Duduzile Zozo was murdered in Thokoza, outside of Johannesburg, in July 2013
While he may have sentenced the killer of Duduzile Zozo to 30 years in jail, the judge in the case revealed an unsettling and dangerous lack of understanding about LGBT people.
On Tuesday, we reported that Judge Tshifiwa Maumela sent Lekgoa Lesley Motleleng to jail for raping and murdering the 26-year-old lesbian woman last year, including brutally shoving a toilet brush into her anus.
While the sentencing was widely touted as a victory for the LGBT community, we share the Forum for the Empowerment of Women’s concern that 30 years for such a brutal and final act, without any apparent mitigating circumstances, appears, on the face of it, to be inappropriate.
Perhaps Judge Maumela believes that Motleleng can be rehabilitated. For the sake of our community when he is released, we certainly hope so.
And while Maumela was praised for expressing his support for the rights of LGBT people he also made a number of disturbing missteps.
Addressing so-called “corrective rape,” in which men are said to attack and rape lesbian women for the purpose of “correcting” their sexuality or gender appearance, he stated: “Lead your life and let gays and lesbians be.”
That sounds reasonable enough, but his justification – admittedly without having access to his full ruling – appears to be deeply troubling.
According to reports, he explained: “No one has been given the right to correct alcoholics. No one has been given the right to correct those who take too much salt or sugar. No one has been given the right to correct others when it comes to the right to love their own gender… You can’t interfere with how someone chooses to live.”
His comments not only equate homosexuality and non-conforming gender identity to an addiction or an unhealthy habit, but imply that LGBT people have a choice in their sexuality or gender identity and that they theoretically could indeed be “corrected.”
This adds credence to the commonly-held belief that homosexuality, for example, is a “lifestyle.” It’s a demeaning insult to Duduzile, and the source of much of the anti-LGBT hate seen across Africa.
Instead of addressing the basis of “corrective rape” and many other anti-LGBT tropes – namely that we can fix ourselves or be cured (and by implication “convert” others to our “lifestyle”) – he simply tells the public that doing so is none of their business.
It points to the desperate need for increased sensitisation and education about basic human sexuality and gender identity, not only for our judicial officers and police but also for the broader public.
No, judge, we can’t be cured, fixed or corrected. And no, our sexuality and gender identity are not due to disease, addiction, trends or the consequences of bad choices. They are simply another facet of human existence. Get it right already!