An elderly woman told the Johannesburg High Court on Tuesday, that she has been hospitalised more than once after being assaulted several times for being a lesbian, in the trial of former columnist Jon Qwelane.
The woman, who cannot be named because of fear of being victimised, was testifying during the trial of Qwelane, a former ambassador of Uganda. Qwelane wrote a column on Sunday Sun in 2008 comparing homosexuality with bestiality.
She explained to the court how she was assaulted by a group of men and was severely injured.
“I couldn’t walk, I crawled to safety on my belly, I was in hospital for a while,” she said wiping her tears.
She continued with her testimony and her voice would choke in her tears every time she explained all the violence she had suffered.
She said she did not report some of the incidents, “I realised that the law doesn’t protect people like me.”
The woman conceded that Qwelane’s article didn’t have direct link to the attacks that she suffered, but she said the article fuels the violence amongst the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and/or intersex (LGBTI) community.
Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi for the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) asked the woman what impact has this article had on her.
“The words of this man (Qwelane) are hurtful, and it creates a perception to people who hate us to treat us like non entities,” she said.
“The article makes me feel like we as the LGBTI we don’t have dignity and it really hurts me. We are humans and love each other like other humans. We don’t date animals.”
Qwelane’s attorney, Musatondwa Musandiwa read the woman’s statement where she indicated that people are not the same.
“Generally in life, we meet different and people are not the same,” read the statement.
“So do you agree that we can also differ in opinion,” asked Musandiwa.
“No,” the woman said while shaking her head.
“I don’t agree, because it doesn’t mean that your views should discriminate and incite violence.”
Musandiwa asked if Qwelane’s article is directly linked to the violence she suffered.
“He’s one of the reasons we are subjected to this kind of treatment,” she said.
In his column, Qwelane wrote that he hoped politicians can have “the balls to rewrite the constitution” regarding the legalisation of same-sex marriages because, “at this rate, how soon before some idiot demands to ‘marry’ an animal, and argues that his constitution ‘allows’ it?
The column was accompanied by a cartoon of a man marrying a goat and he lauded Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s unflinching and unapologetic stance on homosexuality.
SAHRC took the matter to court, asking for Qwelane to pay R100,000 to an LGBTI organisation and issue an unconditional apology.
In April 2011, the Johannesburg Equality Court found him guilty of hate speech for his column. He was ordered to apologise and fined R100,000. He was not present at the default judgment because of his job abroad. The judgment was withdrawn on September 2011.
But Qwelane is challenging the Equality Act’s constitutionality because he feels it is vague when it defines hate speech as “hurtful”.
The matter was postponed to Wednesday.
– African News Agency