Eudy Simelane was a brilliant soccer star, captain of South Africa’s national women’s team.
She was also an out lesbian and an activist for LGBT rights.
In April 2008, a group of men attacked her with a sickening brutality. She was gang-raped, beaten, and stabbed more than 25 times. The assault was so vicious that police even found stab wounds on the bottom of her feet.
South African authorities believe that the hate crime was a case of “corrective rape,” a crime that is horrifyingly common in South Africa. Even in major cities, lesbians live in fear of being targeted for rape.
Women who have been attacked then have a second nightmare to live through, as South African police are often unwilling to pursue rape investigations, particularly when the victims are lesbians. South Africa has one of the highest rates of violence against women in the world, and the numbers seem to be rising.
The term “corrective rape” comes from the idea that men are gang-raping women to “cure” them of their lesbianism.
LGBT and women’s rights groups point out that the attacks are really an attempt to stop women from behaving in a way that seems threatening to the male-dominated status quo, such as excelling in sports or dressing in a way that seems masculine.
One man pleaded guilty to his part in Simelane’s rape and murder.
Three more pleaded not guilty. Their trial was delayed last month when a witness for the prosecution backed out, but finally began again today.
The fact that a trial is happening at all is a step forward for South Africa’s LGBT community, but there is a long way to go.