Reading the news tonight, one email leapt out from the rest and left me pensive, tense and outraged. “Lesbian Killing: We Demand Justice!” read the headline. The press statement condemned the murder of South African women Sizakele Sigasa and Salome Masooa, who were found murdered, execution style, in a dump site outside Soweto. The press statement describes the incident as a shocking event “that is not so new in South Africa in the light of the recent increase in violence and rape against women either identified as, suspected of or supporting lesbian and gay rights.”
My human mind kicked in, of course – how do we know they were lesbians? How do we know they were killed because of their sexuality or their beliefs? I was reminded of the furore a few years back when two teenage boys were sentenced to death in Iran. Human rights and gay rights groups clashed. Were the youths convicted for being gay? Or for raping an even younger boy? Is the death penalty acceptable for murder but not rape? Rape but not homosexuality? For adults but not for teenagers?
But overriding all of that, my human heart kicked in. Do any of those questions matter, really? The basic fact is two women were killed. South Africa might have the world’s most beautiful Constitution, a functional economy, and resources that are the envy of the rest of the continent. But what do any of us – all of us – have to do to get the basics right. It’s not about politics or gay rights or freedom of expression or religious freedom. It’s about real, basic, day to day humanness. Seeing each other as people and therefore deserving of respect and decency.
As I flipped through the pages of the Mail & Guardian looking for more information on the women’s murders, I was reminded of the murder of Zoliswa Nkonyana last year, a 19 year old South African lesbian, whose murder took two weeks to be recognised in the national news. IRIN’s Broken bodies, broken dreams: violence against women exposed was released for women’s day in March last year. How much has changed since then? What is our awareness raising achieving, really?
I was speaking with a friend the other day who was saying that she didn’t want her sexuality to be tolerated, she wants it to be embraced. Me? As much as the colour of my hair or the size of my shoe is not cause for comment or judgment, so I want my skin, my gender, my sexuality to be non-issues. I don’t want to be tolerated. Nor do I want to be embraced. I want to be unflinchingly acknowledged as human. No more and no less.
Ubuntu. A person is a person because of other people. I am because we are. There’s nothing fancy about that.