Opinionista Sonwabiso Ngcowa 25 August 2014

Black men: We have the power to end an era of brutality

Another young black lesbian has been murdered in a local township. The men of our country have the power to end this scourge. So why are they not doing it?

You don’t know her. She is not a famous model. She was murdered last Friday. She is black. She is lesbian. She is working class. She lived in Ventersdorp. Her name is Gift Disebo Makau. She was only 18 years old.

She must have been precious to her parents. They named her Gift, after all. She died a horrible death. She was raped. That was not enough – they strangled her with a wire and forced a hosepipe into her mouth, pumping water into her body. Such brutality. Whose sons or brothers are these?

I wrote a novel earlier this year, called In Search of Happiness. The book is dedicated to all young people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered or intersex. Your love is as beautiful as love can be. One day all people will understand and respect love, however it comes. This time will come. Sometimes, in brief moments, it is here already.

I am deeply saddened by the brutal murder of Gift. She was stolen from her family, from her friends, and from the world because of her sexuality. This is a layer of herself that posed no threat to those who murdered her.

All persons who believe in human dignity for all, that human rights are for everyone and not just heterosexuals, must stand up. We must rise with determination to make sure that such horrible crimes come to an end in South Africa. This is not just a struggle for the LGBTI community; it involves all of us.

My call is for people to allow themselves time to understand and respect love, whatever form it takes. My urgent call is that all males who think it is okay to rape and murder must correct their thinking. It is a heinous crime that can never be justified under any circumstances.

Stop!

I am a heterosexual man. But it really does not matter. It does not matter who or how I love. What matters is that I am a human being who can fall in love. I just happened to fall in the heterosexual side of the sexuality spectrum. And heterosexuality is not the only sexuality.

Heterosexual men who commit these crimes need to respect the continuum of sexuality. They need to respect fellow human beings. And this is for any man, educated or not, rich or poor, from any cultural background. All a man needs to know is an aspect of Ubuntu: you should not inflict a pain you would not like to feel on another person, regardless of their sexuality.

I am disappointed that this monster continues to live in our communities. It is shocking that a human being can do this to another. Shame on the perpetrators of these crimes, that young lesbian or gay people can’t live their full lives near you. Your ignorance and brutality forces them behind a veil of uncertainty. “What will my brother do to me? Hurt, ‘corrective rape’ or murder me?” they ask themselves as they see you approach.

Black men need to form a vanguard, using our voices to speak against this injustice. We need to clear our names so that we are not seen as monsters who want to hurt women because they are lesbian.

Our Constitution protects the rights of everyone. Lesbian women have every right to fall in or out of love like the rest of us. We, as a nation, cannot afford for the gains of our freedom to be reversed by men who feel threatened by other people falling in love with whomever they want. DM

Sonwabiso Ngcowa, author of In Search of Happiness, is from the township of Masiphumelele, Cape Town.

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