Pascalina Melamu’s tortured and burnt body leaves a scar in the minds of all lesbians in South Africa, but in particular the Vaal lesbian community who knew her so well. She is gone, killed before she could celebrate the passing of high school.
Despite clear legal protections and a very progressive Constitution, South Africa continues to report some of the highest number of violent crimes and murders against lesbians. These murders when reported to the police (SAPS) are often handled in a sloppy manner, with almost no sense of urgency.
What is left for a community pained by violence, poor services and the absence of a police service that ensures the safety of the LGBTI community?
With the support of Iranti’s ZwaKala project, the Vaal LGBTI organisation hosted a social dialogue on 19 February 2016 at the Evaton North multipurpose centre. A social dialogue creates an opportunity for conversations to take place about the issues at hand related to violence, and also to map out advocacy approaches moving forward. The dialogue was attended by 110 people – members of the LGBTI community, SAPS, POWA and FEW, local government councillors representative and staff from the Thuthuzela centre.
As part of the dialogue Iranti screened its media report on the murder of Thembelihle Sokhela, a young lesbian murdered in Daveyton in 2014.
The dialogue created a space for people to voice their frustration and pain;“A very painful thing happened here. I do not know what type of a person did this. I am truly heartbroken by this and I believe we need to stand together as a community and fight the people who did this”, said Mr Ndlela, a local councillor.
Dialogues such as these help streng the and build a community bond between the Vaal LGBTI, the Evaton North ward councillor and the Mafatsane SAPS. These constituents will continue to engage in discussions and workshops to build a safer community for all.
The investigation of Pascalina’s murder is ongoing and to date no arrests have been made. Iranti continues to monitor the case.