Beaten. Butchered. Burned. The recent murder of Andile Ntuthela (fondly known as Lulu) has left the LGBTIAQ+ community reeling as we are faced, once again, with the brutality of homophobes in our society. Not even a month after the brutal death of Lulu, another queer person was stabbed to death and dumped in a sewerage pipe. It is in times like these that it is so easy to forget that we are the rainbow nation – that we were born free of the hatred of the Apartheid era and that our society should founded on ideals of social justice, diversity, and respect. How did we get here? How did we get to a place where people find it justifiable to murder those who are different to them? How does one’s sexual orientation, or the gender of one’s lover, justify a person’s body being mutilated and burned?
In many ways, queerphobia is not new in South Africa, despite our very progressive laws around the issue. In general, queerphobia refers to the fear, hatred, invalidation, mockery, disapproval, and shaming of humanbeings that do not fit neatly into heterosexual and cisgender normalities. South Africa was one of the first five countries in the world to legalise queer marriages, and under SA law, hate speech based on gender and sexual orientation is considered a crime. Our Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, expressly forbids discrimination based on sex, gender, and sexual orientation. The law seems to be juggling this strong constitutional commitment and its solidarity with the largely homophobic population of our country – despite the legal framework designed to protect queer people, the gruesome murders of queer folks show the utter hatred that is prevalent in our rainbow nation towards members of the LGBTIAQ+ community. Our criminal justice systems need harsher sentences for those convicted of crimes that goes against the very heart of what we stand for in a country. Society needs more real protection for queer people, and there is a great need for harsher government response towards violations of LGBTIAQ+ rights in the form of condemnation of any violence perpetuated by a homophobic society.
We must continue to speak out and demand change to protect those who are vulnerable to the hatred and violence of homophobic people. There is no longer room to debate the human rights of any person, including queer people – people’s lives and identities do not exist to be dissected, approved of, devalued, or for any person to have “their own opinion on”.. We mourn the loss of Lulu, alongside so many other lives that have been violently taken by those who feel superior because of their hate for members of the LGBTIAQ+ community. We are tired, and we are heartbroken once again. But most of all, we are disheartened by the ideals of our country that is not accessible to queer people who do not fit social norms – we are tired of fighting for the most basic of human rights: the right to live.