The Global Interfaith Network calls on churches and the South African government to speak out against gender-based violence

“Life is sacred and violation of life is a violation against God the creator of life.”

Dr. Nontando Hadebe, theologian, Convenor, Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians, Southern Africa.

The Global Interfaith Network for People of all Sexes, Sexual Orientations, Gender Identities and Expressions (GIN-SSOGIE) wishes to express how saddened and horrified we all are by the recent spate of attacks on women and gender non-conforming people.

On the 13th of May Matiisetso Aletta Taylor Nonki Smous, a black lesbian woman, was buried in Kroonstad in the Free State, South Africa. She was raped and burned to death in the first week of April, but only buried in the second week of May as the DNA results were delayed.

On the 14th of May reports began circulating on social media that another black lesbian woman had been killed on Saturday night in Soweto. Her name was Tambaai Lerato Moloi, her body was found in Naledi, Soweto, and she had been raped and stoned to death. She was buried last Saturday in Naledi, Soweto.

Two days before, on the 18th of May, it was reported that a gay man, 26-year-old Stephen Nketsi was found dumped in a hole in the township of Botshabelo, 45 km east of Bloemfontein, also in the Free State.

These violent incidents against LGBTI people are playing out in the context of a country where women, particularly those who are poor and black are not safe. In recent weeks there have been multiple cases of murder of (mostly black) women.

Those who have been following the news in South Africa, will have heard of the brutal killing of Karabo Mokoena by her boyfriend. On the same weekend on which Tambaai Lerato Moloi was killed in Soweto, three other women, Bongeka Phungula, Popi Qwabe and 15-year-old Nombuyiselo Nombewu were also killed.

The Interim Steering Committee (ISC) and Southern African members of GIN are united in condemning these attacks on women and LGBTI and gender non-conforming people and decry what Rev. Jide Macaulay (member of the ISC, House of Rainbow) laments as ‘the dangerous silence of the church’:

“When churches fail to speak out against the violence that is meted out to lesbian, gay and gender non-conforming people, they are failing in their duty to protect and affirm all life.”

Rev. Nokuthula Dhladhla, pastor of the House of Prayer and Worship, Soweto further points out,

“As Psalm 24:1 says ‘The Earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it.’ That to me says that we all have a right to be here – and all means ALL. No one has the right to take someone else’s life because of the fact that they are different because God created us to be different. No one has a right to rule over anybody’s life and take a life of anyone because they’re not same. I believe that as churches and especially as religious leaders we have a mandate to stop preaching these hateful messages that are harmful to LGBTI people, that create the hate that is out there – the hate that leads others to take life and use the hateful messages that they hear from their leaders to justify killing others.”

Rev. Judith Kotze, part of Inclusive and Affirming Ministries (IAM), notes that it is important that we create spaces to lament the violence so that our rage does not fill us and cause us to become like those who perpetrate the violence.

Ms. Thuli Mjwara, Process Facilitator for IAM, articulates the pain of watching daily the killings of our black lesbian sisters due to intolerance, prejudice, and homophobia.

“What cuts deeper is knowing that often in cases of “corrective rape” and gruesome murders of lesbians, the offenders are not strangers but persons known to the victim. This goes to show how unsafe we are as black lesbians. Despite that, we will not be silent or hide. We are part of our communities and refuse to be silent whilst being preyed upon. The violence on our bodies will not be swept under the carpet as we demand justice for the victims and safety for the living.”

Londiwe Xulu, also from IAM, notes: “They will not finish us.”

The Global Interfaith Network, therefore:

Decries the violence which is meted out to LGBTI, and gender non-conforming people, and women and children in general;

Calls upon the churches to immediately cease the promotion of homophobia, transphobia and the patriarchal understandings of gender that underpin, sponsor and promote this violence;

Urges the authorities in South Africa to speak out against the patriarchal norms and values that underpin, sponsor and promote this violence, and to prioritise the putting in place of systems and strategies to protect LGBTI, and gender non-conforming people and women and children from the scourge of patriarchal violence.

Requests the members of the Global Interfaith Network to join in prayer and solidarity with all South Africans;

Encourages the members of the Global Interfaith Network on the ground to join together with others to campaign against this scourge.