Thursday, July 19, 2007

The persistence of hate

Although gays in South Africa enjoy full legal equality (including full marriage), they still suffer from virulent bigotry, which has been leading to a recent increase in hate crimes against them.

The Sunday Herald reported on the rape, torture and execution-style murder of gay rights activists Sizakele Sigasa and Salome Masooa:

Sigasa, 34, a prominent lesbian rights activist, was shot six times in her head and collarbone. Her underpants had been used to tie her hands behind her back, and her ankles had been tied together with the laces from her own trainers. Masooa, 23, had been shot through the back of her head.

The pair had left a Soweto party to take a friend home on the night of the attack. Their bodies were later discovered near their car by a jogger. Alhough no arrests have been made, in a country where daily murders are commonplace, gay rights
organisations said the killings were driven by "lesbophobia".

The Joint Working Group, the umbrella organisation for South Africa's gay and lesbian associations, said the murders were part of a growing epidemic of hate crimes. In the past two months there have been two other murders of lesbian women in black townships. Simangele Nhlapo, a member of a support group for women living with Aids, was raped and murdered; her two-year-old daughter was raped and left with both her legs broken. In another incident, 16-year-old Madoe Mafubedu, living openly as a lesbian, was raped and repeatedly stabbed until she died.
Reports like these make me thankful that although gays do not have full legal equaltity in the United States, we at least are not subject to this form of brutality.

I guess that's if you don't take into account:

Kenneth Cummings Jr, murdered by a man who says he was carrying out God's "code of retribution"

Danny Overstreet, shot to death by a man "looking to waste some faggots"

JR Warren, beaten to death by three teens before being run over

PFC Barry Winchell, beaten to death while sleeping

Fred Martinez Jr, beaten to death with a boulder

Billy Jack Gaither, beaten to death before being set on fire

Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder, shot to death in their home

Sakia Gunn, stabbed to death by two men

Steven Haataja, burned to death

Andrew Anthos, 72 years old, beaten to death with a metal pipe

The list goes on and on.

The FBI reports that there were 1,213 gay victims of hate crimes in 2005. This makes them the second largest group targeted by hate after blacks. Yet unlike blacks, gays are not covered by federal hate crimes legislation.

One can argue about the merrits of hate crimes legislation itself, but to exclude the second largest victim group is indefensible.

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