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’As long as the Hate Crimes Bill isn’t passed, the LGBTI community will never be safe in SA'

Protesters wave a sign for acceptance of the LGBTI community during a demonstration in Taiwan. (File photo: AP)

Protesters wave a sign for acceptance of the LGBTI community during a demonstration in Taiwan. (File photo: AP)

Published Jun 5, 2021


Aubrey Boshoga had looked forward to returning to his job as a flight attendant for South African Airways.

The contemporary artist and socialite had in the past few weeks expressed his excitement to his family about returning to his old job.

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The 48-year-old would, however, never get the opportunity.

In the early hours of Monday morning, Boshoga’s lifeless body was discovered outside his home in Observatory, Johannesburg. He had been viciously stabbed several times.

CCTV footage recovered showed a white car dropping off Boshoga’s battered and bruised body outside his home.

While Boshoga’s murder is one of the hundreds that occur regularly in South Africa, his death has caused national outrage.

Aubrey Boshoga’s lifeless body was discovered outside his home in Observatory, in Johannesburg, in the early hours of Monday morning. It is suspected that the 48-year-old was a victim of a hate crime. Supplied image.

That’s because it's been suspected that Boshoga was murdered because of his sexual orientation.

With his death suspected to be a hate crime, Boshoga became the tenth member of the LGBTI community to have been brutally murdered in South Africa just this year.

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Just two months ago, 34-year-old Siphamandla Khoza from KwaZulu-Natal was brutally murdered. His body was found in a ditch after he was stabbed and had his throat slit.

Khoza had been drinking with neighbours in Ntuzuma before he was attacked and humiliated because of his sexuality.

While the Hate Crimes Bill continues to gather dust in parliament, the number of deaths in the LGBTI community continues at a shocking rate.

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Activists and allies of the LGBTI community have reacted with shock and horror at the latest murder.

The second-oldest LGBTI organisation in South Africa, OUT, has been left outraged.

“Beyond being outraged there is a definite feeling of grief from OUT for the community members that have been so brutally slain,” said Roche Kester, Hate Crimes Manager at OUT.

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“The greatest concern is for the safety and protection of LGBTI persons in South Africa. At this point, it feels as if the vulnerability that community members experience is amplified and that no one is safe.”

While Boshoga’s murder increased the tally of deaths in the LGBTI community in South Africa, Kester believes the number is far higher as many hate crimes are not reported in the country.

“Hate Crimes have always been a fixture in relation to LGBTI lives. These recent brutal attacks are only a fraction of the crimes that are experienced by LGBTI individuals.

“Due to secondary victimisation and the nature of certain cases (specifically sexual assault and discrimination), the true reflection of the extent of hate crimes has not been adequately recorded or reported.”

Kester says the delay in the passing of the hate crimes bill has contributed to the high levels of crimes in the country.

“With no proper legislation to protect LGBTI individuals, there is no serious recourse. Once made law, it will allow judges to consider prejudice, bias or intolerance (such as on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, among others) in a crime as an aggravating factor in the sentencing of perpetrators.

“While it is indeed already illegal to assault, murder and rape, the consequences for crimes motivated by hate need to be more severe than ordinary crimes. This is because hate crimes are ‘message crimes’ that harm entire communities, making millions feel unsafe to live their lives normally.”

Despite the shocking increase in hate crimes in the LGBTI community recently, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said this week it had no means of pushing to expedite the passing of the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill.

The Bill is seen as essential for protecting the rights and lives of members of the LGBTI community.

It has been reported that progress in the passing of the bill hinges on the outcome of two court cases in which hate speech was in contention: South African Human Rights Commission v Qwelane and South African Human Rights Commission v Masuku. The department said the Bill had not been deliberated because of the two cases.

Kester says as long as the Bill isn't passed, the LGBTI community would remain a vulnerable group in South Africa.

“LGBTI persons remain a vulnerable group in South Africa. The police service has failed to adequately respond to the seriousness of crimes faced by this community. Factors like patriarchal beliefs in culture and religion also dictate the exclusion and mistreatment of LGBTI persons.”

Kester believes both the police and the government have failed the LGBTI community.

“In the last year, entities such as the National Task Team, Rapid Response Team and Provincial Task Teams designated with the duties to prevent and react to hate crimes have become completely dysfunctional,” said Kester.

“Budget constraints, staff incapacitation and lack of attendance specifically by the police service have ensured the ineffectiveness of structures set up to monitor and track cases related to hate crimes.”

Activists such as Kamva Gwana, with the group Hashtag Queer Lives Matter, have also been critical of government.

"Our government has chosen to put our community on mute, has chosen to put the LGBTI community and the lives of these people on mute," Gwana said this week.

Aubrey Boshoga’s lifeless body was discovered outside his home in Observatory, in Johannesburg, in the early hours of Monday morning. It is suspected that the 48-year-old was a victim of a hate crime. Supplied image.

Kester adds that the Department of Justice needs to do better too.

“The DOJ needs to ensure that there is a budget in place to provide preventive and reactive responses to hate crimes of LGBTI persons. Public awareness is key in speaking on issues related to LGBTI persons and the DOJ has failed to adequately address the barriers and injustices experienced by the LGBTI persons.

“Further, there need to be measures of accountability to ensure adequate means of protection by the South African Police Service.”

The LGBTI community faces various challenges daily in South Africa, says Kester.

“LGBTI people experience structural, interpersonal and administrative discrimination. They are called derogatory names and belittled because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Secondary victimisation exists from state facilities like the South African Police Service as well as the health sector.

“The lack of acknowledgement of non-binary and inter-sexed individuals on forms as well as the lack of gender-neutral bathrooms hampers practical inclusion of LGBTI persons. LGBTI persons are misgendered and paraded as spectacles from a number of service providers.”

Aside from the police and government needing to step up, Kester believes education is key to protecting the LGBTI community.

“Communities need to be educated on the diversity of sexual orientation and gender identity. Binary notions need to be dismantled and diversity needs to be the key driver to acceptance of LGBTI persons.

“It is of utmost importance to ensure consistent and effective messaging of LGBTI persons. Visibility and ally-ship from government is key in ensuring the normalisation and understanding of vulnerable groups.”

The Saturday Star