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Jan 31, 2012

Free Gender is a group (and blog) by a group of young black lesbian South Africans living in Khayelitsha township, Cape Town. Formed in 2008 with the mission to raise awareness about the rights of lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex women in the community, Free Gender participates in protests, meetings, and gives educational talks. Free Gender has been heavily involved in the campaign for justice for Zoliswa Nkonyana, the 19 year-old lesbian who was stabbed and stoned to death in February 2006.

It’s taken six years, but four men have been found guilty of Nkonyana’s murder, with sentencing to follow. Members of Free Gender, along with other activist groups including NGO Triangle Angle, are calling on the Khayelitsha Magistrate’s Court to impose a harsh sentence.

The Nkonyana case is just one example in many of violence directed towards lesbians in South Africa. Through the country has a constitution that outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation, and is one of the nations in the world that has legalized same-sex marriage, LGBT people in South Africa continue to face discrimination and violence. Though not confined to South Africa, it is the country most closely associated with the practice of so-called ‘corrective’ rape — the rape of lesbians or women perceived to be lesbian by attackers who claim to be trying to ‘correct’ their victims’ sexuality.

A severely under-reported crime, some international attention was paid to ‘corrective’ rape after the 2008 high-profile rape and murder of South African national women’s football team midfielder Eudy Simelane. Still, despite the international outcry (which includes nearly 1 million names on this Avaaz petition), the continued pressure by grass roots organizations from around the world, and the June 2011 United Nations resolution on LGBT human rights, the consequence to perpetrators of violence against (especially black) lesbians in South Africa is still frequently lenient or altogether non-existent.

This is why groups like Free Gender, which operates with no funding, are so essential. If you wish to support their work you can make a donation using the bank account details they’ve posted here.

Free Gender and the Heinrich Boll Foundation held a community meeting in November 2011

Free Gender and the Heinrich Boll Foundation held a community meeting in November 2011

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  1. Dorothy Flynn says:

    How can we help? I live in Southern California and would like to be of help. What do you need? How can your sisters in the USA help you?


    Dorothy Flynn

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