The Rose Should Have thorns
by Lerato Serojane
The Jacob Zuma trial took its final stroll on Monday, May 8, 2006 at the Johannesburg High Court. Read more...

3rd Anniversary of the Rose Has Thorns campaign

Yanda sadly pointed out that the mainstream media has a role to play in addressing the issue of abuse. It is sad that media reports portray abuse as a funny thing. Their reports bring “shame to the victim rather than awareness”. The Rose has Thorns has not done enough to sensationalise about the seriousness of these issues”. More...

Conversation with the survivor of the hate attack at Johannesburg Pride in 2005

As most of you will remember, the festive spirit of the 2005 Joburg Pride ended abruptly on the 24th of September as 23-year-old Tumeka Goniwe was hit in the neck with a broken bottle in what is believed to have been a lesbophobic attack. More...

Latest hate crime cases

The day is the 23rd of May 2005, and I’m out of town to do work in KZN. The message came in on my cell phone from the survivor who told me that she been bashed, bruised and has suffered a fractured hand.   More..

“…and he started bashing me…
I was just helpless…And when
he started undressing me and
saying he wants to rape me …
then I said, ‘You might as well kill me’…”
(hate crime survivor)

The Rose has Thorns...
“The Rose has Thorns” is the name of an anti-hate crimes campaign being mounted by FEW. Formerly a partnership with Behind the Mask, a website magazine and community service organisation serving the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) community of Africa, and the Lesbian and Gay Equality Project, the campaign is endorsed by all the other major gay and lesbian community structures around the country. It also has the active support of a number of mainstream human rights, gender equity and women’s organisations.

Hate crime defined
But what is a “hate crime”? What does the term mean? At a workshop conducted by Behind the Mask during Lesbian and Gay Pride Week in September 2002, the following definition of a hate crime was adopted: “it is an illegal act committed with the intent of depriving a person of some right or benefit because s/he belongs to a particular grouping”.

The key features of a hate crime are that:
• It is motivated by hatred, not of the individual, but of the particular grouping to which s/he belongs.
• It usually takes the form of a violent crime based on myths, misconceptions, prejudices and cultural expectations, for example, the idea that (forced) heterosexual intercourse will “fix” or “straighten” out a lesbian woman.
• It often takes the form of verbal, or other subtler forms of, abuse or victimisation that fall just short of being punishable under the prevailing criminal law regime.
• Some hate crimes are even state-sponsored, like the re-victimisation of lesbian rape victims by the police to whom they report their cases, who often respond by suggesting that the victim deserved it, for daring to challenge the heterosexist social order.

This offensive against lesbians, though having relatively few participants, unfortunately seems to enjoy the support of many of the communities in which it is waged, if only by virtue of their silence, their rejection of the victims, who then have nowhere to turn for assistance and support, and their failure to take strong action against the perpetrators, who are usually well known to them.

At the abovementioned workshop, two things immediately became apparent: one, that by far the greater proportion of such acts are committed against women; and, two, that the situation had reached crisis level without any effective response from the criminal justice system and the relevant governmental and non-governmental service and support structures.

The choice of name for this campaign is motivated by three ideas. Firstly, that, despite the rosy nature of the South African Constitution, hailed as the best in the world, there are still some thorny areas which demonstrate the inability of some people to grasp the fundamental principles of freedom and equality which it enshrines, and the inadequacy of both governmental and non-governmental structures to deal with the violent manifestations of that inability.

Hate crimes against lesbian and bisexual women is one such thorny area. The responsible authorities must take action to address this problem so that freedom and equality can be a reality for everyone living here. “Great care must be taken in handling the rose, even as one seeks to enjoy its fragrance.”

Secondly, the campaign name was motivated by the idea that lesbian women are, first and foremost, women, sharing all the womanly qualities of which the rose has become a familiar symbol – beauty, gentleness, sensitivity. Like other women, we are prickly about issues of our safety, dignity and self-worth; and, like other women, are prepared to fight back when any threat to these concepts becomes too great.

The increasing incidence of lesbian-bashing and rapes is testimony to the alarming nature of this particular threat at this time. It will not be tolerated any longer. “The hand that reaches for the rose carelessly or in anger might not only damage the flower, but shall also surely feel the prick of her thorns.”

The third idea which motivates the campaign name is that there are people who, incredibly, glorify and hold on to their hate as if it were a virtue equal to any the rose has ever been used to symbolise. But, if there is any truth to the teachings of religious masters over the ages, that hate will eventually turn inwards and cause as much injury to the hater as to the hated. “Be careful how you clutch the rose to your heart, lest its thorns pierce the skin and cause you great pain.”

The ultimate and primary objective of “The Rose has Thorns” campaign is the eradication of hate crimes against lesbians in SA’s townships. This we hope will be achieved through four first level objectives:

Immediate enactment of anti-hate crimes legislation – as noted earlier, many acts that could be defined as hate crimes fall outside the ambit of the criminal law, and so are not punishable, such as verbal abuse.
• Better service from the police for lesbian victims of hate-motivated violence and abuse.
•Increased sensitivity of mainstream service providers in the area of violence against women to the particular issues of lesbian women who become victims of rape and other acts of violence simply because of their sexual orientation, and improved ability to provide support and assistance to these women.
• Making zero tolerance of all forms of gender-based violence a national imperative, leading, ultimately, to the eradication of hate crimes against lesbians.

These objectives have been translated into rallying points for the campaign, supported by slogans like: “I refuse to tolerate your hate”; “we won’t stop until the hating does”; and “hate won’t make me straight”.

Campaign activities
The campaign was officially launched at a public rally on Freedom Day, April 27, 2003, at the Women’s Gaol in Constitution Hill, Braamfontein, Johannesburg, At that rally, campaign spokespersons were introduced and the strategies, including a Petition calling for anti hate crimes legislation, among other things, were unveiled. Since then the campaign has facilitated various forms of assistance and support for victims of hate crimes, including medical care, counseling, placement in shelters, and follow-up of their cases, and has raised awareness about the issue of violence against lesbians through local and international conferences and other media. Community interventions involving public education workshops, service provider training and self-defence training for women at risk have also taken place.

There are many other activities forming part of the campaign. These either have included or will include public discussion fora, victim account hearings, marches, video screenings, poetic and literary readings, art exhibitions, meetings with relevant government authorities, and other appropriate initiatives.

Since last year, 2004, the campaign has lagged a bit as we have been pre-occupied with critical organisational development issues. Nonetheless, work has quietly continued in the areas of survivor support, raising public awareness, and engaging the relevant authorities at the highest levels around anti hate crimes legislation and other possible responses of the criminal justice system.

For instance, to mark the campaign’s first anniversary on Freedom Day last year, we staged a sit-in demonstration outside the venue of the Presidential inauguration in Pretoria.

This year, 2005, the Rose has Thorns’ second anniversary was commemorated with a full day’s programme of activities on Freedom Day, again at the Women’s Gaol where, significantly, FEW has now established its offices. The Freedom Day programme, which followed a two-week Open House to launch FEW’s new offices, included a press conference and rally, and the unveiling of our “Wall of Hope”, and artistic representation of the campaign vision.

The Open House and Freedom Day anniversary event was run under the theme, “The Right to Be, The Freedom to Express”.

Though based in Johannesburg, “The Rose has Thorns” is a national campaign, which will continue until there is no longer a need for it – “we won’t stop until the hating does”. Anyone wishing to express their support of, or to participate in, “the Rose has Thorns” Anti-Hate Crimes Campaign should contact FEW at +2711 339 1867 or email: [email protected]

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