This is the kind of post you never want to write…
but someone has to…
In South Africa, there is a rampant phenomenon known as corrective rape…
throughout the country men are raping lesbians in an attempt to “cure” their sexual orientation…
(watch an excellent Dan Rather corrective rape report here…)
overall the statistics are alarming…
In general, South Africa has the highest rate of rape in the world: 1 in 2 women can be expected to be raped at least once in her lifetime, and 1 in 4 men admitted that they had committed rape at one time or another.
Even the president Jacob Zuma has been charged with rape.
According to court testimony, he raped the daughter of his deceased friend: a 31-year-old woman and family friend at his home in Forest Town, Johannesburg. She was an AIDS activist and HIV positive. Zuma knew this, and yet he did not use a condom. He told the court that to reduce the chance of contracting the disease he took a shower afterward. He also told the court that he believed the victim was sending him sexual signals by wearing a knee-length skirt and no underwear under her kanga, or wrap, and sitting with her legs uncrossed, and that it was his duty, as a Zulu man, to satisfy a sexually aroused woman.
(For a timeline of the trial read here.)
These comments bring the recent controversial painting of Zuma rendered by the white South African painter Brett Murray into a new light. The painting is named The Spear, and in it, Zuma stands bravely like a Russian Lenin, a defiant champion of the people–and yet, there is something off with the civilized depiction, for he is nude from the waist down.
(Above please see the Brett Murray painting in question alongside its proxy, an actual portrait of Vladimir Lenin.)
With Zuma’s rape charge in mind, I would argue now that Zuma’s exposed loins are thereby revealed to be a brutal weapon, a weapon of twisted tradition and history, the embodiment of South African misogyny, patriarchy, and violence against women–and by extension, yes, the violence of Africans and Christians against the LGBT community. (Let’s not conveniently forget that South Africa is predominantly a Christian nation. And before Muslims rejoice at the savagery of Christians: let’s also remember that in 2011, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation led a walkout of Muslim states from the Human Rights Council in Geneva because they thought the gay rights legislation promoted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would promote “licentious behavior” and lead to the “legitimization of many deplorable acts, including pedophilia and incest.”)
The Spear painting has been vandalized, and there have been uprisings and arguments regarding its significance- with black Africans incensed that a white South African could disrespect the ANC president by exposing his painted penis to the world. But I wonder why these same Africans are not rioting in the streets over the victimization of women in general, and the rape and murder of lesbian women in particular, and the terrifying shouts of “We’ll show you you’re a woman” that resound in the night as these lesbians are raped and stabbed across South Africa.
The perverse irony is that, legally speaking, South Africa is ahead of America in the legal struggle for gay rights, and certainly ahead of Africa, and much of the world.
When the ANC came to power in 1994, the Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the anti-apartheid crusader Reverend Allan Boesak supported gay rights, and in 1996, President Nelson Mandela spearheaded the adoption of a constitution that overturned sodomy laws, and gave the LGBT community rights in areas such as adoption, immigration, inheritance, and medical aid. Gays now serve openly in the South African military, and in 2004, the South African common-law definition of marriage was changed to include same-sex marriage.
On paper and in the courts South Africa is one of the freest, most loving places in the world.
But in the streets and in the townships the battle continues against ignorance, against violence, against hate, against bigoted police officers, hateful Christian ministers, and THE SPEAR, Africans that believe “gayism” is un-African, and that “jackrolling”–rape by organized gangs–is the only cure.
How this African attitude toward gayness corresponds with black American attitudes and black church attitudes toward the LGBT community is the subject of a study or documentary I’d love to to see…
Until then, please pick up the May 28, 2012 New Yorker, read “Violated Hopes” by Charlayne Hunter-Gault, and support the movement to stop the madness.
You can begin your fight for change by leaving thoughts, comments and questions below.
Thanks for listening. And as we fight, may we all keep laughing to keep from crying.