|Apinda Mpako, Pan Africa ILGA|
|Apinda Mpako, Pan Africa ILGA|
Research undertaken by the Hate Crimes Working Group (HCWG) shows LGBT persons are disproportionately affected by hate crimes. Almost half of hate crimes in South Africa may be related to sexual orientation of the victims.
Based on 394 interviews in the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Western Cape, preliminary research, led by UNISA’s Professor Juan Nel, also shows that the average age of victims is 31-years-old and most victims reside in a township area, completed secondary education and were unemployed.
According to a report carried in Mamba Online, the research was undertaken to pilot a groundbreaking standardised form developed by the HCWG for victims to report hate crimes in several categories, including nationality, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity.
A hate crime is defined as a criminal act committed against people, property, or an organisation that is motivated in whole or part by prejudice because of the group to which the victim belongs.
South Africa has seen an increase in the so called 'corrective rape' where lesbian women are subjected to physical violence and rape in a bid to 'make them straight.'
Earlier this month, LGBT activists took to the streets to demand the re-arrest of a suspect who was charged with raping and beating a lesbian in Capetown.
The research found that while the majority of victims in its sample were heterosexual (69%), 29% were gay or lesbian and 2% were bisexual. In addition, 49% of all incidents documented during the research were related to sexual orientation while 49% were related to an individual’s nationality.
Professor Nel, however, warned that these figures may not be representative of all hate crimes in South Africa as the research for various reasons primarily targeted organisations that dealt with xenophobia and LGBT issues.
With regard to race, the research found that 76% of victims were black, 11% were coloured, 7% were white and 2% were Asian. Victims included mostly females (52%) followed by 47% males and 1% intersex.
Regarding gender, 48% of victims identified as female, 45% identified as male and 7% identified as transgender. Most of the victims were Christian (61%), whilst 23% practised Islam and 16% were from other religions.
Police in South Africa have also been blamed for not following up on cases involving LGBT persons. They however have made some grounds with the latest arrest coming of three men suspected of murdering a gay man in a string of murders that has left the gay community wondering if it might be the work of serial killers.
The findings also revealed that most hate crimes incidents occurred between 18h00 and 23h59 (49%). Sixty-three percent of the incidents included physical violence, 59% included verbal abuse whilst 44% included rape and robbery.
Most of the offenders were unknown to the victims (68%). The majority of cases (54%) were not reported to the police.
In cases that were reported, the majority of victims indicated that the police were helpful and supportive (76%) and that they also received supportive medical assistance.
The HCWG said that it would use this preliminary research to revise the draft monitoring form and will also develop a guide for easier use. Training will also be offered to participating organisations and an online version will be created.
South African law does not recognise hate crimes as a unique category of crime and therefore these are not reported as such by the police.