Ladies and gentlemen, clinic we did it again!
Almost two months ago, more about a tiny 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‘, buy more about the increasingly common crime in which men rape lesbian women to ‘turn’ them straight or ‘cure’ them of their sexual orientation.
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.
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 acknowledge ‘corrective rape‘, meet with activists leading the anti-corrective rape fight, and take ‘corrective rape‘ prevention seriously?
But that didn’t stop us. We got more and more and more people to petition the minister, bringing the campaign’s support up to more than 135,000 people from 163 countries and quite literally flooding the email inboxes of his senior staff. Not only that, activists all over the world worked to support Luleki Sizwe get coverage of their Change.org campaign in numerous major South African media outlets, from the anti-Apartheid daily The Sowetan, the 2.5 million readership CityPress and Cape Town’s biggest paper Cape Argus to South Africa’s most popular commercial radio station and a live TV interview on South Africa’s national broadcaster SABC for Ndumie Funda, founder of the anti-‘corrective rape’ campaign. Even foreign media, including the Huffington Post, have covered the campaign (see the full list of media coverage of the campaign here).
As tens of millions of people all over the world were exposed to the anti-corrective rape campaign and the minister’s inaction, he had no choice but to respond.In a live TV interview with national broadcaster SABC (the South African equivalent of the BBC), Minister Radebe was put on the spot by “Morning Live” presenter Vuyo Mbuli, and asked directly about the ‘corrective rape’ campaign. In the interview, Minister Radebe:
- States that he is “Definitely” willing to meet with corrective rape activists
- Claims his office is “Interacting on this process” with ‘corrective rape’ activists
- States that he is “Very deeply concerned” about corrective rape
- States that corrective rape is “Something that we are definitely concerned about”
- Refers to corrective rape as a violation of human rights and of the “human dignity of women”
- States that “There is a process in hand now in order to deal with this particular issue”
- States that prepared to contact the South African Law Reform Commission “in order to look at this issue much further.”
On the one hand, some may be disappointed by those statements, and the failure of a journalist on a government-controlled broadcaster to call the minister on them. The minister is not, in fact, “Interacting on this process” with ‘corrective rape’ activists. Indeed no one on his staff has taken the initiative to contact Luleki Sizwe. Nor is there any evidence that the minister’s “very deep concern” is, in fact, leading to a process of any kind.
All that said, this is a huge success, folks. In the course of just two months, a tiny group of relatively disempowered South African women fighting rapists from a safehouse have managed to force one of the most powerful men in the country to respond to their demands. Not only that, but he has gone on record claiming that he is addressing the issue. We have annotated the minister’s comments to ensure that he is held to account:
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: South African Government Information