Where queer and disabled intersect

Rejected by her family after coming out as gay, Patience Mufamadi-Mogashwa attempted suicide. She was diagnosed with depression.

She has also recently been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and frontal lobe epilepsy.

Although she initially “never really took being diagnosed with depression seriously”, she says the lack of family support made her illness worse.

Patience married Naledi Mufamadi-Mogashwa two years ago. She too has been diagnosed with depression and anxiety.

In addition to these disabilities and lack of acceptance from their families, the couple has had to face insensitive, prejudiced and uninformed medical practitioners.

“I have been to clinics where, after I said that I am in a relationship with a woman, I’d have nurses or doctors ask me: ‘But how does that work?’ ” says Naledi.

“This kind of thing has made us want to avoid seeing medical practitioners about certain things in our lives. It used to make my anxiety much worse, just the thought of having to tell this person how you have sex or whatever.”

She adds: “We have it good now, because we can go to private hospitals.”

Tish White, who identifies as non-binary, has been diagnosed with epilepsy, bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“When it comes to queerness, there’s already a lot of stigma and pathology. With mental disability there is also this overarching assumption that, first, you don’t experience desire and that, second, you have to be protected. This combination can be condescending at best and abusive at worst.”

Citing an example of this, White, who identifies as asexual and nonbinary, says: “I remember seeing a doctor in hospital once and he asked me what I do for a living. I told him I work with LGBTIQA+ people [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, asexual and more].

“He asked me what the ‘A’ stands for and, when I told him, he said: ‘That’s a very serious disease.’

“Asexuality is so pathologised … it is not understood,” says White. “One has to remember that, although a common side-effect of mood stabilisers and antipsychotic agents is a drop in libido, being asexual has nothing to do with libido. If medical practitioners are not careful, they can play a very damaging and abusive role.”

The double discrimination queer people with disabilities face was highlighted in a report titled Disability, Sex Radicalism and Political Agency.

Written by Abby Wilkerson in 2002, the report used “queer and disability perspectives to argue that sexual agency is central to political agency”. It said a group’s experience of “sexually based harms and constraints on sexual agency” should be recognised as a “hallmark of oppression”.

The report found that “medical authority over sexuality” had the ability to shape sexual options and even their sense of themselves as sexual beings.

“Even ­— and perhaps especially — when this authority is used in benevolent ways, it accords the medical profession and related institutions an increasingly influential form of political power, which is too seldom acknowledged.”

Acknowledging this “form of political power” is discussed in a 2012 South African Medical Journal report, titled Sexuality, Disability and Human Rights: Strengthening Healthcare for Disabled People.

The report said healthcare practitioners “acted paternalistically towards disabled people, often deciding on their behalf what is in their best interests”. It acknowledged that “historically, health practitioners have underestimated the capacities of disabled people and from clinical encounters view disability as an illness, whereas in reality most disabled people are not ill”.

It added: “Health professionals have been seen as complicit in denying disabled people their rights to sexual expression and sexual choices, and in perpetuating myths about disabled people.

“On the one hand, disabled people have been viewed as asexual or as eternal children, and on the other they have been viewed as sexually rampant and unable to control sexual impulses.”

Eddie Ndopu is a queer and disabled persons’ rights activist.

“There is a desexualisation of people with disabilities; an imposition of the absence of wanting sexual pleasure. You are told that you should not want to feel desire because you’re disabled. It is quite insidious,” he says.

“If we look at the way in which we construct beauty and pleasure, in a very active way, we render disabled bodies undesirable and invisible. As a society, we need to start seeing sexuality in more complex ways. We need to re-educate ourselves.”

Offering up an opportunity for education (and re-education) was what the See It, Sign It, Know It, Share it project aimed to do. Headed up by John Meletse, a deaf person and gay rights activist, and Cheraé Halley, the project was spearheaded by Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (GALA).

Initiated in 2006, the project aimed to help reduce the level of HIV in the general deaf population in South Africa. It included the publication of an LGBTI-focused comic book titled Are Your Rights Respected? and video tutorials for deaf lesbians aimed at breaking stereotypes and providing steps for women to take if assaulted in any way.

“Homosexuality is extremely discriminated against in the deaf community,” says Halley. “What particularly came out of the peer education sessions we held was that these boxes that we have created — labels such as LGBTI — were not known in the deaf community. One participant, now a well-known deaf transgender woman, didn’t use or even know the word transgender. It was a revelation for this woman to discover that she is not gay but a trans woman.

“Even sign language was largely discriminatory. The sign language used for gay indicated anal sex. So people were going around using these kinds of signs that were actually discriminatory. For a gay person, seeing someone use that sign was offensive.”

Although the project yielded success, it ended in March last year, largely because of a lack of funding.

“People distance themselves from anything to do with disability,” says Ndopu, adding: “You know, in my previous relationships, I had to do a lot of educating. But this is not much different from everyday relationships. It’s the same shit. It’s all fucked and you’re just negotiating your way through the fuckery.

“But at this point in my life, I’m not compromising. I’m not diminishing my disability to accommodate someone’s sensibility. I’m an unapologetically disabled, black queer.”

This uncompromising stance is one Patience and Naledi have adopted.

“When I have to deal with a medical practitioner, a doctor or my psychologist, I always mention my wife. It is because of her that I am better today. She is my number one.”

As for her struggle with her family’s lack of acceptance, Patience says: “It would be nice if they acknowledged my relationship and sexual orientation but it doesn’t really matter that much anymore. I have someone who accepts me and loves me as I am. We support each other completely. And that’s so important. It’s all that matters to me.”


Victory for transgender learner in Limpopo

A landmark ruling unfolded last week when the Seshego Magistrate’s Court ordered the Limpopo Department of Education to pay R60,000 in personal compensation to Nare Mphela, a transgender woman from Ga-Matlala village. The case, which was officially brought to the court by the South African Human Rights Commission on November 14, 2016, is hailed as a triumph for LGBTIQ+ rights in South Africa. However, the story has its roots as far back as 2014, with Mphela only now, emerging from her bureaucratic purgatory. By KELLYN BOTHA.

The ordeal began when Mphela began facing severe discrimination for her gender identity from the school principal, KF Manamela, who, according to her, instructed her friends to stop referring to her as their “sister”; told them to provoke and harass her in the school toilets; as well as to grab her crotch “and find out what is there”. Manamela was further said to have forbidden Mphela from singing hymns and would employ corporal punishment (illegal since 1997) in order to discipline her.

In an effort to end the abuse, Mphela approached the Advice Office in Ga-Matlala near her school. The office directed her to Limpopo LGBTI Proudly Out, a local advocacy organisation. Mphela also approached the Limpopo branch of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), who directed her to the Seshego Magistrate’s Court in Polokwane. However, the Equality Court had never dealt with any case pertaining to the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act (The Equality Act) since its inception in 2000. Thus the clerk on duty had no knowledge of how to process Mphela’s case.

Such events are not unique to Mphela, as any transgender person would know. South Africa’s Constitution is one of the most progressive in the world regarding the protection of LGBTIQ+ persons’ rights, and multiple laws, such as the Equality Act, serve to supplement this. However, this does not always translate into action from the various levels of the state.

In July 2014, Limpopo LGBTI Proudly Out was in contact with Iranti-org, a Johannesburg based media-advocacy organisation which focuses specifically on the rights of lesbians, transgender and intersex people.

According to Jabulani Pereira, Director at Iranti-org, “Iranti contacted Webber Wentzel Attorneys, our pro bono legal support, and requested their assistance in representing Nare at the equality court. We also documented her story, along with other learners who faced similar forms of discrimination.”

One week later, representatives from Iranti-org had travelled to meet with Limpopo LGBTI Proudly Out and Mphela. The two groups went to the Seshego Magistrate’s court to press for action. When approached by the activists, Mphela’s principal denied any wrongdoing, claiming that all “homosexuals” were welcome at his school. Homosexuality and being transgender are two different issues – sexual orientation and gender identity.

After years of mounting pressure, the SAHRC approached the court in November 2016 and it seems that the Seshego Equality Court did not agree with Manamela’s assertions about his school’s openness.

On March 10 2017, the courts sided with the SAHRC’s recommendations, having been, “satisfied with the credibility of the complainant’s testimony”. This, according to SAHRC spokesperson, Gail Smith, was based on the testimony of an expert witness who argued that Mphela faced severe discrimination and trauma, which the court found to be “incontestable”.

For Iranti-org’s Pereira, “the delays in the justice support are not helpful for cases that require urgent and immediate remedies. Nare’s rights were violated for almost three years. Due to the trauma she suffered she was not able to complete her matric”.

Mphela now lives in Johannesburg, having been unable to matriculate. She struggles with the cost of living and still spends time at home in Limpopo where she can be supported. This situation seems set to change though.

The Limpopo Department of Education, was found to have failed to react sufficiently to the situation, and was ordered to pay R60,000 to Mphela in damages; R20,000 for her psychological expenses; and a further R20,000 for her to complete her education. Manamela was found guilty of breaching the Equality Act and was ordered to attend gender sensitivity training in what must be considered a very progressive move.

“We don’t always want to go the litigation route as it costs the state, but the state is negligent and transphobic and leaves us with little room other than litigation,” says Pereira. Doubtless, R100,000 plus the costs of maintaining this legal battle could have been well spent by the Limpopo Department of Education in other areas. Limpopo Province is listed as having around 932 schools with only pit-toilets, and hundreds of schools across the region lack electricity or proper learning materials. The fact that the department would dedicate its efforts to defending a principal who advocated for harassing a young woman in his school’s toilets, rather than working on upgrading those facilities to allow safe and inclusive sanitation for all, is rather telling.

This historic victory has organisations such as the SAHRC and Iranti-org celebrating the reaffirmation of LGBTIQ+ rights in South Africa, which are all too often ignored by the state and its citizens.

“(The Equality Act) is a beautiful piece of legislation, which says if you come to me and call me names because of your ignorance, I should have a remedy. But then the reality comes which is something someone like Nare had to face,” said Tshegofatso Phala of Webber Wentzel Attorneys during a speech at a 2015 Transgender Day Of Remembrance memorial. Phala, who has represented Iranti-org’s clients for a number of years, knows all too well the fate of many LGBTIQ+ South Africans. The youth are particularly vulnerable.

“We are still working on a case in the North West Province of a young lesbian learner who was sexually molested by her teacher because of her sexual orientation,” says Pereira, who notes that discrimination within schools is common. In the very same week that Mphela won her case, The Herald reported that 38 young women at a school in Mdantsane, Eastern Cape, were forced by their principle to “out” themselves to their peers and parents as punishment for their sexual orientation. The principal, allegedly stating that how she dealt with “problems” at her school was not a matter for the media to look into, will perhaps find the judiciary looking onto her methods. After this historic SAHRC hearing, those in charge of educating the next generation of South Africans may find themselves forced to finally comply with the laws of the land.

With so many instances of open discrimination ongoing, and cases like Nare Mphela’s taking years to gain traction, many LGBTIQ+ students are in a race against time. It is yet to be seen whether the precedent set in Limpopo will have an effect on such cases in other provinces, but at least for one young woman, the finish line of this particular marathon is finally drawing near.

While this is a victory to be celebrated, we also know that Mphela’s personal well being, and the well being of countless other vulnerable South Africans, is far from guaranteed. Unicef has officially made a call for “legislation that is non-discriminatory, a change in social norms and greater awareness and access to knowledge” on issues of gender-diversity in schools as “critical components of an enabling environment to protect LGBT children and parents from discrimination”.

Changing the mindset of the teachers and peers of transgender and other LGBTIQ+ youth, facilitating a revamp of our sex-ed and uniform policies to be more inclusive, are only the first (yet most crucial) steps toward accepting transgender students, and realising that they, like everyone else, merely want to live and learn in peace. It will take some real political will power to roll out the required changes. But when the alternative is being forced to do damage control by the courts, it surely will be worth the effort. DM

Kellyn Botha is a writer and media reporter for Iranti-org in Johannesburg. Her fight for trans rights in South Africa started in 2015, with a belief that media representation of transgender issues is the key to raising awareness. As with all people though, she is more than her gender, and follows politics, scientific discoveries, and series like Game of Thrones very intently.

Photo: Nare Mphela stands outside her school in June 2014 wearing the girls’ assigned uniform to match her gender identity. Photo: Gugu Mandla


Resources for LGBQIA+, Transgender & Queer People

* “LGBQIA+, Transgender and Queer” includes trans, transsexual, nonbinary, gender non-conforming, gender diverse people, crossdressers, ALL genders and non-genders, and ALL sexual orientations (asexual, pansexual, bisexual, etc.)

This journey is NOT an easy one, but many people say that once they live as themselves and stop living a lie, the relief and freedom of being themselves outweigh, or at least balance the difficulty of the journey. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

The reality that we live in a world that does not understand LGBQIA+ and specifically Trans, Queer and people who do not conform to gender or sexual orientation norms is very real. And so is the stigma. The fear of reaching out for any medical, social or psychological treatment is very common and understandable, and there is not one person in this community who has not avoided asking for help as we often face discrimination and emotional and/or psychological and/or physical violence.

But, there is help out there. Please continue to empower yourself by knowing you are NOT alone. Reach out for help. Support each other. While expecting discrimination, also allow for the fact that you might get the help you need. We need to build the society we need to help us by ourselves by working with the system as it is, and by finding and sharing people out there who are willing to listen and help.

  • This list is FAR from complete and will continue to be updated in collaboration with the resources listed below and the many activists working to improve healthcare for LGBQIA+, Trans and Queer people. It is in the process of being updated to distinguish between general and trans-specific gender-affirming healthcare for previously disadvantaged rural and urban communities who cannot afford healthcare, and rural and urban communities who can afford healthcare and/or have medical aid.
  • This list would not have been possible without the input of countless, tireless and dedicated activists, allies and resources in South Africa.
  • As stated above, the support and healthcare spaces for LGBQIA+, Trans and Queer people are not ideal, but they are improving and growing in number each day. This improvement and growth is also very much dependent on your help, so please, if you know of more resources, please let me or any of the other NGOs and resources below know.

EVERYONE on this list has been referred by LGBQIA+, trans and queer people or trans- and queer-friendly medical professionals. So they are ALL great. But, if you have a bad experience, please let me or any of the other NGOs and resources know.


  • Pan Africa ILGA (PAI) – Pan-African intersex, lesbian, gay, trans and intersex rights organisation.


NGOs, General LGBTQIA+ resources 
(ALL have been recommended by trans/LGBTQIA+ community and are trans-friendly and queer-friendly. If you have a bad experience, please let me or any of the other NGOs and resources know).
  • GenderDynamiX – Oldest transgender resource in South Africa.
  • Triangle Project – Clinic, support group and psychotherapy in Cape Town.
  • Protea Psychosocial Support Project for Trans People – To establish an environment in which superior quality psychosocial care services can be rendered to improve the lives of trans people. 073 636 7470,
  • MySexualHealth: CanNOT recommend this practice highly enough! They have the most trans-friendly space I’ve EVER encountered. Psychologists, GPs, sexologists, psychiatrists, STI & HIV testing, Lancet with trans-friendly nurse, support groups, etc. etc. Practices in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town. More expensive than most, but SO worth it if you can afford it.
  • Pan Africa ILGA (PAI) – Pan-African intersex, lesbian, gay, trans and intersex rights organisation.
GPs, Endocrinologists (HRT) and general healthcare
(ALL have been recommended by trans/LGBTQIA+ community and are trans-friendly and queer-friendly. If you have a bad experience, please let me or any of the other NGOs and resources know).
  • Dr Elma De Vries – / 0828286259
  • MySexualHealth: Headed by Dr Elna Rudolph. CanNOT recommend this practice highly enough! They have the most trans-friendly space I’ve EVER encountered. Psychologists, GPs, sexologists, psychiatrists, STI & HIV testing, Lancet with trans-friendly nurse, support groups, etc. etc. Practices in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town. More expensive than most, but SO worth it if you can afford it.
  • Dr Carol Goedhals – 021 553 1030
  • Dr Steven Cornell –, 021 689 5141
  • Dr Irma Louw – 021 686 6130
  • Groote Schuur (if you do not have medical aid and/or )
Mental Healthcare: Psychologists, therapists, counsellors, psychiatrists, etc.
(ALL have been recommended by trans/LGBTQIA+ community and are trans-friendly and queer-friendly. If you have a bad experience, please let me or any of the other NGOs and resources know).
  • Adele Marais –
  • Ronald Addinall – Triangle Project and
  • Claire Jaynes – Counselling Psychologist, Library Square, Wilderness Road, 7708 Cape Town,
  • MySexualHealth: Headed by Dr Elna Rudolph. CanNOT recommend this practice highly enough! They have the most trans-friendly space I’ve EVER encountered. Psychologists, GPs, sexologists, psychiatrists, STI & HIV testing, Lancet with trans-friendly nurse, support groups, etc. etc. Practices in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town. More expensive than most, but SO worth it if you can afford it.

Continue reading here.

16 Lesbian Power Couples From History

Lesbians are well-known for our unique ability to find a girlfriend and then turn that romantic relationship into an all-consuming life partnership — starting businesses, pursuing activism, revolutionizing social services, erecting schools, liberating marginalized groups. This is true today but has also been true since the beginning of time. Back in the day, many women were held back from activism and entrepreneurship by the demands of marriage and motherhood, making some women-loving-women uniquely able to pursue civilization-shifting ventures. (Although many managed to do both!) We’re gonna talk about some of those relationships here today.

For the purposes of this list, I defined “power couple” as a relationship through which both women were able to achieve greater professional, artistic or service-related success because of their relationship with each other. I leaned towards couples that actually made or did things together — whether that be starting a school, hosting a nightclub, creating social services for disadvantaged humans or making films. Also, as usual, the word “lesbian” is used as an adjective to describe a same-sex relationship, not the sexual orientation of the women in the relationship.

Sources include Elisa Rolle’s Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time, Lilian Faderman’s To Believe in Women: What Lesbians Have Done For America – A History and Christina Anne Wooner’s incredible thesis I stayed up late reading last night, “The Famous Lady Lovers: African American Women and Same-Sex Desire from Reconstruction to World War II.” Most other sources are linked within the post. I found a lot of contradictory information throughout my research so I imagine many of you will have some of your own!

For this installment, I’m focusing on couples who began their courtship prior to 1940. Future installments will obviously be more racially diverse as we move into eras where non-white people had more access to “power” and also more recorded histories.

16 Lesbian Power Couples, 1830s – 1940s

Rebecca Perot and Minister Rebecca Cox Jackson (1830s-1871)

Rebecca Perot, aka Rebecca Jackson (There are no known pictures of Rebecca Cox Jackson) via shaker museum sketchbook

Rebecca Cox Jackson was raised in an African Methodist Episcopal family but, following a spiritual vision that put the voice of the divine within her, she broke off from the patriarchal church to start her own thing. Her success as a preacher led to her divorce, which led to her traveling around Pennsylvania and New England sharing her gifts, eventually falling for the community she found within a woman-led group of Shakers. She became a Shaker minister and met Rebecca Perot, with whom she joined a sect of the Watervliet Shakers. Eventually the two women — whose “mystical visions” had feminist and homoerotic undertones and often featured the other in divine contexts — decided they’d had it with white people and started their own family of black Shakers in Philadelphia, combining black female praying band traditions with Shaker theology. When Jackson died in 1871, Perot re-named herself “Mother Rebecca Jackson Jr” and took over the Philadelphia family.

Sallie Holley and Caroline Putnam (1848 – 1893)

photo via civil war women

Sallie and Caroline met at good ol’ Oberlin College, and the noted “anti-slavery team” became agents of the American Anti-Slavery Society immediately after graduation. They traveled on the abolitionist lecture circuit, often along with the legendary Sojourner Truth. After the Civil War, Sallie stayed up North giving talks, raising money to educate freed slaves in the South, and Putnam went to Virginia to teach freed slaves, eventually starting The Holley School, which became America’s first settlement house. Sallie then joined Caroline in Lottsburg, where they integrated themselves with the community, operated their school year-round and unlike some future suffragettes, were dedicated to enabling, preserving and protecting the right of Black men to vote even when white women could not yet do so. Sallie died in 1893 and Caroline in 1917, at which point the school was deeded to an all-Black board of trustees and continued operating for decades.

Continue reading on Auto Straddle

Eleven take Dutch Reformed Church to court over same-sex unions

Eleven members of the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC), also known as the NG Kerk, are taking legal action to set aside the shocking decision by the church to reverse its acceptance of same-sex unions.

In November 2016, the DRC’s extraordinary general assembly dismayed the LGBTI community when it voted to recall the landmark 2015 decision to allow individual church councils to recognise and bless same-sex relationships, and to drop the prohibition on non-celibate gay clergy.

The general assembly also reconfirmed that marriage is only possible between a man and woman and proclaimed that any sexual relationship outside of this form of marriage “does not meet Christian guidelines”.

The reversal was described at the time as a disappointing and regressive betrayal that kowtowed to the most conservative and homophobic elements of the DRC who were outraged by the progressive 2015 decision.

In the run-up to the extraordinary synod, the eleven members repeatedly, and supported by legal opinions, warned that the church’s handling of the appeals against the 2015 decision were in contravention of its own policies.

According to Rev Laurie Gaum, one of the applicants, the actions of the extraordinary assembly are also unconstitutional because they “discriminate against the human dignity of LGBTI people”. This is one of the grounds for the motion to set aside the decision.

“Through our court action and in public interest we want to assist the church to attain legal clarity and in the process get rid of a history of discrimination,” said Gaum. “In this way the Dutch Reformed Church can answer to a meaningful calling in South Africa and on our continent.”

For logistical reasons, four individuals – Rev Laurie Gaum, Judith Kotzé, Michelle Boonzaaier and Dr Frits Gaum – will act on behalf of the eleven applicants. The others behind the action are: Rev Pieter Oberholzer, Hennie Pienaar, Lulani Vermeulen, Adv Leon Wessels, Dr Murray Coetzee, Prof Hendrik Bosman, Dr Chris Jones and Dr Nadia Marais.

They will be represented by Adv Jeremy Gauntlett SC QC, Frank Pelser and Mirinda Gaum through the law firm Baker & McKenzie.


Health-e launches IZWI LAMI anti-rape campaign

Health-e’s anti-rape campaign invites rape survivors to share their stories, contact counselling services and campaign for packages of care.

Before rape becomes the new normal, before rape becomes forever attached to the word “culture”, and before we think changing a Facebook profile pic is a substitute for real action, South Africans have to turn the tide on rape, gender-based violence and sexual abuse.

Health-e News is launching our Izwi Lami – My Voice Campaign that will run until Women’s Month in August.

The aim of our media drive is to bring into sharper focus the crisis destroying countless lives every day and leaving in its wake a legacy of fear, trauma, violence, shame and anger.

For things to change, it needs the attention of each South African and the courage of all of us  to take personal responsibility for shifting a situation that’s been allowed to go wrong in too many ways.

At the heart of the Izwi Lami campaign is an effort to collect the testimonies of survivors, put them in touch with counselling services, and campaign for a standard package of healthcare for all survivors to be available at all 24-hour health facilities.

This will be done through our free SMS-driven survey and questionnaire platform.

By texting the keyword  ‘endrape’ to 38006 rape survivors can take part in a survey  about their personal experience,  get information about counselling services in their provinces and add their support for the demand for the package of care.

The survey allows survivors to record personal stories anonymously, giving as much or as little information they’re comfortable to share. For many women this may be the first time they are able to share their experiences of trauma.

Although responses are automated, the testimonies will be monitored closely by Health-e’s staff. Those survivors willing to share their stories publicly (either with or without their names) will have excerpts of their accounts shared on Health-e’s website and via social media pages.

The intention of this is to show other survivors they are not alone, and to create a conversation on social media around how pervasive rape is in the country.  The short survey of eleven questions will include information gathering around the incident or incidents of rape or sexual abuse and a record of the treatment, care and justice for victims. This information can help to identify gaps in care and treatment and allow activists, funders and policy makers to channel resources and efforts where they’re needed most.

Izwi Lami is a collaborative campaign, with Health-e partnering with Rape Crisis, Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF), Sonke Gender Justice, LifeLine, mainstream media outlets and local personalities to highlight the issues that beg for us not to look away.

Each SMS conversation ends with a link to a petition designed by calling for a package of care (counselling, ARVs, antibiotics and a morning-after pill) to be provided to every rape survivor.

At the end of Women’s Month, the SMS tool can be handed over to any other body or organisations interested in using it for continued information gathering and counseling direction for survivors of rape and sexual abuse victims in the country.

Through the Izwi Lami campaign Health-e will also focus on telling the stories that give broader perspective on why rape, gender-based violence and abuse continues to be society’s collective shame and stigma. Through unpacking the many dimensions of a complex societal scourge we hope to bring it out from the shadows, and to create deeper awareness that can interrupt the cycle of rape and abuse.

Join us on this journey because our rape and abuse crisis leaves no South African unaffected. Izwi Lami is a call to be heard, it’s also a call to listen and call to act.


The reproductive justice movement

If the reproductive justice movement has one message, it’s this: reproductive rights alone aren’t enough.

The term “reproductive justice” was coined in 1994 by a group of black women activists to emphasize the necessity of placing reproductive rights and health in a broader social justice framework. What that means in practice is that we can’t divorce the battle for abortion rights and reproductive health care from struggles against racism, economic inequality, homophobia, and transphobia—because these things also affect whether and how people are able to make decisions about their bodies, their families, and their lives.

It’s not enough to ensure that contraception and abortion are legal if many people are still unable to access them because of poverty and marginalization. Reproductive justice also means that those who choose to parent should be able to raise their children in safe and healthy surroundings, free from violence, discrimination, and environmental pollution.

As Naa Hammond of Groundswell Fund notes in the above video, “historically, this is a movement that has been deeply intersectional”—one that centers the experience and insights of women of color, low-income women, and LGBTQ people.

Reproductive justice advocates in the United States are fighting to ensure that people have access to abortion, contraception, comprehensive sex education, and prenatal and childbirth care. But they’re also asking why parents in places like Flint, Michigan, must raise children without clean water because of environmental racism, challenging flawed immigration and criminal justice systems that tear families apart, and working to end violence against trans and gender-nonconforming people.

This focus on building connections across issues and between communities is one reason the reproductive justice movement offers an important model for progressive organizing—and has valuable lessons to teach those of us in philanthropy about how to support transformative change.

Watch the video here:


Rape care centres closing? We can stop this

*Warning, talk of rape and violence* If you were raped, would you be able to access adequate post-rape care? For too many the answer is a shocking no, like 41-year old Bianca Jonkers* who was gang raped by seven men in Diepsloot earlier this year. The next morning, she had to travel about 20kms to Randburg to access post rape care such as counselling, the morning-after pill to prevent pregnancy, antibiotics to prevent infection, an HIV test and a month’s dosage of antiretrovirals if she was HIV negative to reduce chances of contracting HIV because the health facility in her area did not offer these services.[1]. Butwe can change this.

With the increase in reports of gender based violence, we have an opportunity now to let those entrusted with ensuring services for rape victims know we won’t stop until they begin to take a lead in providing effective post-rape services. Please click here to support this campaign:

Many other women are at risk especially those in rural and peri-urban areas where if you do not have money to travel to a nearest facility, you put your life at risk of contracting HIV and other unwanted illnesses related to rape. Compounding the situation further is that international funding for Thuthuzela Care Centres (TCCs) is drying up [2]. These centres are “one-stop” facilities for rape survivors, providing services such as counselling, medical care and the collection of evidence used to prosecute alleged rapists.

For Bianca and every other rape survivor who need to access these services, it is critical that we stand firmly behind the call for a well-funded inter-departmental intervention that will work at not only funding these centres so that they continue offering these services but must work towards increasing their number so every survivor in every part of Mzansi is able to access them. Please click here to add your name to this call:

When women have been under attack, the amandla .mobi community has consistently come together to fight this. We can do it again.

Together for justice,
Thuli, Koketso and Nqaba for amandla .mobi

PS: Our ally on this campaign Health-e news has developed a tool where women can share their testimonies about post-rape care. If you are a survivor of sexual violence and are willing to share your story to help others, please SMS ‘end rape’ to 38006 and follow the prompts. The SMS is free.

[1] ‘I would have killed myself’: Free app puts care at rape survivors’ fingertips. An article by Pontsho Pilane. Bhekisisa. 23 May 2017.
[2] Almost half of the centers for rape survivors may lose funding for counselling services. An article by Pontsho Pilane. Bhekisisa. 29 August 2016

Nonkie Smous Killed for being gay

While recent reports on the murder of part-time student Karabo Mokoena – whose body was discovered after she was burnt to death with acid with a tyre around her neck – have had South Africans reeling in horror, another equally disturbing murder has passed quietly by.

Mokoena’s death sparked national outrage and made international news when her boyfriend was arrested for the killing. The crime led to a social media storm, with the hashtag #MenAreTrash erupting on Twitter recently, sparking the public sharing of domestic abuse stories.

But in the Free State, where a similar hideous murder had taken place, it took police three weeks to confirm that the burnt body of a young woman discovered in Maokeng township near Kroonstad last month was that of Nonkie Smous.

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community in the Free State have spoken out against the crime, believing Smous was murdered because she was gay. The young woman was finally laid to rest this past weekend.


Thabiso Mogapi, chairperson of Action for Social Justice International said “The family had to wait for more than three weeks for the outcome of the DNA results because the body could not be visually identified. We are now relieved because we can bury her. I believe that justice should be done because Nonkie did not deserve what happened to her.”

Several sources claim the 28 year-old lesbian was raped and brutally murdered before her body was set alight. Three man were originally arrested in connection with the murder. However two were let go and the third, charged with robbery because her cellphone and sneakers were found in his possession, has been released from custody.

Nthabiseng Mokonyane, an LGBTI activist and relative said “We were very upset and shocked about this because the last time we saw (Nonkie), she had gone to church. But she never came back home. The perpetrators should be punished and rot in jail.”

Zandile Nzinande (27), said “We get killed because of who we are. People should be educated so that they have a more liberal attitude towards homosexuals.”


Smous’s murder comes days just after Free State LGBTI community celebrated Pride. Virginia Magwazwa, LGBTI coordinator and gender activist, said “We are extremely disturbed by the recent incident regarding Karabo Mokoena, and wish that her family is comforted. But we also have an issue with the selective manner in which the country responds to incidents like these.”

“Nonki Smous was also a young woman who was killed and burnt by a man. But the difference is that she was gender non-confirming. Why did the EFF not write a statement on this particular incident? Maybe I’m too hurt, or perhaps missed something,” said Magwazwa.

A recent hate crime study by OUT LGBTI Wellbeing together with the Love Not Hate Campaign found that 41% of LGBTI people in South Africa know someone who has been murdered because of their sexual orientation.

Smous’s funeral took place last weekend at Seeisoville Community Hall and her body was laid to rest in Wespark Cemetery in Johannesburg.

An edited version of this story appeared in The Star.