Dr Louis Heyns

As US lawyers prepare to vote on the use of the ‘gay or trans panic defence’, recent South African murder cases have seen suspects justifying their attacks because the victims allegedly came on to them.

The gay or trans panic defence is a legal defence, usually against charges of assault or murder, in which the accused claims that the victim’s gay romantic or sexual advances caused them to go into a state of violent temporary insanity.

Two high profile murder cases in South Africa in the last few months have seen the accused claiming that they killed their victims for similar reasons.

Well known Durban businessman Nhlanhla Gasa (63) was murdered in March by Mbulelo Arthur Ntlauzana (25), who said that Gasa tried to seduce him.

He claimed that while they were watching TV, Gasa put his hand on his lap, kissed him on the cheek and looked at him in a sexual manner.

Ntlauzana, who was sentenced to 30 years in prison, stabbed Gasa 12 times and dumped his body and his burnt out Jaguar near the Tugela River.

More recently, the body of Cape Town paediatrician Dr Louis Heyns (59) was found on the Strand beachfront last week in an area known as a gay pick-up spot.

According to the Star newspaper, one of three men arrested in connection with the murder claims that he attacked Heyns after losing his temper when the doctor approached him and his brother on the beach for sex as they smoked tik.

He also claims that Heyns asked them what their rate for sex was.

Heyns’ car was stolen and his body was found in a shallow grave in a sand dune. Marthinus van der Walt (33) and his brother Sarel (42) have been charged with the murder while Juan Liedeman (37) was charged with robbery with aggravating circumstances.

“It is the perpetrator now becoming the victim by claiming that the gay victim deserved this because they made a sexual move on them,” commented Dawie Nel, the director OUT, the Tshwane based LGBT health and well-being group. “And of course it’s nonsense,” he said.

Nhlanhla Gasa

“It’s actually straight forward murder with a homophobic motive in that action; that the person deserved to die because they are gay,” Nel noted.

He added that he believes that these gay panic defence style murders “fall within the definition of a hate crime”.

Meanwhile, the American Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section has put forward a resolution that would stop defence attorneys from using the gay or trans panic defence in court.

“This resolution puts an end to a longstanding injustice in our legal system and gives a voice to countless lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender victims of violence, one we never hear because they are no longer here to speak for themselves,” commented D’Arcy Kemnitz, executive director of the National LGBT Bar Association.

The American Bar Association’s House Of Delegates will vote on approving the resolution at their annual meeting in August.

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