Justice Minister Jeff Radebe

South Africa’s Justice Minister Jeff Radebe has spoken out for the first time about the country’s epidemic of the ‘corrective-rape’ of lesbians.

Radebe appeared on SABC after receiving a petition signed by 135,000 people calling for ‘corrective-rape’ to be declared a hate crime. South African law, however, does not recognise the concept of hate crimes.

The petition was started on Change.org by Cape Town-based activist group Luleki Sizwe and has had the biggest response to any petition in the site’s history. The petition also urged the minister to meet with activists “to find ways to work together in the fight against corrective rape”.

In the interview with anchor Vuyo Mbuli on Morning Live, Radebe said that he was aware of corrective rape, describing it as “a violation of the human dignity of women” and that “there was a process in hand to deal with this particular issue”.

He said that corrective rape “went against the grain of the constitutional principles that all of us fought for” and that “all people must enjoy their human rights regardless of sexual orientation”.

He added that there was “a possibility of meeting” with activists but disappointingly appeared to resist the idea of categorising corrective rape as a hate crime by insisting that “rape is rape regardless of the motive of the offender”.

After the interview, Luleki Sizwe expressed its disappointment at Radebe’s position and confirmed on its blog that to date “he has NOT contacted us for a meeting, so we wait, and we will continue to petition him until we get a meeting”.

Radebe, however, said that his department is prepared to contact the South African Law Reform Commission “in order to look at this issue much further.”

According to Luleki Sizwe around 500 women a year report being the victims of corrective rape while 31 lesbian women have been murdered because of their sexuality.

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