Murdered Activists: Sizakele Sigasa and Salome Masooa
On July 8 2007 the bodies of Sizakele Sigasa and Salome Masooa were found murdered. At their memorial services the women were praised for their dedication to women. This is small recompense for the fact that they were raped and tortured after already living a life of fear. Their lives were brought to a brutal end because they dared to publicly love.
Though their deaths raised awareness of the fact that specific hate crimes legislation is needed it has not been drafted. Women who identify as lesbians are still being murdered in South Africa.
Nine men are currently standing trial for the death of 19 year old Zoliswa Nkonyana, who was also living openly as a lesbian. Due to the violence that was inspired with hatred lesbians have been to afraid to protest in Khayelitsha where the trial is taking place. According to the Cape times Campaign 777 named for the date on which Sigasa and Masooa were murdered, have approached police to convene a meeting with Khayelitsha’s LGBTI community to “hear concerns” relating to the investigation of hate crimes, victimisation of gay men and lesbians, and homophobia.It also called on police to create a system of recording hate crimes and collecting statistics related to hate crimes. Keegan Lakay, of the Commission for Gender Equality, said the organisation was “frustrated” by the delays in bringing Nkonyana’s alleged killers to trial. The trial has been postponed until May 19
There has been increasing violence against lesbians in South Africa. The fact that women are being raped before being murdered, implies that it is their rejection of men that has led to this violence. Rape prior to their murders suggest punishment for sexual orientation. Since rape is an expression of power over women it is possible to assume that the alleged perpetrators of these crimes were attempting to enforce mandatory heterosexuality as well as solidify the male right to female bodies.
Globally women are taught to be sexually available to men at all times. When a woman identifies as a lesbian she is declaring her allegiance to women, and therefore a rejection of patriarchal control. Some men are unable to “own” both male and heterosexual privilege, and as such find lesbians to be threatening. The penis in these instances comes to represent male hatred of women as it is used as the ultimate weapon of submission. Not only were these women openly lesbian, they were active in the GLBTI community, thus their rejection was not limited to the private sphere. Rape was a tactic to enforce the submission that these women refused to grant publicly. A way to “normalize” their behavior to the patriarchal standard.
To some degree the alleged murderers have accomplished their goal, as lesbians are now afraid to protest a crime that was clearly aimed at the heart of their community. Despite the gains of the GLBTI movement, many are still closeted because of fear of violence. For lesbians the fear is two fold in that they are subject to violence not only for their sexual identity, but for their gender. Despite attempts to increase awareness, and education campaigns, men continue to kill women at alarming rates. Each murder, and each act of sexual violence are not isolated incidents, rather they are a connection of a wider belief in female devalument and male entitlement. Patriarchy is a tenacious global foe, that refuses to go gently into the good night. I wish I had a solution to the violence. It leaves me impotent with rage, for how can loving someone and being born a woman be so terrible as to merit death. The beauty that exists in this world is tempered by hatred, ignorance and horror. I lament with a womans soul and in solidarity with Sizakele Sigasa, Salome Masooa,Zoliswa Nkonyana as well as those of have gone to a nameless cold grave, I demand the cessation of the rivers of blood.