Patricia Nell Warren

Accused Murderers of Lesbian Soccer Player on Trial

Filed By Patricia Nell Warren | February 11, 2009 12:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Gay Icons and History, Politics
Tags: Eudy Simelane murder, hate crimes against LGBT people, lesbian soccer player, Matthew Shepard, murder, South Africa

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:



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,

Busi Skosana, Family of Eudy Simelane, 073 888 1514

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Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | February 12, 2009 1:35 AM

Patricia, as frequent as rape, murder and theft occurs in South Africa against any woman (55 thousand reported and an estimated 450 thousand unreported in 2006)what is the specific reason to presume that it was because she was lesbian?

I ask this because all of these crimes are horrible, but I do not see anywhere in the press release that indicates that it was because she was lesbian. This is an epidemic in South Africa that needs to be addressed on behalf of all women. I am glad to see Gay groups participate and hope that they equally advocate for all victims.

According to the South African press release, there has been an epidemic of murders of LGBT people there. Every other news item I have read about this case (and I've been following it for nearly a year) indicates that her family and associates, as well as South African activists, believe that Simelane was targeted for being a lesbian. I am inclined to trust their on-the-spot conclusion. It will be interesting to see what comes out of the trial.

Please keep us up to date as the trial progresses, Patricia.

This is an important lesson: all the legal protections in the world can't stop this sort of violence completely.