In Other Countries, Lesbian Athletes Fear For Their Lives

I know that we are still making strides in this country when it comes to acceptance of lesbian and gay athletes in the professional world of sports, but at least we are headed in the right direction. Sadly, there are many other countries in the world that are incredibly far behind. In fact, some are just downright barbaric in their approach.

ESPN’s E:60, a noteworthy investigative reporting series about life inside and outside of sports, recently reported on a story that focuses on a disturbing practise called “corrective rape” in South Africa. Men who enforce this brutal practice are called “corrective rapists.”

They target lesbian athletes (soccer players in particular) with the intent of subjecting them to sexual violence and humiliation so that they will “stop acting like men” and become straight. Any woman who is a lesbian rumoured to be a lesbian or acts uncharacteristically like a man could fall victim to corrective rapists.

The incidents often occur in small townships without much interference from the government. In fact, the men who commit these vile acts are rarely punished. Many victims even live in the same township as their attackers and often see them on the streets day after day. Yes, South Africa has laws against LGBT discrimination. But these crimes still occur on a daily basis.

Some of you might remember the name Eudy Simelane. Simelane was a player on the national South African women’s soccer team and also a courageous lesbian activist. In April 2008, she was gang-raped by a group of men, beaten and stabbed 25 times.

They dumped her body in a creek near her home. Her murderers were eventually charged for the crime, but only two of the four men were convicted.

It’s hard for me to imagine what it must have been like for Simelane and other lesbian athletes currently living in South Africa. Not only do they face hatred and violence for being gay, but also for being athletes.

I know that we often scrutinize the way things are for gay and lesbian athletes here in America. But in reality, we are so far ahead. We can only hope that with more awareness of horrific practices like “corrective rape,” America can become a catalyst for change so that the rest of the world catches up.