Luleki Sizwe’s Ndumie Funda (left) with
Department of Justice representative Tladi Tlali

Following another horrific lesbian murder, it’s been announced that a special hate crime task team, consisting of government officials and LGBT activists, is being set up.

According to the Cape Town-based organisation Luleki Sizwe, Tuesday’s historic move shows that the government “has made a concerted effort to make [the] LGBTI community feel welcomed and heard by their government”.

The formation of the task team was announced after a second meeting between representatives from governmental departments – including Justice (DOJ), National Prosecutors Office (NPO), Social Development, crime victims empowerment groups and the South African Police Service (SAPS) – with activists from organisations including Luleki Sizwe, Triangle Project, Free Gender, End Hate Crime and Rape Crisis.

“The fact that there was a meeting on the 14th of March and again a meeting today, with the representatives of various departments of government and the progress we have made proves that this is a sensitive government that listens and is open to collaboration with its people,” commented Department of Justice representative Tladi Tlali.

An intervention plan was announced along with a six person task team that represents a cluster of government departments including judiciary, policing and social development.

The government has asked Luleki Sizwe and other NGOs that attended the meeting to select six further national representatives from the LGBTI community with grassroots following and support and who have existing working structures in the LGBT community.

On the agenda for the task team will be:

  • the terms of reference for operation,
  • situational analysis for needs of victims of hate crime based on sexual orientation,
  • a legislative intervention plan,
  • a public awareness strategy co-developed with LGBT NGOs and communities,
  • LGBT sensitive shelters and social development.

Luleki Sizwe noted that one of the biggest challenges will be the legislative intervention plan. It said that the government and Department of Justice are working on the beginnings of a hate crime bill and are considering other ideas to strengthen the constitutional protection of the LGBT community, including:

  • To amend the sexual offences act, with sexual orientation as an aggravating circumstance, which would lead to heavier sentences,
  • the use of any magistrates court as an equality court to address any harassment, discrimination or hate speech. This could be a viable preventative measure, which does not require paying for a lawyer,
  • to consult on the minimum sentences for hate crimes inclusive of rape on the basis of sexual orientation,
  • to stress LGBT sensitivity in the service charter for victims of crime.

At the meeting there was a strong emphasis placed on sensitivity training in the SAPS, DOJ, NPO and social development structures in the short and medium term. Luleki Sizwe also stressed that the Department of Education should get involved to improve tolerance among South African youth.

There was also a commitment on long term issues, such as national public awareness and engaging with traditional and spiritual leaders to break through homophobia in communities.

“I acknowledge the response from the government. It shows that they are willing to work with the gay community, but we continue to fight for LGBTI rights until the last drops of blood are spilled…” said Luleki Sizwe’s Ndumie Funda.

LGBTI representatives will meet on the 10th of May to decide on the final six representatives who are to be announced on the 12th of May to the Department of Justice.

The task team will begin its work on the 15th of June, a day before Youth Day which marks the historic youth uprisings in Soweto.

This positive news comes in the wake of another brutal murder and rape of an openly lesbian woman, 24 year old Noxola Nogwaza, on April 24th in Kwa-Thema township, outside of Johannesburg.

Human Rights Watch has called on the South African government to publicly condemn the killing and other attacks on LGHBT people.

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