Tuesday, February 14, 2012

UN Lauds S. African 
Lesbian Killers' Sentencing as 'Ending Impunity'

After reading about Libya stating at the UN Human Rights Council recently that gay people were a threat to human life continuing on our planet, I checked out the site for the UN's High Commission on Human Rights to what gay content was post in the past month.

I was pleased to see the High Commissioner, Navi Pillay, last week issued a laudatory statement about justice being served in South Africa in early February as the murderers of a teenage lesbian, Zoliswa Nkonyana, pictured, were sentenced to prison.

This development was news to me. I had read previously about the torturous efforts to bring her killers to trial, but don't recall the sentencing receiving any U.S. attention on gay blogs or newspaper sites. Googling turned up one such blog to cover the judge's final orders and it belongs to South African-born Melanie Nathan, a friend I've worked with on domestic and global issues. Thank you, Melanie, for keeping tabs on the court case and sentencing.

Apologies if others reported on the sentencing and weren't found by Google.

I'm pleased to join her in bringing additional attention to the case, and hope the UN High Commissioner's comments will be reason to generate coverage on more American and global LGBT blogs, social networks and press.

Excerpted from Navi Pillay's February 8th release:

Zoliswa Nkonyana was pelted with bricks, stabbed and beaten to death just a few metres from her home in the township of Khayelitsha, in Cape Town, South Africa in February 2006. According to the local “Mail & Guardian Online”, her brutal murder did not become ‘news’, until two weeks later and even then it was by chance . . .

Glen de Swardt of the Triangle Project, a group that campaigns for the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, was quoted as saying: “We [the gay community] have come to accept such abuse as a way of life, and most gay people think the only way to deal with it is to keep quiet.”

Six years later the four men who were found guilty of the murder have each been sentenced to 18 years in jail. The presiding magistrate in the case took into account the nature of the crime itself – hate and intolerance based on sexual orientation as an aggravating factor in arriving at the sentence. The magistrate was also explicit about the motive for the murder, concluding that Nkonyana was killed because she was living openly as a lesbian.

Welcoming the outcome of the trial, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay said, “Not only were the perpetrators of this murder found guilty and given an appropriate sentence, the court made clear the motive was hatred and homophobia. Nineteen-year old Zoliswa Nkonyana was murdered in 2006 because she was living openly as a lesbian.”

“This is a very significant case because it signals an end to impunity for those who would inflict violence and hatred on others based on perceptions of sexual orientation and gender,” Pillay said.

The sentences have been widely applauded in South Africa and abroad by activists who for many years have campaigned for an end to impunity for people convicted of attacking or killing people on the basis of their gender or sexual orientation.

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