In what is being termed a hate crime, South African police have arrested a 28-year-old man for his role in the torture and murder of David Olyn, a gay 21-year-old who was open about his sexuality. South Africa expressly forbids discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, age, and a host of other factors, and Colonel Andre Traut of the Western Cape police said that Olyn’s murder appears to have been a hate crime. What is perhaps most appalling about this crime is that the suspect invited seven teens who were drinking by a local dam near the Belle Vista neighborhood of Ceres to watch “him kill a moffie.”
Moffie is the Afrikaans slang term for gay man. According to reports, the teens watched the suspect bash Olyn on the head with a brick and then jump on his face. He then proceeded to tie the gay man up with wire and, according to the teens, they wandered off shortly after Olyn was set ablaze. They returned the next day to see if Olyn had survived and it was not until they discovered his body that they called police.
When reporter Maahir Pretorious from Mamba Online, South Africa’s gay news and lifestyle website, arrived on scene to discuss the alleged crime with the teens, he noted they seemed remarkably unaffected by the horror of the crime. He was initially stunned that the teens did not appear to want counseling, but then he realized that with violence that continued throughout various regions of South Africa, the teens were likely somewhat numb to the violence. Gender violence alone is a serious concern in South Africa, according to Digital Journal, which reports that a woman is killed by her partner every eight hours.
Africa as a whole has been under the human rights microscope since both Uganda and Nigeria signed legislation that has come to be known as “anti-gay” legislation. A crime such as Olyn’s murder will only further tighten the focus as other nations come to further discuss the human rights issues that occur in Africa and in other nations.
Olyn was openly gay, having participated in drag queen events in addition to being open about his sexuality. While South Africa has generally been believed to be far more tolerant than other nations as far as their stance regarding LGBT issues goes, especially since their 2005 recognition of marriage equality under a Constitutional Court ruling, there are LGBT advocates in South Africa that say the problem is worsening. According to these advocates, lesbians are often subjected to corrective rape, and violence against the LGBT population as a whole continues.
Legislation has been introduced to strengthen the laws against hate crimes where stronger penalties would be enforced against crimes where a bias against the victim appears to have been the case. However, none of this legislation has taken effect as yet. While a gay man was tortured and murdered and others were invited to watch, what remains clear is that there continues to be bias against the LGBT population in several corners of the world, not just Africa.
By Christina St-Jean