The brutal murder of a South African lesbian activist who was raped and then stabbed and stoned to death has been condemned as a “hate crime” by Human Rights Watch.
The US-based rights group said the killing of Noxolo Nogwaza was the “latest in an epidemic of brutal homophobic attacks” and urged the South African police and government to make effort to track down her killers and stop such crimes.
“Nogwaza's death is the latest in a long series of sadistic crimes against lesbians, gay men, and transgender people in South Africa,” said Dipika Nath, researcher in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender tights program at Human Rights Watch (HRW).
“The vicious nature of the assault is a potent reminder that these attacks are premeditated, planned, and often committed with impunity.”
Nath said Nogwaza’s face and head had been completely disfigured by stoning, that she was stabbed several times with broken glass, and the evidence suggested that she had been raped.
“A beer bottle, a large rock, and used condoms were found on and near her body.”
Nogwaza was killed on 24 April after an argument in a bar in Tsakane, a township neighboring Kwa-Thema, where Nogwaza lived. The HRW statement said that the argument had begun after some men in the bar propositioned Nogwaza’s female friend.
Activists say gay South African women are targeted for what some call “corrective rape,” the BBC reported.
Unlike in many African countries, homosexual acts are legal in South Africa and the constitution outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation. But activists say gay and lesbian people are often attacked in townships.
South African police ministry spokesman Zweli Mnisi said that the police prioritise violence against women and children but do not look at sexual orientation when carrying out their investigations, according to the BBC.
“To us, murder is murder, whether somebody is Zulu, English, male or female. We don't see colour, we don't see gender,” he said.
Prayers were held for Nogwaza outside her home on Saturday and some activists reported hearing threatening comments from young men in the crowd.
They fear some of the killers may have mingled with the mourners.
In 2008, female footballer and gay rights activist Eudy Simelane was also killed in Kwa-Thema east of Johannesburg. Two people were given long prison terms for her murder and rape, although prosecutors denied that her sexuality had been a motive.