South Africa’s Police Minister Fikile Mbalula had admitted that LGBTQI victims of hate crimes are justified in their fear of reporting incidents to the authorities.
He made the comments at the launch of the Action Indaba on Gender Based Violence and Protection of Vulnerable Groups on Friday in Eldorado Park.
In a copy of his speech, as provided by the SAPS, Mbalula lashed out at the men behind the ongoing violence against women, children and the LGBTQI community.
“It is men against women, men against children, men against gays and lesbians, men against infants, men against the elderly, men against whoever they think is not correct in their own estimation – this cannot be sugarcoated any longer,” he said.
“There is an apparent total breakdown of acceptable human behaviour in our country,” he stated. Not only did Mbalula slam a culture that tolerates these kinds of crimes, but he also admitted that the police itself is at fault and that victims often face secondary victimisation.
“There are police and societal barriers to reporting gender based crimes to the police and this contributes heavily to the scourge,” Mbalula said.
“Often victims say they were chased away from police stations or their case was not treated seriously or they were viewed with suspicion, re-victimised, humiliated or simply ignored by our police.
“We must give communities and our vulnerable groups understanding of their rights and expectations so that we could be held to account effectively,” said the minister.
“No victim must be sent away from a police station without a case being opened and a proper interview made. We need not see bruises to open a case. Each slap on the face is a potential femicide. Each unwanted touching is a potential rape. Each nasty word, harassment to LGBTQI community is a potential hate crime.”
Mbalula committed himself to “[make] it easier and less traumatic to report these crimes”, adding that, “A victim of violence must have confidence that when she or he files a police report that they will receive justice and the perpetrator will be punished.”
Mbalula also said that television was a powerful medium through which to influence people’s perceptions and criticised shows that “reinforce the misogynistic, patriarchal, men-power-wielding customs…”
He slammed the creative industry for its “portrayal of women and children as sex objects” and its “crude caricature portrayal of gays and lesbians” that “[puts] these communities at risk” and “dehumanises them as objects of ridicule”.
Mbalula called on the industry to produce “screenplays, stories and media articles that encourage respect and love for women and girl children” and “promote harmonious lifestyles that accept [the] gay community”. He explained that, “This is what the US television sitcom Will & Grace achieved for America.”
The minister laid out a “6 Point Plan” that will ensure that victims are “treated with respect, dignity and interviewed by a trained police official in a victim sensitive manner”. The plan includes victims being given legal, medical, social and psychological help.
Mbalula also promised to “proactively” provide victims with “feedback on the progress of their cases on continuous basis”.
According to a recent Love Not Hate study on hate crimes, 41% of LGBT South Africans said they knew of someone who had been murdered due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. An astonishing 88% of victims of discrimination and violence revealed they had not reported these cases to the police.
Among the reasons cited for not reporting incidents, included concerns that police would not take them seriously, would do nothing with the complaint, were homophobic, or even worse, were the abusers themselves.