6-15-2012By Christopher Plummer
Early in the morning on June 9 Thapelo Makhutle, a 23-year old gay South African, was brutally murdered in his home. Reports indicate that two men followed him home after he left a night club and attacked him, killing him and mutilating his body. No suspects have been arrested. The ugliness of this horrific act underscores recent criticisms of South Africa’s failure to adequately deal with hate crime violence.
Thapelo was a talented, well-loved member of his community, an activist who gave his free time to help Legbo Northern Cape, a regional LGBT organization, campaign for the rights of LGBT people. In South Africa, the constitution protects the right to non-discrimination based on sexual orientation, but too often LGBT individuals are victims of bias-motivated violence.
Recently, Human Rights First called for the United States to support South Africa’s efforts to improve its response to bias-motivated violence. The U.S. government has long supported training programs for police and prosecutors in South Africa in combating sexual and gender-based violence. These efforts could be expanded, in consultation with the government of South Africa, to more explicitly focus on hate crime violence.