Integrating sexual and economic justice: challenges for queer feminist activism against sexual violence in South Africa
South Africa’s 1996 Interim Constitution1 was the first anywhere explicitly to include sexual orientation in an enumerated list of constitutional equality guarantees (Stychin 1996). The Equality Act, passed in 2000, specifically outlaws ‘hate crimes’, where people are targeted based on their identification as part of a group. At around the same time, discourses around ‘corrective’ rape emerged in strong reaction to its disarticulation from the broad concepts of what was considered to constitute a hate crime. To a large extent, activists began to highlight the fact that rape that targeted lesbians in order to ‘cure’ them of their ‘aberrant’ sexuality or gender non-conformity was specific and ought to be criminalized as being a hate crime, a distinction which no existing legislation made at the time. Increasingly, ‘curative’ rapes were seen as being synonymous with hate crimes (Muholi 2004). Nonetheless, the use of this term within the framework of hate crimes legislation is not unproblematic: ‘corrective’ rapes have a specific purpose, which is both captured (from the point of view of the perpetrator) and not captured (from the point of view of the survivor) in the language of ‘corrective/curative’ (Matebeni 2011).2 Conflating corrective rapes and hate crimes thus carries the risk of rendering invisible the subject (black lesbians) and nature of injustice(s) experienced by them. Critically, too, there has emerged a strong need to ensure that hate crime legislation is not be used as a cover to avoid systemic change, concern with the fact that hate crime legislation ought to be created for the protection of the most marginalized groups in society, and recognition that it was in fact these groups
who struggle to exercise their rights and to access justice and resources. In other words, without broader social and political transformation, hate crime legislation would have little benefit for those marginalized on the basis of class, race, sexual orientation or citizenship status (Pizzale 2011).