On Friday, 19 year-old Sihle Sikoji and two other women were attacked by a group of men in Cosovo, which is an informal settlement in Phillipi, a township of Cape Town, South Africa. One of the attackers pulled out a small spear and stabbed Sikoji in the chest. Another of the young women was stabbed in the arm trying to defend Sikoji while the third ran for help. Sikoji later died in hospital.
This is an all-too-common story out of the area, yet it’s taken several days for the information to hit any mainstream media outlets, and even now the reporting is spotty at best. Sikoji (also spelled Skotshi here and here) was a black lesbian footballer who played for the Winnie women’s football club, based out of Gugulethu, a township outside of Cape Town. She was also an active member of Luleki Sizwe, an organization that supports lesbian, bisexual and trans women who are victims of ‘corrective’ rape.
According to Ndumie Funda, director of Luleki Sizwe, Sihle Sikoji was murdered by a group of gangsters,” Gay Star News reports:
According to an eye witness interviewed by Funda, Skotshi along with two of her women friends left a tavern where they were drinking to pick up more money at home of one of the girls.
Upon arriving five or more men confronted and started cursing them saying: ‘Ayo ndawo yenu le, yindawo yamaVura’ (this is not your place, it is amavura’s place) (Amavura is the gang that is known and feared in the area).
The men attacked them, and pulled out a mini spear stabbing Skotshi in the chest.
“It is a hate crime… The men approached them and said they act like boys. When Sihle said they were not boys but lesbians she was attacked and stabbed with a mini-spear,” Ndumie Funda also said, according to a report in All Africa.
‘Corrective’ rape is the rape of lesbians or women perceived to be lesbian by attackers who claim to be trying to ‘correct’ their victims’ sexuality. Rooted in skewed notions of class, race, gender and power, ‘corrective’ rape is a crime most often perpetrated against poor black women, and numerous football players have been attacked, tortured and murdered. This isn’t coincidence; black women playing football are seen to be lesbian, and female footballers and lesbians both are seen to be occupying space set aside from men.
The most high-profile case to date was the 2008 rape, torture and murder of Eudy Simelane, a midfielder for the South African national team. The following year, in 2009, Simelane’s team mate Girlie ‘S’ Gelane’ Nkosi died after a similar assault. At around that time, the savagery and number of these attacks began to attract some international attention, but nothing was done at the governmental level so Ndumie Funda founded Luleki Sizwe.
Last year, in March of 2011, Funda delivered a petition of over 170,000 names of people from 163 countries to urge the South African government to take action against ‘corrective’ rape. Though Funda left the meeting with optimism about the future of a working relationship with the South African ministers, only six week later, another young black area lesbian was murdered.
Three months later, in April 2011, the United Nations passed an historic resolution that sought to apply human rights protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. And then another lesbian was murdered, and another.
Arrests are rarely made in these cases. Survivors and witnesses frequently live in the townships where their attackers reside, so they remain silent for fear of retribution. Police forces are indifferent at best, or may subject survivors to further abuse when they report. Aside from Luleki Sizwe, there are few support services for victims.
Take any month in the past year and a half and you can find reports of black lesbians being brutalized in South Africa. In July, a lesbian mother of a two-year old was raped and her throat cut at her home in Polo Park, Mokopan. In August, a lesbian was raped and murdered in Kwa Zulu Natal. And just last month, six lesbians were beaten at a gas station. These attacks take place with such regularity that the names, ages, and home towns of the victims run together.
Sihle Sikoji was just the next name in a long list, but her murder was not isolated. It was not coincidence that she was black, a lesbian, a footballer, and a community activist. Her name was Sihle Sikoji, she was 19 years old, and she was from the Western Cape.
Image via No Limits
Keph Senett is a Canadian writer whose passions for travel and soccer have led her to play the beautiful game on four continents. When not writing about human rights, soccer/football, LGBT and gender issues and her own folly at kephsenett.com, Keph’s writing about travel over at A Bus Called Forward. Keph spends her free time trying to figure out how to qualify for a soccer squad in Asia, Australia or Antarctica.
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