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New Gay Rights Party to Make Parliamentary Bid This Year in South Africa

The Equal Rights Party, a new party that will stand on a platform of protecting the rights of LGBT people, will make a parliamentary bid in South Africa this year, the Sydney Morning Herald reports:

Southafrica"We need a voice in parliament to protect women from being raped because people want to cure them from being lesbians," Michael Herbst of the Equal Rights Party said on Saturday. "We need someone in parliament when boys are bullied at school because they are thought to be gay," said the retired professor of health studies at the University of South Africa.

...Mr Herbst also said lawmakers for the new party would have a platform for speaking out against violations of gay rights in countries such as Russia, Nigeria and Uganda. Asked what he thought the party's chances were in the elections slated for the second half of the year, Herbst said: "We can definitively make it".


A Record 1,004 Rhinos Were Killed in South Africa in 2013

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(photos andy towle)

BY ERIN CONWAY-SMITH / GlobalPost

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — The rhinoceros has become the cause du jour in South Africa, its image emblazoned on everything from wine bottles to shopping bags to rhino-shaped candles and rhino hoof-shaped gummy sweets.

Cars have kitschy plastic rhino horns strapped to the front and “Save the Rhino” bumper stickers plastered on the back. You can even buy bracelets adorned with tiny silver rhinos. They’re all part of the ever-expanding fundraising effort to help protect these iconic animals from ruthless poachers who kill them and hack off their horns.

But South Africa is losing its battle to save the rhino.

Hunted to near extinction in the 19th century before being rescued by conservationists in South Africa in the 1950s, the world’s biggest rhino population is once again under threat. Despite a myriad of efforts to raise money and awareness, the poaching wave that began in 2008 is only getting worse, year after year.

Government officials announced Friday that a record 1,004 rhinos were killed in 2013 — a significant jump from 668 the year before.

Experts say that with international organized crime syndicates behind the poaching, the problem is much bigger than South Africa, and that not enough is being done outside this country’s borders to stop it.

3_rhinoMike Knight, who chairs the Rhino Management Group for southern Africa, said the poaching can’t be stopped without addressing the source of the problem: demand from countries like Vietnam and China. There, rhino horn is a pricey “medicine” ground up and ingested in the false belief it can cure everything from cancer to a hangover. Recently, rhino horn has also become a trendy party drug for the rich, despite its lack of any measurable effects.

Knight said there needs to be more intelligence-sharing between countries to counter poaching syndicates. The gangs behind the trade in rhino horn, he added, are also involved in trafficking guns, drugs and people.

“We’re trying to do as much as we possibly can here to slow down the rate of increase in poaching. But we can only do so much,” Knight said.

“The rhino crisis is not an African issue, it’s an international issue. If we do not have the full cooperation of regional and international partners, we are basically fighting a losing battle.”

Already in 2014, 43 rhinos have been killed by poachers, nearly all of them inside Kruger National Park, a popular safari destination for tourists. Of the 1,004 rhinos killed last year, 606 were in the park, a protected area.

Mozambique, which borders the Kruger reserve, has emerged as a transit point for rhino horns being smuggled out of Africa, and as a base for poachers crossing into the park.

South Africa's national parks authority said that more than 80 percent of incursions by poachers come from the Mozambican side of the park. Up to 15 heavily armed groups of poachers operate in the Kruger reserve at any time; they're especially active during full moons, when it is easier to see targets at night.

This has turned the Kruger park into a battlefield. Already this year, 11 suspected poachers have been killed in shootouts with park rangers and soldiers stationed at Kruger to protect the rhinos, officials revealed on Tuesday.

Tom Milliken, rhino expert for TRAFFIC, an organization that monitors trade in wildlife, said that both South Africa and Mozambique need to “decisively up their game” if they hope to stop the killing of rhinos.

“Rhino horn trafficking and consumption are not simply environmental issues, they represent threats to the very fabric of society,” he said in a statement.

Julian Rademeyer, author of the book “Killing for Profit: Exposing the Illegal Rhino Horn Trade,” said the poaching crisis is likely to get worse this year due in part to South Africa’s inability to tackle organized crime groups.

“If the trend is anything to go by in recent years, we’re going to see a lot more than 1,000 rhinos killed,” he said. “We don’t have a handle on organized crime in this country.”

Rademeyer said there is also a lack of urgency on the issue internationally, with plenty of meetings and conferences held to discuss the problem but not much action.

“The crisis is at the point where we have just about run out of time,” he said.

Then he amended his statement: “We already have run out of time.”


With Mandela Gone, Gays in South Africa Worry About Potential Rollback of Rights: VIDEO

Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 11.36.48 AM

As the only country in Africa with marriage equality, gay and lesbian South Africans have arguably enjoyed more expansive freedoms and rights than most other LGBT individuals across the continent.

Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 11.38.53 AMSouth Africa's unique situation is, in no small part, thanks to Nelson Mandela and the human rights reforms he set into motion as president during the 1990s.

Now, with Mandela's passing, some gay South Africans are concerned about a possible rollback of LGBT rights. In a video profile, The New York Times interviews an interracial, gay South African couple to get their take on Mandela's passing and what it means for larger challenges related to the intersection of race, class, and sexuality in the country.

Check it out, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "With Mandela Gone, Gays in South Africa Worry About Potential Rollback of Rights: VIDEO" »


Nelson Mandela Dead at 95

Mandela

The great South African leader and defender of equality Nelson Mandela has died at 95.

South African President Jacob Zuma announced the sad news:

"He passed on peacefully in the company of his family around 20.50pm on the fifth of December 2013,” Zuma said. "He is now resting, he is now at peace. Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father. Although we knew this day would come nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss. His tireless struggle for freedom earned him the respect of the world. His humility, his compassion, and his humanity earned him their love. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Mandela family. To them we owe a debt of gratitude. They have sacrificed much and endured much so that our people could be free..."

The world has lost one of its bravest souls and greatest champions of freedom. May his legacy continue to inspire new generations.

Obama's statement:

The Human Rights Campaign mourned Mandela's passing:

“Nelson Mandela tore down oppression, united a rainbow nation, and always walked arm-in-arm with his LGBT brothers and sisters—and with all people—toward freedom," said HRC President Chad Griffin. "Though every man, woman and child who seeks justice around the world mourns this loss, his vision of an equal future lives on undimmed."

Mandela, who was South Africa’s first post-Apartheid president, was an outspoken advocate for LGBT equality. He appointed an openly-gay judge to South Africa's High Court of Appeal and during his presidency, South Africa became the first nation in the world to constitutionally prohibit sexual orientation-based discrimination. Mandela will be remembered for his social justice activism and commitment to equality for all people.


Man Gets 22 Years For Brutal 'Corrective Rape' Of South African Lesbian

On April 2, 2010 at 11 pm, Andile Ngcoza raped openly lesbian  Millicent Gaika (pictured) for five hours, strangling her with electric wire badly enough to leave bruises and scars, choking her with his hands and threatening to kill her and throw her into the neaby river.

MillicentHe reportedly told her, "I know you are a lesbian. You are not a man. You think you are, but I am going to show you are a woman. I’m gonna make you pregnant you are going to carry a babe for me."

Even though neighbors knocked on his door to ask about the noise, he insisted that he was having a fight with his girlfriend. Gaika was only rescued at 4 am when two Zimbabwean men heard her screams, broke down Ngcoza's door, beat him up and held him until police came. Afterwards, they took Gaika to a nearby hospital.

Sadly, this was the third time Gaika had been raped by men to "cure her" of her lesbianism. In 2002, four men gang-raped her. The repeated trauma caused Gaika to have recurring nightmares, to begin drinking heavily and to seriously contemplate suicide.

Ngcoza recently got sentenced to 22 years for his crimes, partially because of his seeming lack of remorse and also because  of his two other rape convictions against both men and women in the 80s.

Gaika told reporters, “It feels great. I feel great. He got the years that I was hoping and expected he would get. I think I will finally get peace.”

But although South Africa is the only African nation that has legalized marriage equality and gay adoption, according to blogger Rod McCullom those rights haven't protected black LGBT South Africans from an ongoing wave of queerphobic violence:

An estimated "510 women report being the victims of “corrective” rape every year in South Africa and [at least] 31 lesbians have been murdered over the past 10 years because of their sexual orientation," according to South African human rights activist Ndumie Funda.

The SA government announced in May 2011 that it would establish a task force to address the escalating incidents of anti-LGBT attacks in its nation. That announcement came only weeks after the brutal death of Noxolo Nogwaza attracted international attention. The 19-year-old lesbian "was gang raped, stoned and stabbed to death using shards of broken glass." Noxolo’s murder remains unsolved and the violence and attacks have continued.

McCullom also mentions that nine South African gay men have been killed and robbed by "a gang of brutal robbers and serial killers" over the last three and a half years.


Police Officers Accused of Driving Away from Gay Bashing in Johannesburg

Police have been accused of ignoring a gay-bashing in Johannesburg, South Africa over the weekend:

PereiraGerald Pereira and his boyfriend, Stephan Annandale, were leaving Capitol Music nightclub in Rosebank when they were accosted by four men who made homophobic comments, followed by one man allegedly punching Pereira. His lip bleeding, Pereira knocked on the window of a passing police van and pointed out the attackers.

He said the three officers mumbled that they would help. “They drove up to the guys, spoke to them for about five seconds and then just drove off,” he said.

It was too dark to take down the van’s licence plate.

Annandale said he called the local police station, which was about 2km away, for help, but was told it would take an hour for a police car to arrive. Pereira said the next day, he laid a charge of assault and complained about the officers at the Rosebank station.

The Rosebank Killarney Gazette has more on the incident:

“We had just left a theme party at a club, and wanted to get something to eat. I was dressed as Marilyn Monroe and my boyfriend Gerald Pereira wore an afro wig. We put our wigs in the car and bought food from a vendor on the sidewalk,” said Stephan Annandale.

He said that as they stood on the sidewalk and ate, a group of between four and six men who appeared to be in their 20s approached them.

“One asked why I was wearing a dress, and Pereira replied ‘Maybe he likes it’. The men asked if we were gays and we said that we were. Then they started verbally abusing us, calling us ‘fags’,” said Annandale.

He said he and Pereira responded angrily, and Pereira told the men to “f*** off”.

One of the men allegedly ran up to Pereira and punched him in his face. He wore a ring which scratched Pereira’s shoulder and then tore open his lip.


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