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AT LAST, the task team set up by the Justice Department to investigate hate crimes against gays and lesbians seems to be getting going.
The team was set up 14 months ago, following demands from activists working to stop the so-called “corrective” rape of lesbians and a spate of attacks on gays, lesbians and transgender people.
It seems to have been beset with problems, including an inability to define the terms of reference, shortages of funds and a lack of leadership. Two civic organisations have now pulled out and others have complained about delays.
But next month the team is to release a report on court cases involving hate crimes. The study, which was carried out at two high courts and eight lower courts, has examined the reasons for the absurdly long delays in concluding some of these court cases; the case against those accused of murdering Khayelitsha lesbian Zoliswa Nkonyana was postponed more than 40 times over five years.
Activists say hate crimes against lesbians and gays are on the increase.
At least eight people have been killed in recent weeks across the country. The latest assault to be revealed is the attack on a Johannesburg lesbian who was beaten by security guards after kissing her girlfriend goodbye in the city centre last month.
The work of the task team is urgent and important, and it is essential that adequate resources be applied.
It is also essential, as a letter writer on this page points out today, that faith communities and the political authorities lose no opportunity to condemn hate crimes.
Many religious and political leaders prefer to pander to the prejudices of some of their followers than to speak out against a form of injustice which should horrify us all.
Like the religious leaders of the apartheid era who claimed to find justification for racism in sacred texts, those who fail to stand up against this new discrimination will be remembered for their lack of courage and humanity.