An international petition, backed by a number of South African groups, has called on the minister of justice to speed up the enactment of hate crimes legislation in South Africa.
The move follows a recent shocking incident in which a group of men broke into a Mpumalanga lesbian couple’s home and raped them, seeking to “remind them that they are women”.
This latest “corrective rape” attack is one of many over the years. In a number of cases, the perpetrators go unpunished and the victims never find justice.
Last week, the government announced that Cabinet had approved the publishing of a draft version of the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill for public comment.
While this has been welcomed, the process of lobbying for the bill has taken more than a decade. In 2013, Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, John Jeffery, said that he planned to have a bill put to Parliament in 2014.
Two years later, there are fears that the legislative process could continue to drag on for some time to come. A hate crimes law will create the legal category of ‘hate crime’ in South African law for the first time, allowing activists to gather and track statistics on the size and nature of the problem.
Concerns also remain that the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development’s Rapid Response Team to fast-track pending and reported LGBTI related cases in the criminal justice system is not proving effective.
Activists say there is often little action or a lack of urgency from the Team and that provincial Rapid Response Teams are also not always fulfilling their mandates to provide support to the victims and to follow cases from reporting to prosecution.
The All Out online petition urges Michael Masutha, the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, and members of the South African Parliament, to speed up the enactment of the hate crimes bill without further delay.
The petition – which already has more than 40,000 signatures – is supported by Mambaonline.com, GaySA Radio, the Hate Crimes Working Group, Access Chapter 2, and the Love Not Hate Campaign.
You can show your support and sign the petition here.