Thursday, August 9, 2007

Violence against lesbians in South Africa

I often criticize mainstream media for devoting too much attention to fluff pieces when we face so many real and serious problems. Yet, I understood the temptation today as I read this piece in the BBC reporting the serious and constant threat of violence that lesbians living in South Africa face daily. As I read of the murders and the harassment leveled at innocent women, I was saddened to the point of wanting to disbelieve the story. One feels helpless in the face of such atrocities, and it is this sense of helplessness that leads to the desire to ignore the problem and just not think of the violence occurring. Yet something must be done to help.

My second impulse after reading this piece was to feel deep resentment towards the organizations that are supposed to use their authority to protect and help, yet take few steps to do so. While the government of South Africa has legalized same-sex marriage, Human Rights Watch reports that it “needs to do more to protect lesbians” citing the “partial or inadequate investigations by authorities into allegations of homophobic abuse.” Although it is not mentioned in the BBC piece, I also felt angry with the Catholic Church for their continued intolerance of homosexuality, opposing same sex marriage and “the social acceptance of homosexuality and same-sex relationships.”

So what can be done to help women who live so far from us in societies so different from our own? What can we do for them as we struggle to solve similar problems? Other than supporting groups like HRW and the Global Fund for Women and working within our own communities to end violence and intolerance, I have no answers. But feigning unawareness is not an option.

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