“Perhaps…I am the face of one of your fears. Because I am a woman, because I am Black, because I am a lesbian, because I am myself — a Black woman warrior poet doing my work — come to ask you, are you doing yours?” – Audre Lorde in “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action”

Eudy Simelane.

Millicent Gaika.

Mvuleni Fana.

Tumi Mkhuma.

Zoliswa Nkonyana.

Sizakele Sigasa.

Salome Massooa.

We honor you.

We love you.

Since 1998, over thirty lesbians have been killed in South Africa as a result of “corrective rape” (rape intended to punish a lesbian and believed to change or “correct” her sexuality). Some estimate that at least ten lesbians are raped or assaulted each week in Cape Town alone.

“I’m gonna teach you a lesson,” the attackers sometimes shout.

“You are not a man. I am the man.”

“You will see what you are missing.”

“Let me show you how to be a real woman.”

Their words pierce like daggers. Deep.

It was 2006 when 19-year-old Zoliswa Nkonyana was raped and killed by a gang of about twenty men. The case has been postponed thirty-three times. Five years later, justice is still unserved.

A horrendous double rape and murder of lesbian couple Sizakele Sigasa and Salome Massooa occured in July 2007. The women were tortured, gang raped and shot near their homes.

Two years ago, a group of men raped and murdered 31-year-old Eudy Simelane, a lesbian soccer player. She was stabbed twenty-five times in the face, legs and chest. Simelane’s trial produced the first conviction when one man pleaded guilty to her rape and murder.

In 2010, Millicent Gaika, a 30-year-old lesbian was raped and beaten for five hours by a man who attempted to strangle her with barbed wire. Photos of her swollen, blue-black face and scarred neck on the Internet led to international petitions that called for such cases to be prosecuted as hate crimes. However, the man arrested for the rape was freed on bail. When he began following and threatening Gaika, he was rearrested and released again.

As a result of the slow (or lack of) police response, South African lesbians are taking matters into their own hands.  Volunteers go from door-to-door to raise awareness. And the number of groups fighting “corrective rape” is growing. Activist Ndumie Funda, whose fiancée was brutally raped, recently met with officials who promised to take action, including setting up a meeting with top police commanders.

“We want the victims to tell their stories,” Funda told The Globe and Mail.

Women have been doing just that.

Mvuleni Fana, a former soccer player that was raped walks around wearing a jacket that says, “I’m lesbian and proud.”

“It’s sending a message of saying no matter how much of pain you can put me through, no matter how much things you can do to me, you can never change my sexuality,” Fana says in an ESPN documentary.

“I’m a survivor at the end of the day,” Tumi Mkhuma, another athlete and rape victim explains. “Other women have been raped and been killed. They’ll never get a chance to be alive again.”

But they live.

Their stories. Their courage. Their strength.

They live.

We replace hate with hope. We replace tears with libations of love. We replace silence with resounding prayer.

We honor our sisters for doing the work so many are afraid to.


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