Passing your matric is a major highlight in every young learner in South Africa. Doubly so for Black learners in townships who face major social and economic challenges. For LGBTI learners, ‘coming out’ in South African public school often means exposing oneself to bullying and teacher prejudice. The education system is failing to support learners on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Motshidisi Pascalini Melamu, a 21 year old lesbian, excelled and passed her matric, but she was raped, mutilated and murdered before she could even learn of her victory. On 18 December 2015, her body was found in an open field in the Vaal region of Johannesburg. She had been missing for two days. Her face was burnt with acid and one eye had been gouged out. Her breasts had been cut. Her mother recognised her daugther in the mortuary from the tattoo on her leg.
Pascalina had been at a social gathering with a friend on 16 December. She went to the bathroom and never returned. Her friend was raped and narrowly escaped the same brutal death. The perpetrators were known to both victims.
Lesbians. On 12 January 2016, the Vaal LGBTI marched to the Mafatsane Evaton Police Station and handed over a memorandum to the MEC for Public Safety in the Emufuleni local municipality demanding the perpetators be arrested. At the time of Pascalina’s murder, the case was handed to an investigating officer that was still on leave. No work was done on the case in his absence. The petition calls for SAPS to speed upits investigation on this and other cases and to ensure that arrests are made.
VAAL LGBTI is registered and struggles to receive support to run programmes that could assist in reducing homophobia and transphobia in the Vaal region. Annually they have organise a Vaal Pride and some fear that these attacks may occur as a result of visibility campaigns on LGBTI rights.
Iranti is documenting this case and will continue providing support to the Vaal LGBTI organisation in collaboration with other civil society organisations.