Ladies and gentlemen, dentist we did it!
For the first time in Change.org history, we have a six figure number to celebrate: 100,000 people in 163 countries have now signed the petition on ‘corrective rape‘, the increasingly common crime in which men rape lesbian women to ‘turn’ them straight or ‘cure’ them of their sexual orientation.
The strength in numbers didn’t just happen. The campaign began when a small group of lesbian activists in the townships of Cape Town used Change.org to launch a petition calling on South Africa’s Minister of Justice Jeffrey Thamsanqa Radebe to combat ‘corrective rape’.
The campaign quickly gained lots of traction as activists from across the Change.org spectrum – women’s rights activists, LGBT activists, human rights activists and criminal justice activists – worked together to support the South African activists and recruit tens of thousands of signatures, making the petition Change.org’s most popular of all time. From Afghanistan, Albania, Angola and Aruba to Venezuela, Vietnam, Yemen and Zimbabwe, all of you chipped in.
The minister’s chief of staff told Change.org that the petition, which was set up to automatically generate individualized emails to the minister’s senior staffers, had flooded the ministry’s email system.
“Our fight against corrective rape has been going on for so long, under the most harrowing of circumstances, with only a few volunteers to help, and it just seemed that nobody was listening, nobody cared, and our sisters were getting raped, beaten up and murdered without anyone doing anything about it,” said Luleki Sizwe, the volunteer anti-rape advocacy group in the townships of Cape Town which initiated the petition. “In absolute frustration, we decided to write a petition. This was a first for us, and never in our wildest dreams did we imagine that we would get this kind of a response. We are thrilled, excited and very, very humbled by the support.”
But what did Minister Radebe, charged with leading the cause of justice in South Africa, do after receiving the message that tens of thousands of people from more than 150 countries all over the world are demanding that he do something about ‘corrective rape’?
“Unfortunately, despite this becoming the most popular petition of all time on Change.org, and clearly getting the attention of the minister, Luleki Sizwe has still not heard a word from the Justice Department!,” Luleki Sizwe activists told Change.org.
Luleki Sizwe activists (pictured left at a rally) are pushing the Minister for a meeting to discuss ‘corrective rape’ prevention and get it declared a hate crime, and news of the petition’s success is likely to increase pressure on the South African minister.
“What the women of Luleki Sizwe have done here is remarkable,” said Change.org’s CEO Ben Rattray. “From a position of almost no power, they’ve been able to mobilize more than 100,000 people from 163 countries and get the attention of the most powerful officials in South Africa. Change.org is about empowering local activists to make meaningful social change, and it’s been an honor to support this inspiring and important campaign.”
Let’s show the South African government that we will continue to get thousands of signatures every time our support is needed, until the ‘corrective rape’ epidemic is finally taken seriously. Please sign the petition below, calling on the minister to finally meet with Luleki Sizwe, and forward it to everyone you know.
Winning this and similar campaigns depends on our ability to quickly call on thousands of supportive folks like you. After signing the petition below, please click here to help us win!
Photo credit: Jeff French