Mounting violence haunts South Africa’s gays and mobilizes activists

From the streets of New York City to the townships of South Africa, the LGB&T rights movement and its opposition are engaged on an unprecedented international battle. Globalpost carries an article by Erna Smith, the first of 12 in-depth reports from key locations at this pivotal time in history, telling highly personal, often overlooked stories from the fight. The first report is from Cape Town, South Africa.

Just as Nono was beginning to understand her lesbian sexual identity at the age of 18, a male cousin began to rape her. Before the first attack, he admonished, “Now I am going to teach you how to be a lady.” He threatened to kill her if she told anyone.

Nono, who has asked that her last name not be used, learned two years ago that her cousin had been shot and killed in an unrelated incident. “In my heart I was so happy,” the 29-year-old said of her cousin’s death. “I thought, ‘Now I can live my life like I want as a lesbian.’”

Nono said she never reported her abuse to police. She belongs to a silent majority of gay South African women who have been victimized by “corrective rape,” a controversial term describing the practice of straight men raping lesbians to “correct” their sexual orientation.

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