Black lesbians and transgender men in townships and rural areas face a climate of discrimination and violence, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Monday.

“A segment of the South African population lives in terror and feels like there is no one to turn to, including the police,” a HRW director Graeme Reid said in Johannesburg.

Reid, who heads the organisation's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender rights programme, was speaking at the release of a report on violence and discrimination against black lesbians and transgender men.

The report found the abusers of people known or assumed to be lesbian, bisexual, or transgender acted with near-total impunity.

The report entitled “We'll Show You You're a Woman: Violence and Discrimination Against Black Lesbians and Transgender Men” is based on interviews with more than 120 individuals in six provinces and over a number of years.

Reid said the study was done to improve the lives of those affected by discrimination.

“We are not asking for a lot. We are asking that people can live their lives in a manner of their choosing, according to their sexual orientation and their deepened sense of gender identification... And to do so without discrimination and the constant threat of violence.”

Another HRW official, Dipika Nath, said existing laws and policies on sexual orientation had failed to protect people or provide redress.

“Police, prosecutors, and the courts need to make effective implementation of these laws and policies a priority,” Nath said. - Sapa