By Thandile Konco
Cape Town - The assault and murder of 22-year-old Lonwabo Jack, just two days after a LGBTQ+ protest at Parliament demanding government intervention in hate crimes against the queer community, has enraged members of the public.
Jack, who was an openly gay man, was allegedly raped and stabbed to death on his birthday in Mau-Mau, Nyanga East. Just a week prior, Andile “Lulu” Ntuthela, another member of the gay community, met the same fate. Following the murders, the LGBTQ+ community has taken to the streets in several protests this week demanding government intervention.
Luleki Sizwe Womyn's Project, an NPO committed to fighting against hate crimes such as corrective rape and sexual assault, said in the last 10 years at least 31 lesbians have been murdered for their sexuality and roughly 10 lesbians are raped every week in the Western Cape.
Hate crime manager at OUT, an organisation that has been assisting the LGBTQ+ community for more than 25 years, Roché Kester, explained that corrective rape and hate crimes against queer bodies are perpetuated by several factors in South African society.
Kester explained that lack of education on gender identity and sexuality is a contributing factor to homophobic attitudes.
“People are not educated on gender identity and different sexual orientations. Structures in our society have clear gender binary. Systems like schools and universities do not educate or include enough information in curriculum on the LGBTQ+ community.”
Lack of education and understanding of what homosexuality and gender roles are leads to fear. People fear things that they do not understand which leads to intolerance and eventually violence against queer bodies, she said.
“South Africa is built on patriarchy in religion and culture which often dictate what gender roles are. These structures limit people in terms of exploring gender identification through rules and implication. They have a fixed image of what a relationship or marriage is supposed to look like. For anyone challenging this status quo, it is hard to express yourself beyond these norms.”
“The danger in having one way of life considered correct, just and ‘normal’, is that it leads to the lack of acceptance, intolerance and viciousness to anything alternative to that.”
The Triangle Project’s Health and Support Service Manager, Sharon Cox, said that there have been six murders of gay people in two months.
“We hate to have to repeat again that we are sad and we are angry. The murder of people because of their sexual identity has gone on for too long, sending the message that their lives are exposed.”
Cox added that the incident is just one of many that show how lived realities are so far removed from the constitutional laws that protect queer bodies. People’s attitudes and beliefs towards the gay community have not shifted and remain intolerant.
“During the peak of gender-based violence and femicide, the government rightfully came out and spoke strongly against it, condoning the violent behaviour against women. The LGBTQ+ community has experienced a number of murders in a short space of time and our leadership has said nothing about the Hate Crime Bill, which has been lying around for years.”
Cox stated that the president needed to show some leadership and that “Parliament needed to act and do something because marches and protests can only do some much”.
The Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill has become a topic at the forefront of the protests and has been deemed a solution to the surge in hate crimes. The controversial bill which was first introduced in 2009 is still before the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and has not yet been implemented.
The bill has been highly contested and promoted by several political, social and religious entities nationally. The legislation in the bill would criminalise hate speech without the requirement of it inciting violence. This would prompt changes to the Equality Act.
Jack’s cousin, Nokthula Jack, said that the family is completely heartbroken. Despite the relief that the suspect has been apprehended, Jack said that the family feels strongly that there were other people involved in the murder.
“We are hurt as a family because we accepted Lonwabo for who he was and his sexuality since he was a child. We loved and accepted him and never judged him, we are saddened that he could not be accepted by others and that someone felt that they could do as they please and kill someone because of how they chose to live.”
“We are happy that justice was served because the suspect confessed to the murder in court on Wednesday. We want to know the reason, and as a family, we want those who were complicit in the murder to be held accountable We are certain that he did not act alone.”
The family, who are struggling to cover funeral costs, said that they open to contributions from the public, be it the form of food items for the funeral, chairs or anything that could be of aid.