UN High Commissioner for Human
Rights Navi Pillay

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has condemned the scourge of corrective rape in South Africa while urging the world to emulate the country’s constitutional values.

In an editorial for

That’s why, she says, “it is especially saddening that the country reborn under Nelson Mandela’s watchful eye should now be the setting for a far more sinister phenomenon that undermines everything the rainbow nation stands for: so-called corrective rape”.

Pillay goes on to recount recent incidents of the rape and murder of lesbian women, commenting that “convictions are the exception” and that “very few other cases of so-called corrective rape have even made it to court”.

She notes that the government is acknowledging the seriousness of the situation and mentions the task team, consisting of government officials and LGBT activists, that is being set up to tackle the issue.

“These are all steps in the right direction. The contribution of community-based organisations, including groups representing victims, will be critical in identifying how the authorities can better discharge their responsibility to protect people from this kind of targeted, hate-driven violence,” she says.

States responsible for ensuring that everyone enjoys the same rights

Pillay says that she understands that “in some countries, homosexuality is something that runs against the grain of majority sexual mores. But healthy societies cannot approve of violence inflicted on other human beings for any reason”.

She adds: “Let there be no confusion: in speaking up for the rights of those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex, we are not calling for the recognition of new rights or trying to extend human rights into new territory.

“We are simply reinforcing what the UN human rights treaty bodies and human rights rapporteurs have confirmed repeatedly: existing international law protects everyone from violence and discrimination, including on grounds of their sexuality or gender identity.”

“States are responsible for ensuring that everyone can enjoy the same rights – no matter who they are, where they come from, what they look like, or whom they love. South Africans should need no convincing of this.”

Pillay, who began her four year term as High Commissioner for Human Rights in September 2008, has previously condemned homophobia across the world and also decried Uganda’s infamous and now-stalled Anti-homosexuality Bill.

She was the first woman of colour to serve on the High Court of South Africa and has also served as a judge of the International Criminal Court.

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