Since January this year, 33 black lesbians have come forward with their stories of rape, assault, sexual assault and verbal abuse to organisations fighting hate crimes in Johannesburg townships. Zanele Muholi, a reporter for the lesbian and gay publication Behind the Mask, has documented 12 rapes, four attempted rapes, six verbal abuse cases, three assaults with a deadly weapon, and two abductions. ... "Eight of the perpetrators were friends and neighbours, two - family, seven - familiar to the survivors, two - ex-boyfriends, seven - strangers, and five - attacked by gang members," she said.
The purpose, victims are told, is to "turn you into a real African woman." Apparently real women are heterosexual. In one case a victim was told by her mother that "'this is what happens to girls like you ." Part of the problem, though, is not simply intolerance of lesbians - it is also a fundamental intolerance of women in general. One of the victims, Kekeletso Khena, said:
It's the most disturbing. It boils down to the fact that you as a woman have a role to be a wife, mother and subordinate to your husband. If you are lesbian you are not fulfilling those roles.
There is, then, a very important link to rigid and stratified gender roles and violence against anyone who challenges or breaks those roles - not just homosexuals, although they are among the most obvious and easiest targets of bigotry and discrimination. Any time you hear someone talking about what is appropriate behavior for "real men" and "real women," you can be reliably count on the fact that they are expressing an attitude which has historically contributed to all manner of violence and discrimination. They may not realize it, that is true, but they may also not care a great deal.