Human Rights Watch Gives It To Thabo Mbeki

“Watching” South Africa’s Impotent Gay Politics

South Africa’s government got reamed once again during yesterday’s Women’s Day celebrations. And not just from South African activists. Human Rights Watch’s Jessica Stern wrote President Thabo Mbeki a stern letter in which she calls for a full investigation into two lesbian activists’ murders.

But, wait, there’s more: Stern also took on South Africa’s seemingly impotent government…

Despite South Africa’s standard setting Constitutional protections for lesbians and gay men, and consequent legal advances, reports of endemic violence, including violence against lesbians based on their sexual orientation, persist.

In recognition of National Women’s Day, we urge you to ensure that the criminal justice system is capable of responding sensitively, effectively, and promptly to incidents of sexual and hate-based violence. A full investigation of these murders, weighing the possibility that the women’s gender and sexual orientation may have been motivations for their murders, is vital not only to achieving justice but to building trust between the South African Police Service and lesbian communities broadly.

Stern went on to compare the government’s inaction to apartheid’s dreaded pass laws, which restricted non-white people’s movements. The comparison no doubt stings Mbeki’s African National Congress party, which led the fight against apartheid.

Stern ended the note with a cheery “sincerely,” her signature and a whole lotta moxie.