a Pew Research on attitudes towards homosexuality in Kenya is anything to go by. In December 2013, I highlighted 10 African countries that were going the Nigeria and Uganda way in proposing, debating, enacting and assenting new laws that targeted same sex sexualities among men and women.

Via @ShailjaPatel
Via @ShailjaPatel

Follow @holaafrica @bisialimi @denisnkioka @keguro_macharia @blacklooks

Jaywalking the Freeway from Fear

From Center for Women’s Global Leadership by Bernedette Muthien, South Africa

In 1993, the year of the germinal UN conference in Vienna, the first President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, affirmed that all freedoms (and hence oppressions) are interdependent. This speaks critically to intersectionality, the study of the interactions of multiple systems of oppression, and its intersections with privilege. Intersectionality influenced South Africa’s groundbreaking Constitutional equality clause, which guarantees the rights of all peoples.

Vienna was a groundbreaking intersectional moment too, affirming human rights as a universal standard and emphasising the indivisible, interdependent nature of human rights, specifically in response to the historic divide between civil and political rights on the one hand, and economic, social and cultural rights on the other hand.

Intersectionality shows how categories such as gender, race, class, ability, sexuality and other forms of identity interact in myriad ways, contributing to systematic societal inequity. Classic conceptions of oppression in society, such as racism, sexism and homophobia interrelate, creating a web of subjugation.

While we are familiar with victims suffering violence, we often forget that witnesses suffer vicarious trauma, and that most perpetrators are themselves survivors of violence, including gender-based violence, that violence and discrimination often stems from insecurity and fear, rather than a lustful nature, no mirth intended.

Of less concern are the labels or issues we are still forced to deal with, like widespread gender-based violence that has not diminished over decades of feminist activisms and progressive legislation and policies. Of greater import are the approaches taken, the imperialist or colonial gaze, how we conceptualise issues, how these lenses shape/d activisms.

This includes the narrow LGBTQQI discourse, European letters completely ignorant of and sidestepping ancient same sex practices on all continents, including woman to woman marriage across Africa. Ifi Amadiume and the late Audre Lorde famously argued whether these women had romantic-sexual relations, Audre’s argument, or whether it was entirely about property relations and ensuring succession, Ifi’s contention. This ancient practice was almost entirely eradicated by colonial Christianity, yet it still persists, especially in rural areas, across East, Central and West Africa.

Of equal concern is the classification, led by the global North, of the rape of lesbians, ostensibly due to their sexuality, as a “hate crime”. This divorces so-called “curative” or “corrective” rape from its rootedness in gender-based violence and an analysis and challenge of Patriarchy, effectively deradicalising a revolutionary moment.

The presumption by feminist scholars and activists, especially those entrenched and aptly rewarded in euro-formed discourses, of the primordialism of patriarchy is another point of vexation to those of us from ancient indigenous societies that still remain matrilineal and women-centred, despite centuries of colonial and capitalist depredations. Matrilineal societies, still existing across the continents of the world, tend to be socially and gender egalitarian, with deep-rooted conflict resolution practices and hence less violent. The matriarchal Iroquois of North America’s precolonial Great Peace of the Haudenosee are said to have gifted the United States with the foundations of their Constitution. What can we learn from these nonviolent egalitarian peoples, their complex histories and ways of being? In as much as we study the League of Nations and the social welfarism of Scandinavia. Even as we smartly don the business suits, modern offspring of military uniforms, so necessary for our advocacy and scholarly endeavours, do we hear Audre Lorde’s admonishment of the complexities of employing the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house?

The silofication of our discourse and struggle speaks to a weakness of the global imagination. We need to indigenise our struggles. We need to use language that is familiar to local peoples the world over, so that tyrannical patriarchal leaders cannot say our practices are un-African or un-Russian, because they are indeed indigenous and we have been doing it since time began. With indigenous knowledge we can more effectively resist the flood of fundamentalist Christians from North America and Europe recolonizing our continents, aided by despots more interested in scapegoating marginalised communities than in addressing issues of socio-economic justice.

We need to note that violences are structural-cultural, and due to Patriarchy, women are at the centre of this war on our bodies and minds. While we focus on choice, autonomy, desire and pleasure, we need to remember that we need socio-economic-cultural rights to be truly free.

As the founder of the Black Consciousness Movement in South Africa, brutally slain by Apartheid securocrats during the 1970s said in a speech in my Mother City of Cape Town: “The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” And we all know Bob Marley’s song, “none but ourselves can free our minds…”

Bernedette Muthien, scholar, a poet, and an activist. She co-founded and directs Engender, an NGO which works in the intersectional areas of genders, human rights, justice and peace. Over 20 years, on all six continents, she produced 170 publications and conference presentations, some of which have been translated from English into other languages, including Dutch, Flemish, French, German, and Italian. Follow her @BerneMuthien

Feminist Chronicles: Delta Milayo Ndou

Yet another young person, very inspiring and set to make Zimbabwe a very proud nation, or should I say prouder since she has already started making strides in achieving that. One of the most inspiring articles I have read written by this remarkable young woman explains who she is, or rather who she isn’t. Entitled kicking out paternalism, in that article Delta Ndou introduces the subject matter by saying;


“I have never been too fond of radical feminism or any form of extremism for that matter; finding it to be an aggressive, usually narrow and unhelpful approach to conflict resolution.

Delta went on to explain how  despite her misgivings towards radical feminism, she supports certain radical steps that women take in countering paternalism. She bemoaned or rather emphatically discredited the underepresentation of women in the constitution making process in Zimbabwe, declaring unapologetically that the men of Zimbabwe, especially those in parliament are quite misguided if they think that in this day and age they can still purpot to speak on behalf of the women.  In her own words Delta said’

“The transition from theoretical gender policy frameworks to the implementation and practice of the same has yet to manifest; and while one can appreciate that it is not easy to reverse the thinking of years and that gender equity will be a process – one expects to see a degree of commitment towards living up to the words enshrined in the treaties, legislative instruments and laws which Zimbabwe has signed, ratified and enacted.”

What I see in her is a young inspiring Zimbabwean woman who knows who she is, what she wants out of her life and where she wants to go. But she wasn’t always this determined and she wasn’t always this focused. She met serious personal struggles in her life, the kind that almost drove her over the precipice. But what makes her remarkable is how she did not let her trials determine her fate. She rose above them and changed the course of her history. She surpassed her own personal struggles and has proved that, as empowered as she is, nothing can stop her from achieving what she wills in her heart and mind.

The one phrase I can use to describe Delta is that when you see her, or read one of her articles, or see another one of her updates on facebook, they speak of a personality that screams  ’I am woman, hear me roar.’ This roaring tigress is not afraid to challenge patriarchy and male domination that permits men to view women as objects that can be used and discarded.

On her profile on she describes herself as ‘a wordsmith’…one who is ‘preoccupied by the need to challenge the status quo, to de-construct the stereotypes and the myths about what womanhood entails, particularly in patriarchal Africa.’ That is exactly who and what she is!

 Delta has gone past that stage of self discovery, a step that we all need to make in determining who we are and charting the way to becoming who we want to be. She states boldly “ I am a member of the human species, an African by race, a Zimbabwean by nationality, black (perhaps brown is more accurate) by color, a woman by sex, a Venda by tribe, a Christian by religion, a feminist by choice, a journalist by profession, a writer by design and an activist by default.”

 Delta is a journalist, a writer, a blogger and a gender activist. She is not scared to put her thoughts into words, unminced, uncensored and what you see on paper is what you get when you meet her face to face.

 In the Echo of silence  a captivating story of a woman who commits suicide after she finds her abusive husband of many years having sex with his own daughter, Delta speak to three issues. First, how women are expected to stay in marriage no matter how bad things get. Second, how relatives and society in general do not spare their precious time nor lend a listening ear to women who are suffering from abuse yet when these women die they all find the time to attend the funeral. Third, Delta speaks to the inhumanity in some men, to not only be so evil as to abuse their wives but also their own daughters. This problem has increasingly become a menace in Zimbabwean society with cases of fathers raping their own daughters appearing more and more in the courts, despite harsh sentences. The Echo of Silence story was published in the “ African Roar 2011” series by a South African publishing house “StoryTime Publishing.”

 On her blog , Delta explores many issues and is not scared to challenge the perceived normal and ordinary. In June 2011, because of her role as a blogger who advocates social and political transformation, Delta toured Washington DC and Minneapolis after she was chosen by the Washington Foreign Press Center as on of the world’s top 20 emerging Global New Media Leaders.

 Not only is she a fierce feminist but a patriotic individual who values her nation and defends its name against unjustified vilification. In her article ‘I met a Zimbabwean’, Delta addresses one of the issues that many of us have a problem with, especially when we travel outside the country. That problem is of defining oneself as an individual with their own views juxtaposed to the role we assume as ambassadors of our countries. We are challenged by individuals who have never been to our countries, have never met a national from our country but claim to know what the country is about, even claiming to know more than we do because they have access to some classified information gathered by lone researchers or stashed in some secret place by their intelligence bureau.  As Delta aptly says  it is  annoying when you have to constantly defend your country “in the face of half-truths, gross misrepresentation of facts and the supercilious know-it-all attitudes” by people that you meet wherever you go.

 Delta also blogs on Genderlinks where among other things she comes to the conclusion that any woman in an abusive relationship should ‘flee’ . In 2010 she was part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service, Red Light Campaign which was fighting human trafficking in light of the world cup games that took place in South Africa. In that campaign Delta castigated the role that women play in facilitating the trafficking of other women.

She is an Alumnus of the Moremi Leadership Initiative, no wonder  she displays such strong leadership skills.

Ma Dube’s Feminist Chronicles

Battle Between the Stone & the Tree: Sharia & Women in Nigeria

From Women’s E News, an excerpt from  “Your Fatwa Doesn’t Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism by Karima Bennoune.  In this excerpt Bennoune explains how externally imposed economic policies  have fueled fundamentalism and the use of Sharia law which is often applied selectively in gendered and class inequalities.

Ayesha Imam and the women she worked with for years in the Nigerian organization BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights possess those very traits. The group, founded in 1996, fights to protect women’s rights in the maze of the Nigerian legal system, with its overlapping religious, secular and customary laws and courts.


Imam tells me they use tools from whichever system can “recuperate rights,” believing it is often possible to arrive at similar conclusions by working through Muslim discourses or international human rights. “My issue,” she underscores, “is not where you come from, but where you arrive at.”

With her colleagues, she tried to “deconstruct what is Sharia (Muslim laws). How does it get to be Sharia? Is it divine or is it merely religious?” In the ’80s and early ’90s, some of the Sharia courts in Nigeria had come up with “what we may call progressive” interpretations, “as opposed to following somebody’s idea of how it should have worked in 13th-century Arabia.” Imam’s efforts to support women living under these Muslim laws brought her, inevitably, to work on fundamentalism.

“Fundamentalism hit us in Nigeria so it was absolutely necessary, because otherwise fundamentalism was going to close us all down, close all the dreams down, close all the hope down,” she says.

The backdrop for this, a resurgence of communalism, was sparked in part by the harsh impact of structural adjustment and ensuing battles for resources. Structural adjustment–economic reforms imposed on Nigeria by international financial institutions–also meant there were many unemployed, uneducated young men looking for something to do. For them, “this was an opportunity to have power and assert themselves,” as Imam sees it. “They told women in taxis and buses that they had to sit in the back seats.” There was “general intimidation.”

Mixed Response

This in turn led to greater emphasis on Sharia in Muslim majority segments of the population in the late ’90s in the north of Nigeria, and then to enactment of new legislation in the early 2000s. “The reaction among the Muslim community was really mixed. Human rights workers and those who identify strongly as democrats argued that we need secular law. The laws being brought in under the guise of Muslim laws are conservative, and detract from human rights.” Even some religious conservatives opposed Sharianization, Imam recalls, on the grounds that you could not have Sharia before you have economic development so that people can actually live good lives.

According to their worldview, “You can’t cut off people’s hands for theft if they have no other means of gaining a livelihood.”

Any such opponents, however, became targets of “vigilante responses.” Death threats, beatings, threats of being burned. In one state where the governor delayed enacting a Sharia Act and set up a committee to study the matter, there were even threats to his family. Imam recalls attending a meeting in Abuja with the governor who started Sharianization. Young men throughout the hall were telling women where they could and could not sit. “Every time a woman got up to speak, they were yelling and drowning her out. It didn’t matter if you were wearing a hijab or not.” This was new, Imam underlines. When she was a younger feminist, “You didn’t get shouted down. You were not in fear of being physically attacked, or being burned or harassed. You’d go to public meetings and people would get up and argue with you and they might laugh.”

As fundamentalism began to transform Nigerian lives, Imam and BAOBAB became involved in the cases of women who were facing sentences of stoning. One of the first, that of Fatima Usman, ensued when the woman’s father took the man who fathered her baby to court to get child support. “He had no idea he was going to set up his own daughter for the possibility of being stoned to death.” (Today Usman remains technically out on bail, as the case has never been finally resolved. Nor, thankfully, has the sentence been carried out.) Most such cases began with vigilante groups forcing the police to prosecute and ended in “lots of people convicted of Zina [unlawful sexual relations] and whipped because they were not married.” If people do not appeal, they are taken out and whipped right away, Imam laments. “It was really important to establish the principle that you can appeal. It’s your right.

“It’s not anti-God to appeal.”

Continue reading “Fighting Back” on Women’s E News


A transgender suicide

From inkanyiso by by Lerato Dumse

On the 1st of August 2013, a 17 year old self identifying transgender (youth) was one of the approximately 23 suicides reported daily in South Africa with 230 serious attempts. He hanged himself.  According to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (sadag), “hanging is the most employed method of suicide.”

This was not his first attempt. The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) estimates that 20-50 percent of those who succeed are not first timers. Diagnosed with having depression, he was part of the 60 percent of people with depression who commit suicide in South Africa.

His biggest angst was being born with a female body. He had expressed his need to feel comfortable with his body. Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital was to provide his life changing surgery, but they had turned him away repeatedly appointment after appointment since May 2013. With only his blood being drawn for tests, he died with the process having not started.

On Friday, 9th Aug. 2013 I attended his funeral in KwaThema township, Ekurhuleni.  While many celebrated National Woman’s Day in South Africa, a mother was burying her child.
However, unlike most LGBTI funerals which are often crowded and loud, his was small, intimate and full of tears. Described as someone who was always smiling as well making others smile, enjoyed building his muscles and lover of fashion.

Part of the Mother’s letter read was a message to the community at large.
“Let’s stay strong in the Lord and his mighty power, love our children and raise them in a way that will add value to their lives. Parents, don’t move from your places no matter the circumstances, you will wear the heavenly crown for a job well done.”

Suicide among lgbti youth, states that researchers have found that suicide among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) youth is comparatively higher than among the general population.

The are lesbian and gay organizations in his township, however 88 kilometers separate him from an organization that deals with transgender issues Transgender and Intersex Africa.

Clinical social worker Caitlin Ryan from Family Acceptance Project (California State University, San Francisco) conducted the first of its kind study of the effects of family acceptance and rejection on health, mental health and well being of lgbt youth, including suicide, HIV and homelessness. Part of their findings was that, “parental acceptance, and even neutrality, with regard to a child’s sexual orientation can bring down the attempted suicide rate.”

Some advocates support Intervention implemented at the stage when a person is already suicidal (such as crisis hotlines). While others say Programs should be directed at increasing LGBT youth’s access to factors found to be “protective” against suicide (such as social support networks or mentors).

Attempted and Suicide have large numbers, claiming so many victims. We always hear about it, yet it is such a silent and taboo issue. As communities we have very little understanding, knowledge and education on the subject.

NB:  *Please note that the exact names of the late person are reserved for privacy but most of all to respect the family and relatives at this time of sadness.

CatchAFyah – Caribbean Feminist Network Call to Action

CatchAFyah has a Call to Action directed at CARICOM across the Caribbean  including organisations in Haiti  [Kouraj, SeroVie] Jamaica, [CVC COIN, Jamaican’s For Justice, Quality of Citizenship Jamaica,]  and Pan Caribbean – [CARIFLAGS,  Caribbean DAWN] denouncing recent transphobic and homophobic acts of violence in the region.  In Haiti two gay men were murdered following a religious anti-gay demonstration and a further 47 gay men were beaten in the past two weeks.

CatchAFyah Caribbean Feminist Network is a collective of young, passionate Caribbean activists and organisations. We span the Caribbean, representing such nations as Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, the Bahamas, Belize, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We are farmers, social workers, artists, social entrepreneurs, counsellors, researchers, teachers and students. We believe in everyone’s right to a good life and everyone’s right to be.

CatchAFyah calls on African feminists on the continent and in the African Diaspora to join their Caribbean sisters and brothers to take a position on homophobic and transphobic violence by blogging tweeting sharing whatever  – you can  Sign on to the Call to Action here

Stella Damasus on shameless men in the Nigerian Senate

Via Nigerian Curiosity on Child marriage in Nigeria “I wish I had something to add but, this reaction from Stella Damasus shall suffice. For Now” I’ve been thinking on this, its a non starter that is how can this be defended?

“Until these IDIOTS, both men and women, no longer have power, this and other nonsensical, crimional acts will continue to happen. And Nigerians will continue to suffer at the hands of their leaders.

Thank you Ms Damasus. I no fit shout.

Queer interventions – When victories in America’s culture wars become imperial policy

It is nearly  two months since the Nigerian Senate passed the Same Sex Marriage Bill [SSMB 2013]  yet the Bill is still awaiting presidential approval.  It’s not clear why Goodluck Jonathan is dithering over a decision but possibly because of pressure from the European Union, Britain and the US or maybe  its just not a priority.  Maybe the fracas  over the constitutional amendment to remove the  section 29 clauses 4(b) which states that” any woman that is married in Nigeria is of full age” which would include underage girl children who have been forcibly married at age 13.

Thus in Nigeria the forced marriage and rape of children is legal and socially acceptable whilst consensual loving relationships between two adults of the same sex is illegal and morally unacceptable.   Unfortunately the noise on social media on the former has yet to make the connection with the latter.  There are no threats of withdrawing AID over child marriage, no loud noises from Mr Cameron or President Obama or Madam Clinton.   No international lobby against rape of children -well there is an international against violence against women but there too there is silence despite statements of protest by a consortium of  Nigerian women’s groups, The Gender and Constitution Reform Network (GECORN)

Recently the US appointed it’s first ‘openly gay’ ambassador to the Dominican Republic [one of five gay recent appointees] a country used to American interventions.  There has been some protest from the usual suspects – the church and the political right but the DR is a small island nation and like its island neighbour Haiti,  has little realistic autonomy.     In ‘Freedom Gained or Freedom Imposed?’ Emma Rosenberg and Mario Alejandro Ariza consider what happens when a civil victory in the US becomes an interventionist policy underpinned by unequal imperial relationships.  I began to wonder what would happen if the US or the UK, Nigeria’s former ? colonial power intervened by appointing an openly gay, lesbian or transgender person as ambassador.  How would the government and the people respond.  I am sure there would be outrage with screams of cultural and sexual imperialism. Probably the nation would galvanize and millions would march on the streets quoting biblical texts and engage in the burning of flags and effigies of western leaders.  Unlike the DR, same sex relationships are illegal in Nigeria even without the passage of the SSMB, but an ambassador has diplomatic immunity so she or he could not be arrested.

Of course such an appointment would never happen and even though I would be personally conflicted between Nigeria’s right as an independent nation state to self-determination and the rights of LGBTIQ  to full citizenship, it would at least force a public debate which hopefully would include the rights of children not to be forced into marriage.


Continuous war on black lesbian bodies

From inkanyiso – On the 4th July 2013 the black lesbian youth of Ekurhuleni  took charge of their community as they organized an illegal march on the street of Thokoza, to protest against the ongoing trend of lesbian killings in their community. The group of about 50 black lesbians began their protest in the area where the dead body of 20 year old Nokuthula Radebe’s was found in April 2011.

“This is the place where the first lesbian was killed here in Thokoza, we are gathered here to express our animosity towards this place”, said Sister A, who is member of Ihawu, a Lesbian organisation working in Kathorus (Katlehong, Thokoza and Vosloorus) when she addressed the hyped up group.

“We are marching in honour of our fallen lesbian sisters, for the spirit of Duduzile Zozo and Nokuthula Radebe.”

Earlier in the year, Ihawu together with Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW) commemorated the death of Nokuthula, and in her honour they requested the municipality to demolish the abandoned building as it is a sore point for Radebe’s family and the LGBTI community living in that area. However, their request fell on deaf ears as the building is still standing.

The march proceeded to where Duduzile Zozo’s dead body was found, a stone throw away from her home.

The group assembled outside the house where she was found and lit candles in honor of her spirit. The community came out in support of the march and memorial service. Members of the Thokoza Community Policing forum (CPF), Thokoza youth group and SANCO members.

“One death is too many”, said Kgathatso Kgosithata, member of Thokoza CPF. “As CPF we are working together with the police to make sure that the culprits are found and make sure that this doesn’t happen in our community anymore.”

Homophobic Ekurhuleni

Corrective rapes, beatings and murders are disturbingly common in conservative communities where homophobia remains deeply entrenched. Ekurhuleni has become a battleground for black lesbians.

Since the murder of Eudy Simelane in 2008, many cases of assault, rape and murder have been reported in Ekurhuleni alone.

To date five lesbians have been brutally murdered and several others assaulted and raped.

Jabu Sibisi a young lesbian from Thokoza said, “I fear for my life, I feel like I am the next victim, I can never be free again after this.”

 “I am traumatized and angry, this is my second friend to be murdered, whatever that is happening in my community pains me, but it won’t stop me from being who I am. I am a proud lesbian and no one can change me”, said Fikile Mazibuko another lesbian from Thokoza.

The concerns echoed by the two young lesbians are the sentiments of many other lesbians from Ekurhuleni who came out in numbers to affirm the existence.

Tumi Mkhuma, a lesbian friend of the deceased and a  corrective rape survivor, expressed her outraged about her friend’s death. “I feel sad for my friend, the fact that she didn’t survive this pains me. As a rape survivor myself, I know what she went through and it is not a good place to be.”

In 2009, Mkhuma was dragged from a bar, beaten unconscious, and then raped in Katlehong. Luckily she survived but many did not.

Most of the cases have striking similarities in term of the manner they are carried out. All of the victims are reported as being last seen in a tavern leaving with male friends. It is also speculated that these murders are orchestrated by people who know the victims very well.

Mkhuma said she knows her rapist and where they live, and with Zozo’s case it is alleged that his male friends that she was last seen with having something to do with her murder.

However, one concerned mother and a representative form SANCO who lives nearby Zozo’s home blames the horrendous killing on alcohol and drugs.

Mam’ Puleng, chairperson of SANCO said, “these murders are stirred by drugs, Nyaope is the cause of this, our children have turned into monsters, their brains are dead because of nyaope.”

“These drugs are very dangerous and shouldn’t be taken lightly”, she said.

Lesbian murders in June

June is celebrated as the youth month in South Africa, a month where the brave youth of 1976 are remembered and celebrated. However, for the LGBTI community, June has become a month that members of this colorful, flamboyant communities are murdered for being open about their sexuality.

In 2012 June, three black lesbians, and a gay man under the age of 30 were brutally murdered in different places in South Africa.
Phumeza Nkolonzi, (22) was shot three times in front of her mother and niece in Nyanga on the 24 June 2012. It was reported that, “The gunman broke down the door and started firing at Nkolonzi without saying a word, leaving her family traumatised and confused.

Hendrietta Thapelo Morifi, (29) lived as an out lesbian in the village of Phola Park, Mokopane. She was killed on 29 June 2012 in her home with a braai fork inserted into her throat.

Sanna Supa, (28) was shot and killed while opening the gate to her house in Braam Fischer, Soweto on the 30 June 2012.

Thapelo Makutle, (24) on the 9 June 2012 was killed and mutilated in Seoding near Kuruman. His throat had been slit to the point of a virtual beheading, and part of his testicles and penis had allegedly been cut off and stuffed into his mouth.

The murders mentioned are just a fraction of the daunting statistics of LGBTI murders that happen almost every day across South Africa, a country known for embracing the gay rights.

Government breaking the silence

The government has come out in support of Zozo’s case, with Premier Nomvula Mokonyane condemning the murder and also calling on the South African citizens to be more tolerant.

Also, it seems like the case of Zozo has compelled the National Task Team into acting. The team had received a lot of criticism for their silence and lack of progress since its inception in May 2011.

“On Wednesday, senior officials from the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DoJ & CD) were sent to Thokoza to meet with local police to establish the progress made in the investigation”, reported Mambaonline.

“The officials were accompanied by members of civil society groups, including FEW, who form part of the task team mandated to develop an urgent intervention to combat crimes against LGBTI people.”

A task team was also established at the Thokoza police station, comprising of police officer, community policing forum members as well as members from the community to try and speed up the case as well as to review the case of Radebe which remains unsolved.

The murder of Zozo happened just a week after the President of United States (US), Barack Obama visited some countries in the African continent, especially South Africa.

Obama had received a lot of pressures from human rights organisations, urging him to address the state of homosexuality which is criminalised in 38 countries in Africa.

Obama was met with some negative responses when he tried addressing the issue in his visit to Senegal, one of the African countries that criminalises homosexuality.

Nonetheless, as the LGBTI community in South Africa, we wonder what difference would it had made if Obama and Jacob Zuma discussed the hate crime situation towards homosexuals in South Africa when they met.

Would it have made a difference in the lives of gay people?
Or maybe shifted the mind sets of traditionalist and homophobes who believe that being gay is wrong, un-African and it should and can be fixed.


Another brutal murder of a lesbian

From inkanyiso – Another young black lesbian murdered. Duduzile Zozo, a 26 year old from Thokoza, East of Johannesburg was murdered on 30th June, 2013.

Daily Sun, a local tabloid newspaper reported that, “The 26-year-old’s half-naked body was found in her kasi in Thokoza, Ekurhuleni yesterday morning (30 June 2013).”

The newspaper further stated that, “a toilet brush was rammed into the deceased vagina.”

Captain Godfrey Maditsi who was also interviewed by the paper, confirmed the news and told daily sun that “A murder case has been opened and we ask the community to come forward with any information that could help put those responsible behind bars.”

However, Maditsi said that, “the cops couldn’t confirm whether Duduzile Zozo was raped or not. They could only confirm that a toilet brush was rammed into her vagina as they found it still inside.”

Her mother, Thuziwe Zozo, told the paper that she suspected that her daughter was killed because of her sexuality: “She was a lesbian but never had any problems before. People loved and appreciated her.”

The case of Duduzile Zozo, like many other lesbian cases caught the attention of the media, as most of local and international media ran with the story.

Since reports of the gruesome murder made headlines locally and internationally, we have since seen political parties and other civil society organisations releasing statements condemning the brutal murder of the young lesbian.

COSATU’s Patrick Craven said in a statement, “COSATU is outraged at the continuing high level of violence against women and girls, and demands that no effort be spared to arrest whoever was responsible for this despicable murder, and that the courts impose an exemplary sentence.”

The Democratic Alliance Shadow Deputy Minister of Women, Youth, Children and People with Disabilities (DWYCPD), Helen Lamoela also released a statement expressing The DA’s is shock and sadness by reports of the brutal rape and murder of Duduzile Zozo.

DA stated that, “Government is not doing nearly enough to eradicate the scourge of violence against women and children in South Africa.”

The DA went further on to criticize the progress of the National Council Against Gender-Based Violence based within the DWYCPD formed over six months ago and the silence of the LGBTI National Task Team which was formed two years ago by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development.

Helen Lamoela said, “DA will submit parliamentary questions to the Department of Justice to query the progress of this task team. We will also request that the National Council Against Gender-Based Violence be summoned to Parliament to present progress made on its plans and programmes to curb violence against women and children in South Africa.”

The murder of Duduzile happens just a week after Amnesty International released a report called ‘Making Love a Crime: Criminalisation of Same-sex conduct in Sub Saharan Africa’.

The report highlighting violence, homophobia and laws targeting LGBTI people in Sub Saharan Africa, with particular focus on Kenya, Uganda, Cameroon and South Africa.

Amnesty International reported on the plight of black lesbians in South Africa.

The report stated that, “Taunts, insults and threats are a constant reality and are in fact so common that many LGBTI people do not even recognize them as a form of violence. Sexual assault and other physical attacks against LGBTI people are also all too common. Lesbians, and LGBTI people who do not conform to culturally approved models of femininity and masculinity live in fear of being assaulted, raped and murdered by men”.

Amnesty International over the past few months have partnered with Ekhuruleni Pride Organising Committee (EPOC) an LGBTI organization based in Ekhuruleni, a township which now known to the lesbian community as a hot spot for lesbian rape and murder.

Both organisations have been working together in making sure that the case of Noxolo Nogwaza, a 24 year old lesbian activist who was brutally murdered in Kwa-Thema two years ago, is investigated and perpetrators brought to book.

According to Bontle Khalo of EPOC, “Amnesty International has been campaigning to ensure that Noxolo’s murder is investigated thoroughly and effectively, so that those found to be responsible may be brought to justice.”

Furthermore, Amnesty International has been running a campaign locally and internationally calling for Justice for Noxolo. These campaigns have been running since May 2012, and they have targeted local and provincial police authorities, as well as the Gauteng Premier.

In recent developments of the campaign, Amnesty International has been lobbying for legislation to combat hate crime, legislations that would compel the police to compile statistics of lesbian and gay murders and rapes.

“Hate-crime laws would improve the policing and judicial response to such crimes and help develop effective mechanisms to monitor such crimes”, stated the report.

The case of Noxolo Magwaza that Amnesty International is working on is one of many murder cases that have been under-investigated in Ekhuruleni.

There’s the case of Girly Nkosi who was murdered in 2009, Nokuthula Radebe murdered in 2011, and Patricia Mashigo murdered 2013 and many others which were not reported or are unknown to me.

The aforementioned cases, represent only those murdered in Ekhuruleni alone, South Africa has many more neglected cases of LGBTI people who were murdered for being homosexuals.

The fraction of statistic mentioned shows how little the police authorities are working on making sure that the cases are diligently investigated and perpetrators arrested.

It took the South African Justice System six years and 30 court appearances, for 19 year old Zoliswa Nkonyana’s 2006 murder case to be concluded and her killers sentenced.

The brutal killing of vulnerable LGBTI individuals is extreme, merely releasing a statement condemning the act is not enough; the LGBTI community needs actions, Interventions, and legislations to be put in place in order to combat these barbaric acts.

There is an urgent need for educational programmes and awareness campaigns to address the attitudes and biases that lead to these hateful crimes.

South African townships are no longer safe for lesbians, every day a black lesbian wonders if they are NEXT?.

“The truth is, ‘Ngiyesaba’ – I’m shit scared” – Rape and Traumatic Recall


Homophobic Injustice and Corrective Rape in Post-Apartheid South Africaby Kylie Thomas – a joint report by the University of Western Cape and the Center for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation.

The report offers a critique of the terms ‘corrective rape’ and ‘curative rape’ and examines the concept of ‘hate crimes’ which is increasingly being used to describe a specific form of violence directed at LGBTI people in South Africa.

This form of violation is perpetrated with the explicit intention of ‘curing’ the lesbian of her
love for other women. Although many heterosexual survivors of rape attest to the stated intentions of their assailants as punitive (they have done something wrong, and thus ‘deserve’ rape), survivors of ‘curative rape’ make it clear that their attackers were interested in humiliating and punishing them for their choice of sexual identity and lifestyle and in ‘transforming’ them — by coercion — into heterosexual women. (2010:26)

Section one “Rape: Corrective, curative, hate crime” provides background into rape as a form of punishment and the naming of a specific kind of rape of lesbians as ‘curative rape and corrective rape’ and the push towards adopting the concept of ‘hate crimes’. Section two “Traumatic Recall” Rape and recovery” is drawn from an interview with ‘Sibongile‘, a woman who was raped by a man who lived close to her home. Her story is complicated because not only did she know the rapist but he was someone she considered a friend. Sibongile’s experience of rape and the social setting in which the rape took place, his constant presence and continued threat of violence from him as well as the failure of the justice system, are evidence of the ever present violence through which she and many other lesbians are forced to live.

The crimes committed against Sibongile, like that of Thapelo Makhutle, murdered in Kuraman in June 2012, and other survivors and victims of homophobic and transphobic crimes, are ‘communal crimes’. Arbitrary notions on citizenship and who is fully human or deserves to be seen as human, are demonstrated through the repeated failures in the criminal justice system as well as failures of community which speak to a dangerous judicial and communal complicity in crimes of hate.

It seems to me that these murders have their own particular meaning in relation to other crimes in that they are communal crimes — in most cases the murderers and rapists are known to the victims and survivors and possibly others in the neighbourhood. This is an important point when thinking about how to speak of these things. In order to kill so intimately surely one must find a way to disconnect. One possible way to do this is to disassociate yourself with the victim, to render them as other — we know enough about killing to know it ‘s always easier to kill ‘them’ rather than kill ‘ourselves’. If this is the case, then there are neighbourhoods of people who are disconnected from each other. Places where people look at others but do not see themselves…….

The full report can be read here.

Rape: Corrective, curative, hate crime

There are no precise figures for the number of women who have been raped because they identify themselves as lesbians. Rape, like other forms of sexual violence, is perhaps the most under‐reported form of crime. There are clearer figures for the number of women who have been raped and murdered because their attackers sought to punish them for being openly lesbian.3 What is clear, however, is that lesbians in South Africa, and black lesbians in particular, experience public space as a space of violence.

Since the release of Harris’ report, the term ‘hate crime’ has been increasingly used to describe forms of violence directed against gay, lesbian, bi‐sexual and trans‐gendered South Africans. The terms ‘curative rape’ and ‘corrective rape’ have also been used to describe sexual violence directed against lesbians and to mark the distinction between rape experienced by homosexual women and the rape of heterosexual women or men or the rape of children. In their study, The country we want to live in: Hate crimes and homophobia in the lives of black lesbian South Africans, Nonhlanhla Mkhize, Jane Bennett, Vasu Reddy and Relebohile Moletsane draw attention to how these terms began to circulate as a result of the activism of “radical feminist and
black lesbian‐led organisations”. These activists “attested to a very specific form of sexual attack “curative rape’” (2010:26). Drawing on the work of scholars and activists Zanele Muholi, Helen Moffett and Vasu Reddy, the authors write,

This form of violation is perpetrated with the explicit intention of ‘curing’ the lesbian of her love for other women. Although many heterosexual survivors of rape attest to the stated intentions of their assailants as punitive (they have done something wrong, and thus ‘deserve’ rape), survivors of ‘curative rape’ make it clear that their attackers were interested in humiliating and punishing them for their choice of sexual identity and lifestyle and in ‘transforming’ them — by coercion — into heterosexual women. (2010:26)

South Africa has extremely high rates of sexual violence, and rape has been used in the country as a way to “punish” women who do not conform to normative ideals of femininity in different ways over time.5 In her study on what she terms ‘group rape’ in South Africa, Katherine Wood cites Steve Mokwena’s Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) paper on ‘jackrolling’, a practice defined as “a form of group abduction and rape of young women in Soweto in the eighties originally associated with a gang called The Jackrollers”, which “was designed to put out‐of‐reach or snobbish women in their place” (2005:306). In the post‐apartheid present, lesbian women have been made subject to what has been termed ‘corrective rape’ or ‘curative rape’, which, like jackrolling, can be understood as a violent form of policing of the social order. In an article about hate crimes, activist Wendy Isaack defines ‘curative rape’ as “a term used to describe the sexual violence perpetrated for the purpose of supposedly ‘curing’ a person of their real or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity” (2007:2).

Such forms of naming provide useful short‐hand terms for forms of violence, and sexual violence in particular, directed against lesbians in South Africa. But the terms also carry with them a series of assumptions that may not hold in all cases. The use of the terms by feminist scholars can work inadvertently to reinforce essentialist conceptions of gender and sexuality. Perhaps the clearest way to understand what is at stake in the ways in which we name forms of violence would be to defamiliarise the terms used to describe violence directed towards lesbians through applying the descriptor ‘corrective’ or ‘curative’ to a different category of hate crime — racism. A racist ‘curative beating’ or ‘corrective racially motivated shooting’ makes no sense precisely because of the widely held view that a person’s race cannot be altered — it is taken as a given. A similar, and similarly mistaken, biologism is at work in the notion of ‘corrective rape’, which ‘makes sense’ because of widely held ideas about essential womanhood and femininity. By this logic, a black or white person cannot be ‘cured’ of being black or white because blackness or whiteness is taken to be a biological given and a lesbian can be ‘cured’ of being lesbian because her underlying essential femininity is taken to be a biological given. ‘Curative’ racially motivated violence would be genocide or the Nazi ‘final solution’, just as the inner logic of ‘curative rape’ of lesbian women contains the desire not for some form of social restoration but for elimination. In other words, if the ‘corrective rape of lesbians is intended to ‘turn’ them into heterosexual women, it is intended to negate, symbolically and often physically, what constitutes their identities and their being.

The term ‘corrective rape’ also implies that if lesbians performed their sexuality ‘correctly’, within the appropriate bounds defined by patriarchy, they would not be subject to sexual violence. This, as the argument made by Mkhize et al. about the way in which black lesbians are ‘doubly vulnerable to gender‐based violence’ makes clear, is not the case:

As women, they [black lesbians] inhabit a South African reality in which all women are vulnerable to diverse forms of sexual attack, and black women who are poor are surrounded by more opportunities for men to attack them than women who are better resourced (and thus, often, white). As lesbians in homophobic contexts and cultures in which sexual violence is a popular weapon, they are at the knife‐edge of community rejection and vulnerable to local ‘policing’ through physical and sexual assault. (2010:26)

Hate crimes against lesbians have also been read as ‘message crimes’ and as corrective not of the individual but of the social order. While men who rape lesbians in South Africa may intend to convey a message through the act of rape, this is not necessarily directed as a ‘warning’ to other lesbian women. The message may be to other men, asserting patriarchal power over women and affirming aggressive masculinity. Interpreting hate crimes against lesbians as ‘message crimes’ requires a careful interrogation of motive, intent and effect without which we may think we understand more than we do about histories and forms of violence post‐apartheid. Reading the ‘messages’ conveyed by violence too literally may mean that we fail to analyse what appears self evident and unchanging but is in fact complex and contingent. Focusing on the ‘message’ may also divert attention from an analysis of the conditions under which the transmission of violent messages is made possible.

In a section of her report on hate crimes in South Africa headed “Hate crimes are ‘message crimes’”, Harris draws on the definition of hate crimes provided by the American Psychological Association to argue that

hate crimes impact not only on the individual victim, but on the whole ‘hated group’. … They are different from other crimes in that the offender is sending a message to members of a certain group that they are unwelcome in a particular neighbourhood, community, school or workplace. (2004:22).

Reading hate crimes as messages works on Reading hate crimes as messages works on the assumption that the person/people to whom the message is directed does not already know and understand the message. Hate crimes, in this frame, work to remind those who have transgressed social norms of their place. The effect of this is to render hate crimes into exceptional events. In the context of South Africa, these forms of sexual violence operate less as message and more as normative practice. These acts do not take place in a wider social and political context of safety, tolerance and freedom, in which rape occasionally occurs as a form of punishment. These conditions necessitate a more careful reading of the ‘message’ of what has been termed ‘curative rape’. Why would such violent messages be necessary in a context where the unequal relations of power between men and women are perfectly and painfully clear?

I do not dispute the need to describe and define the ways in which South African lesbians are subject to particular, and sometimes intensified, forms of violence. However, given the prevalence of extremely conservative ideas about gender and sexuality in the country, I would argue that the terms ‘corrective’ and ‘curative’ rape should always be carefully qualified, if they are to be used at all.6 .. Continue reading

Haiti: No Doctor Available

In writing this piece I searched the internet for definitions of ‘access’ and came up with a range of gobbledygook that really says nothing.  So I came up with my own simple definition in relation to healthcare for poor and low income women.    It has to be free or minimal cost;  it has to be located in the neighbourhood; it must be  community focused;  it has to provide a range of services;  it has to have a referral system for specialist care which is also free and or minimal cost; it has to be welcoming and patient orientated;  it has to provide primary health care including education on reproductive health, sexual health, maternal health, nutrition and mental health support.

Unfortunately this is an ideal which probably doesn’t exist anywhere in the global south with the exception of the two pariahs of global capitalism, Cuba and Venezuela. It isn’t that Haiti is exceptional, its most certainly is not.   According to a recent Ted X talk quoted in ThoughtLeader,  – one new born baby dies every 10 seconds which is 10,000 babies a day. Every day some 800 women die in pregnancy or giving birth and 10 million a year, suffer from injury and or infection.  It’s the normalcy of death at the time of birth for women in Haiti and elsewhere which is most shocking.

Contrary to some media reports Haiti is far from being on the road to recovery.  Stories of camps being shut down, people being rehoused, factories opening, and a general air of what the President calls ‘Open for Business” are greatly exaggerated.  Behind the new factories there is a struggle for fair wages,  decent accommodation and healthcare.  There are struggles for compensation for land seized as people are left destitute without a means to make a living.  Cholera remains an emergency whilst the level of healthcare provision decreasing.

No amount of paintwork and covering of the structural and systemic cracks can hide the truth.  Over the past few months I have spoken to dozens of people, visited clinics and hospitals, observed patient / doctor visits, witnessed medical crisis and listened to the stories  told to me  by nurses, community organizers, and patients, most of whom are from the community of Jalouzi and Camp Acra in Delmas 33, as well as Haitian health officials and staff of Medicines Sans Frontier [MSF]

Jalouzi is a hillside neighborhood of about 200,000 people overlooking lower Petion-Ville.  Although it was not damaged by the earthquake many of the residents were still affected from being in other areas of the city in those moments.  It is accessible from two roads, one at the top and one below.  The view from the top is stunning. From here you can see  Port-au-Prince [PAP]looking east to the sea and north to the mountains.  You can also see clearly the newly built Clinton Oasis luxury hotel and of course those guests in rooms facing the mountain can see Jalouzi.   Jalouzi is one of those cracks which must be painted over and I am told this is being done through the curtesy of one of the newly opened Petion-Ville supermarkets who it is rumoured are painting the hillside houses.  The government may not feel it imperative to provide healthcare for the the poor but it is prudent to paint their houses, so at least from a distance, everything looks oh so quaint.

The only way to travel  through Jalouzi is by foot through a series of alley ways and narrow paths of gravel, stones or the occasional step, and for those like myself who are challenged by gravel and stones on slopes, difficult to negotiate.  The promised building of new steps has begun but is proving a slow process.  I am with Flaurantin Marie Anise, a community activist and founder of Le Phare [the light] which works with the most vulnerable women in the neighbourhood.  We had driven to the top so she could she could walk me down the hillside neighbourhood.  Flaurantin lives midway, where in addition to her home she has a small meeting room and clinic for dispensing over the counter medication.  She also runs a kiosk on the lower Jalouzi road and is the Jalouzi coordinator for Fam SOPUDEP an Aksyon [FASA]. 

It took us over an hour to walk down the hillside, largely due to my constant stumbles and fear of breaking a limb or two and needing rest periods from the associated anxiety.  Once down we had another 20 minutes walk to the FASA shop where we relaxed with sodas and warm bread.

There are no clinics in Jalouzi and the nearest truly free hospitals, are between 1 and 2 hours away by public transport and foot.   The nearest emergency maternity center is the Centre de Référence en Urgences Obstétricales (CRUO) run by MSF [1].    Most babies in Jalouzi are delivered either by the 150 Matwons living in the neighbourhood or women like Flaurantin who have no formal training but are regularly called to help with childbirth and other medical emergencies.  As we sat and discussed the difficulties of negotiating the hillside in a medical emergency we heard a commotion outside on the street and seconds later two men rushed into the shop carrying a pregnant woman.  Flaurantin immediately ushered them to the rear and brought out a stretcher for the woman who looked in her 50s and  appeared weak and confused.   She made no sound as if her body did not have the energy even to cry out.  Her breasts which should have been heavy were soft and clung to her chest.   A large sheet was found to provide some privacy as Flaurantin eased on  rubber gloves and proceeded to examine her.  She determined she had a few hours to go so it was decided to try to get her to the MSF CRUO hospital in Delmas 33. This required her being carried up a steep path, then across Petion-Ville into a tap tap taxi for a journey of about 40 minutes, then a further tap tap before reaching the MSF hospital.  She was lucky, her child, a boy was delivered safely and the two are now back home.

Everyone I have spoken to in PAP on health issues always mentions and speaks highly of MSF so I decided to visit the CRUO at Delmas 33 which opened two years ago. The hospital, a free emergency referral center for the whole of  PAP, admits  pregnant women who are “gravely ill’.   The MSF maternity project has a six year history which began in at the Maternity Judan Hospital in Delmas 18 and was open to any pregnant woman who was sick.  This was the first truly free hospital in PAP.  Although public hospitals are designated as free, in reality patients have to pay for medication, drips, sometimes even gloves and consultation.

“Before being admitted the hospital will present you with a list of things you have to buy but sometimes you buy everything but they don’t give you what you bought. For example there is a hospital ‘Community hospital’ which is cheaper than a private hospital but this hospital is very expensive. When you arrive they give you a prescription which you pay for but you never see all the drugs.   I was very upset as my brother was sick and I paid a lot of money but I don’t know what they did with the money I paid. “ [Resident]

Because the MSF was free, women from all over the city were attending the clinics and eventually they had to introduce specific criteria for admissions. They also moved to a new larger location near the airport which was called ‘Lopital Solidarity ‘.  The earthquake destroyed the hospital and two years ago  they moved to their present location where they only receive pregnant women who are in ill with complications like Eclampsia which is extremely common.

The nurses and women in Jalouzi had explained that Eclampsia was probably the most common pre-natal complication, an acute life-threatening illness which in its final stages causes convulsions followed by death.  Eclampsia develops from untreated high blood pressure, and is entirely preventable with proper pre-natal care.   Because of costs and other poverty related access problems including a lack of education on what services are available and where, many women do not attend pre-natal clinics therefore  illnesses including hypertension cannot be detected.  With poor nutrition, hunger, lack of clean water and repeated pregnancies due to marital rape,  lack of access to healthcare information, pregnancy becomes a life threatening condition.  But as one resident explained, everyone in Jalouzi is living in a life threatening environment as there is no emergency service.

“Last Saturday a neighbour of mine died.  She had an asthma attack but we could not find a way to bring her to a hospital.  I have been traumatized this past three days as this woman died in my presence because there is not even a clinic here. There is no emergency service here.  These kinds of emergency deaths are happening all the time.

Even now across the street there is a woman who is in a bad condition vomiting and we do not know what we can do. ” [Pastor Remy]

There is an emergency ambulance service operating in PAP [115/116] and some of the women had tried using it but never managed to get a response and even if they did they still had to get up or down the hill without proper steps and pathways.  Flaurantin explains one response from a doctor and from 116.

“ A woman was near to delivery and I called the doctor. He told me to give the woman Buscopan but I could not.  So I called the emergency 611 but they said they were in Carrefour and could not come now.   I managed to find some people to carry the woman up the hill and we took a tap tap to MSF CURO at Delmas 33.   The service is a good idea but there is not enough, they need more before they can call it a service for PAP. When we arrived the doctors told us the woman was very sick with high blood pressure and eclampsia. ”

As I understand it Buscopan is a drug to reduce muscle spasms of the gastrointestinal tract and according to my google search not recommended for pregnant women.  A strange medication to suggest to a woman in labour and disturbing disregard for patients.

The reliance on CURO and MSF  across the city was enormous.  The MSF manager of CURO* explained that the capacity in the public health system did not extend to  more complicated illnesses which is where MSF is now focused.  Nonetheless he admitted that it was not always easy in an extreme situation to define ‘emergency’.   The risk factors designated as emergency complications by MSF ranged from  multiple partners [increasing risks of STIs], poverty [poor nutrition and food security],  and age related risks, that is girls under 16 who were rape victims and are referred by MSF France which runs a programme to support rape victims in Cite Soleil.  And cholera remains a significant health issue so much so that MSF has a dedicated cholera facility at the emergency center as well as a separate hospital.  On a positive note MSF is predominantly staffed by Haitian doctors, nurses as well as auxiliary staff and most importantly is staffed 24 hours a day.   The day I visited there were three sets of tiny premature twins who were being cared for under a system called “Kango” where the baby is placed skin to skin on the mother’s stomach.  The very premature babies were in incubators and their mothers were allowed to stay until they reached full term weight which could be as long as three months.  On average they deliver 600 ‘at most risk’ babies per month.

In addition to  the risk factors mentioned by MSF,  women complained that quite often there were no doctors available in the public hospitals, a fact supported by a health official I spoke with.

“Sometimes there are no doctors or they have no medicine or there is no electricity. Sometimes it is all of these.” [Anon official]

Another pediatrician described the General Hospital and other public hospitals  as ‘very sick’ often decrepit with no anesthesia, no ER and no supervision.  Both Rea Dol and Flaurantin Ansie spoke of their experiences of being turned away from hospital during labour because there was no doctor.  Flaurantin explains as follows

“ I took a pregnant woman to one of the hospitals the Ministry of Health said we can use free of charge. When we arrived, the hospital told us we have to pay 4,500 goudes and if it is a complicated birth then it’s 10,000 goudes.  I told them they are thieves because it is supposed to be free for poor women.   I then took the lady to Petit Frere near Tabarre where she gave birth.”

“In another case a woman had a breech baby but by the time I arrived the baby had died.  I was not able to deliver the baby so I took the woman to the hospital.  They said there was no doctor.  I went to another hospital and again I was told no doctor.  I then took the lady and laid her on the street and covered her.  She was in labour even though the child was dead.  I stood up on the street and said who will help this woman.  I blocked a passing car and asked the driver, a man to  look  at this woman.   So he drove us to Delmas 18 MSF where they accepted the woman and gave her the treatment she needed. “

Another woman reported going to five hospitals when she was ready to deliver and being repeatedly refused until she found one that was willing and able to accept her.  Women also reported that many private hospitals refuse emergency patients if they cannot pay and in one instance a woman was turned away because she was short of 100gdes and later died.   The family sued and the hospital ended up having to pay US$36,000 in compensation.

MSF is not the only medical NGO used by Jalouzi residents. St Luc and Petit Frere et Soeur in Tabarre are also free but are even further away than the MSF facility.   However many of the faith based hospitals have come under threat as the Haitian government makes it more and more costly for them to operate by for example having to pay astronomical sums for importation of drugs and other medical equipment.  Some of the nurses I spoke with said their salaries had already been cut by  as much as 19% and there were threats of redundancies in nursing and administrative staff plus a reduction of beds in some of the hospitals.

Because these are the only entirely free hospitals and generally with good care, they are over subscribed serving hundreds of thousands. Any reduction in services would entirely undermine the already inadequate health service for the majority of PAP residents.

As one health official put it to me – for the rich, Miami can as well be included as part of Haiti’s healthcare provision.  The time it takes to fly to Miami International and drive to Memorial Hospital is probably less than the average waiting time of between 5 and 7 hours at any of the free hospitals.  But for most other people just getting to hospital is physically exhausting not to mention being sick at the same time.

[1] In PAP, MSF has the following medical centers in addition to CRUO;  2 MSF general emergency hospitals,  1 emergency stabilization center and 1 emergency Cholera response.

Interviews conducted with nurses from various public, private and faith based hospitals in PAP.  The nurses wished to remain anonymous.

This article was supported in part by the International Reporting Project.

Reducing rape to everyday speech

From Feminists SA – Rape as slang - or a banal misogyny


Almost everyday, I hear something that disturbs me; the use of rape casually, as a slang, mostly by males, on social media and in conversations.

“Rape” is used either negatively to represent damage (“That chemistry exam raped me”) or positively, representing triumph (“Yeah, I raped that chemistry exam”,  “Did you watch the game last night?”, “Did you see how that football team got raped?”).  Also, the term “frape” (Facebook rape) when a friend accesses your Facebook account and posts stuff without your permission, because it’s totally comparable to sexual assault. The casual use of “rape” undermines the seriousness of sexual assault. And when I point it out, I’m seen as being too serious or “not getting the joke.” Really, a joke about rape!

Therefore, the way the usage of “rape” as a casual term  is distressing and it disturbs and angers me because rape disturbs and angers me. Society has an inherent problem in dealing with rape and the rape culture, where violence against women is seemingly tolerated and treated indifferently. You see it in misogynist and violent Facebook and Twitter posts and images depicting sexual assault and violence gets thousands of likes, you see it when rapists do not get convicted and if they do, their sentences are lenient. Committing rape and equating it with winning, or something worth celebrating is disgusting.  Comparing “rape” to losing a sports game or failing test is equally as insensitive and damaging.

We need to be cautious about the words we use. My opinion is that language can alter perceptions and spread ideas, which become the basis of action, and using “rape” so casually trivializes the crime and contributes to the notion in society that rape is “not that bad.” Using “rape” as a slang is frivoulous and desensitizes the crime and reinforces the view that sexual assault is not an important crime and also makes light of the victims experience.

Even though rape is not the only word that people use casually in the context in exactly the same way. I also use words like kill (“My parents will kill me”). However, the use of murder is not as problematic because both rape and murder, although used in the same situation have completely different histories and meanings in society.

Murder is universally accepted and has always been considered as a horrible crime, it is reported and investigated and the fault lies with the murderer and not on the victim. We know that society’s view of rape is still murky when it comes to understanding and prosecution and it is somewhat supported in society, where the objectification of women is seen as male privilege. Even when rape is reported, it is often not investigated properly and the rapist has a greater chance of not being convicted. According to the One in Nine Campaign, in South Africa, 90% of rapes are not reported, and when the case is reported only 15% make it to trail and thereafter, only 5% are convicted. Also, the “fault” of rape is more often than not, portrayed as being the victims’………...Continue reading on Feminist SA

Haiti – Making it easier to prosecute rapists but will this make it easier to report rape?

From IPS, Haiti seeks to bring about  major legal reforms  to make it easier for victims of rape to prosecute their attackers.  Great news and in the past year there have been more successful prosecutions of rapists.  But still there are millions of Haitian women who fall completely outside the radar of the courts, the government, local and international NGOs and any other official body you can think of.   There also needs to be a recognition that sexual violence takes place beyond camps, in  established neighbourhoods such as Jalouzi and Cite Soleil.  And women are  more often too fearful to report sexual violence especially when the perpetrator is  someone they know – family member, neighbor, co-worker.  Legal reforms are needed and a step in the right direction particularly including marital rape but this has to be in addition to  education, rape centers in all the neighborhoods  - if women do not have access to support, then they the violators will remain free.

How well this will work remains to be seen particularly as like most other initiatives it requires the support of donor agencies.  Even then once the legal reforms are in place the next step is make it easier and safe for women to report rape and other forms of sexual violence.

 The amendments to the penal code would precisely define sexual assault in accordance with international law, legalise certain types of post-rape abortions, and criminalise marital rape.

The changes also mandate state-funded legal aid to victims who cannot pay for counsel. Discrimination on the basis of “sexual orientation” would be banned in limited circumstances, in a first for Haitian law.

When someone beats you, rapes you, and it’s all over – you just keep it inside you? That would make me crazy.

“I think it’s an exciting time,” Rashida Manjoo, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, said in February at a conference on the reforms. “It’s a small start with the penal code, but it’s a good start.”

Lawyers and activists at the conference pored over a three-page draft of the reforms. They’re optimistic that Haiti’s parliament will approve them within the year. Haiti’s prime minister and the ministry of justice have indicated they support the amendments.

But Manjoo warned that the law won’t be fully implemented or enforced without adequate funding from donors and participation by the public.

In the three years since the 2010 earthquake, the issue of sexual violence has gained an increasingly high profile. Foreign media reports referred to a “rape epidemic” in the tent camps scattered throughout Port-au-Prince.

A January 2012 study by a coalition of legal and women’s groups found that at least one member of 14 percent of all households displaced by the quake had been sexually assaulted.

Some experts, notably anthropologist and author Timothy Schwartz, cite a lack of independent data and question whether the prevalence of rape has been exaggerated by some of the advocacy organisations mentioned in this report.

But even Schwartz applauds the effort to reform the penal code by these same groups. He said it represents a welcome departure from the usual approach to structural problems in Haiti, where non-governmental organisations stage piecemeal interventions instead of bolstering the state….

Improvements at the grassroots

In the meantime, Haitian citizens, the police, and lawyers have attempted to address the violence at the grassroots.

In some tent camps, internally displaced Haitians formed brigades to safeguard against criminal threats, including rapists. A report by Poto Fanm+Fi found that these brigades, because of their strong community bonds, were usually more effective than patrols by United Nations peacekeeping troops at stopping sexual violence.

At police stations throughout the capital city, there are now officers trained to receive and assist female victims, Marie Gauthier, the Haitian National Police’s Coordinator for Women’s Affairs, told IPS.

“Carrefour, Fort National, Kenscoff, Port-au-Prince, Cite Soleil, Delmas, Croix de Bouquet. . .” Gauthier listed off the different stations in city districts. Still, “now we need vehicles,” she said, “to go quickly and arrest the perpetrator.”

Survivors of sexual violence often turn to KOFAVIV, a Haitian women’s group, for moral and humanitarian support. The quake destroyed the group’s headquarters, displacing its founders into a tent camp.

But the group secured funding from international donors, including the U.S. government, allowing it to move from the camp into a two-storey office and expand its programmes. Women come from every corner of Port-au-Prince for bi-weekly gatherings where survivors can bond and share information with one another.

In the courts, significantly more rape cases are going to trial, according to lawyers for Bureaus des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), a prominent Haitian law firm. Nearly a third of criminal trials during last summer’s court session in Port-au-Prince were for rape charges.

Thirteen convicted rapists were sentenced — a majority of those to maximum jail time. More prosecutions followed in the fall.

“It’s extremely significant, considering that a mere 10 years ago, barely any cases were being prosecuted,” Nicole Phillips, an attorney with the BAI, told IPS. She called the prosecutions and reforms to the penal code “a massive step forward.”

In the past, judges would demand victims present medical certificates obtained within 48 to 72 hours demonstrating they were raped. But it was difficult or impossible to get them, due to stigma, trauma, and prohibitive costs.

“The trials are getting more sophisticated,” Phillips said. The courts now rely more on expert witness testimony from medical professionals. She praised judges and the police in Port-au-Prince for taking rape accusations more seriously.

More work to be done

But Haiti’s progress in combating violence against women faced a high-profile test at the beginning of the year, and arguably failed.    Continue on IPS 

The Week on Sunday (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.


Ova the poetry of Bernedette Muthien

it took a full week
of straitjacketing generations
of genocidal femicidal trauma
for the clay dam wall to explode
and flood me in torrents
of collective grief
a poet with no words
a lifelong activist struck dumb
i choke on love for the dead
thousands of beautiful women and children a year
i puke for my incested cancerous country
and gag grappling for compassion of
perpetrators and the morally blind
in this breathtaking country
so brutally drenched in the blood
of ordinary women and children
i discover anew
that i fail to
my spiritual cadaver
is dragged under by the concrete limbs
of victims perpetrators witnesses
majority blinkered burdens
too busy scrabbling for survival
to fight for justice
as i contemplate the imminent refreshment
of my childhood starvation
my hunger for food agency adventure
leads me to stare the dragon in its ambered eyes
like a mirror of my ever-present shadows
Demon! Patriarchy…
how can I love you to death…?

15 feb 2013
bernedette muthien -

In Honor of Childhood-less Children/Adults.

My most visceral thoughts are right now with all the children who have been robbed of their childhoods by war and conflict. Oftentimes war and conflict can be in the home, in the family. Sometimes it is literally in war trenches. It is the time to speak out for the protection of the African child’s childhood where the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and other documents such as the African Charter on the Rights and Responsibilities, fall short. Heaven, bless the child to speak and be heard. Heaven, protect the child.