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Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, A/HRC/17/26/Add.1, 18 May 2011: South Africa

South Africa

Allegation letter

204. On 14 January 2011, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, jointly with the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment sent an allegation letter to the Government concerning the situation of MG, a woman who was allegedly beaten and raped by a man who intended to “cure” her from her sexual orientation, and NF, a local community activist supporting victims of “corrective” rape.

205. According to the information received, MG, a lesbian woman, and her friends were walking home when AN, a man she had known for a number of years and who had never objected to her sexuality before, asked her for a cigarette. She stayed to smoke with him, and followed him into his room when he refused to pass the cigarette to her. The man then locked the door and started hitting her while she tried to fight back. MG was strangled with a wire, tortured and raped for five hours by AN who intended to “turn her straight”.

206. Since this incident took place, the court-case addressing it had reportedly been postponed numerous times, last time to February 2011, and AN was currently out on bail, roaming the same streets where MG lived. This had forced MG to go into hiding for fear of her safety.

207. Ms. NF, a local community activist reached out to MG through a small local charity she set up in the Cape Town township of Gugulethu to rescue and support survivors of “corrective” rape. She was currently covering and supporting the criminal proceedings of MG. Although AN was forbidden to enter Gugulethu as part of his bail conditions, he had reportedly broken those conditions constantly and threatened NF various times.

208. Since his release he had allegedly asked family and friends to attack NF, constantly harassed her and made threats against her life and against her partner. This had forced NF to go into hiding as well, which had prevented her from carrying out the assistance work she provided to other women victims of violence.

209. Serious concern was expressed about the physical and psychological integrity of MG and NF. Further concern was expressed that these attacks did not constitute isolated incidents and that lesbian women in South Africa faced an increasing risk of becoming victims of violence, especially rape, because of widely held prejudices and myths that maintained they would change their sexual orientation if they were raped by a man. Furthermore, concern was expressed over increasing reports that hate crimes against lesbians were not being recognized or punished by the South African legal system.

210. The Special Rapporteur requested information from the Government regarding the accuracy of the alleged facts, as well as further clarifications concerning any investigation, medical examinations, and judicial or other inquiries that may have been carried out in relation to this case; the details regarding the current status of the judicial proceeding against AN; the protective measures that night have been put in place to ensure the safety and integrity of MG and NF; and the measures that might have been undertaken with a view to eradicate sexual violence against women generally, and particularly regarding the prevalence of “corrective” rape.


211. The Special Rapporteur regrets that at the moment of finalizing the report, she had not received an official reply. She recalls that communications are an important part of the cooperation of Governments with her mandate and urges the Government to respond to the concerns raised.

212. The Special Rapporteur takes this opportunity to make reference to Commission on Human Rights Resolution 2005/41 on the Elimination on Violence against women, which provides that women should be empowered to protect themselves against violence and, in this regard, stresses that women have the right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.

213. The Special Rapporteur also wishes to recall the obligation by States under international human rights law to exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate and, in accordance with national legislation, punish acts of violence against women, whether those acts are perpetrated by the State or by private persons.

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