Lesbian soccer player Eudy Simelane has become South Africa's Matthew Shepard. Her grisly murder last year, following torture and gang rape by several young men, has set off a tidal wave of outrage in South Africa. Simelane, who once played on South Africa's national women's soccer team, has become the tragic icon for activists determined to end the anti-homosexual violence that continues to rack their nation...despite protection for sexual orientation by the South African constitution.
The trial starts today. Hundreds of people demanding justice are organizing a mass demonstration outside the courtroom in the town of Delmas, intending to send a message to the judge and jury, and to the country. Delmas is located in Mpumalanga province. The press release that follows, which was just sent out by South Africa's Lesbian and Gay Equality Project, tells the story as well as I can:
TRIAL INTO MURDER OF LESBIAN SOCCER PLAYER SET FOR 11 - 13 FEB AT THE DELMAS COURT
Over five hundred activists from across the country will gather at the Delmas Circuit Court in Mpumalanga from 11 to 13 February 2009 to attend the trial that led to the murder Eudy Simelane, an open lesbian and rights activist.
Simelane, a former national Banyana Banyana soccer player, was tragically killed and her body discovered near a ditch in her Kwa-Thema home township on April 28 last year. Five men were initially arrested and one was released in October following over a dozen court hearings at the Springs Magistrate Court. Four men stand trial and will be asked to plead to the charges of robbery, murder and possibly rape.
Activists from a broad range of social structures, including the 777 Campaign to End Hate, the Treatment Action Campaign, the African National Congress from Kwa-Thema and Delmas, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) network - the Joint Working group - will be among the hundreds demonstrating outside the court and following the proceedings.
This case is only one of two cases in the country that has reached trial into a brutal murder of a black lesbian from a township, following the Zoliswa Nkonyana's case that begin in December 2008 at the Khayelitsha Magistrate Court, despite over 30 known cases across South Africa that involve rape, assault and even murder of LGBTI people. Activists have been raising their voices against hate crimes targeting particularly black lesbians and calling for measures to recognize and stop this growing spate against yet another vulnerable group in society.
This case is expected to ensure justice for Simelane and all the other LGBTI people whose cases never reached the court rooms.
For further information you can contact:
Phumi Mtetwa, Lesbian and Gay Equality Project, firstname.lastname@example.org
Busi Skosana, Family of Eudy Simelane, 073 888 1514
Crossposted at Outsports.com