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Police Urged to Investigate Murder of South African Lesbian as Anti-Gay Crime

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Human rights organizations have come together to speak out and urge police to investigate the brutal killing of South African lesbian activist, Noxolo Nogwaza, as an anti-gay crime. On April 23, Nogwaza went to a bar with a female friend. Some men reportedly propositioned her friend, which led to a verbal altercation between Nogwaza and the men. Her friend left the bar, and Nogwaza was last seen by an acquaintance soon after the fight. Her body was later discovered in nearby alley.

Human Rights Watch, an organization dedicated to defending and protecting human rights, is among the many groups pressuring police to do more to find the prepetrators. The organization called the attack eerily reminiscent of the rape and murder of another South African activist, Eudy Simelane, in 2008. Both were "out" as lesbians, both were tortured and sexually assaulted before being killed, and the bodies of both were dumped in public places.

Nogwaza’s horrific murder is part of the ongoing problem of “corrective rape,” a term used to describe when a man rapes a lesbian with the intention of “changing” her orientation.  In South Africa, more than 30 lesbians have been killed in “corrective rape” cases since 1998. It is estimated that at least 10 lesbians are raped or assaulted each week in Cape Town alone.

South African police ministry spokesperson Zweli Mnisi says that while the police prioritize violence against women and children, they do not look at sexual orientation when conducting investigations.

"To us, murder is murder, whether somebody is Zulu, English, male or female - we don't see color, we don't see gender," he told the BBC's Focus on Africa news program.

“I am so disturbed by this horrific action,” says Ntsupe, chairperson of Ekurhuleni Pride Organizing Committee (EPOC), an LGBT advocacy organization in South Africa. “It is the responsibility of the South African government to protect all its citizens.”

EPOC and the Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL), a group of organizations in Africa that work to ensure equality  for lesbians, are calling on supporters of equality and dignity for all to join in action for justice. Read how to get involved here.

GLAAD will continue to monitor media coverage of this investigation.