Activists say Zoliswa Nkonyana was stabbed and stoned to death because of her sexual identity. The 2006 killing is only one in a long line of brutal attacks against black lesbians in the country.
The sentence set an important precedent for South Africa "by acknowledging hatred and intolerance based on sexual orientation as an aggravating factor," the Triangle Project, a nonprofit group based in Cape Town that advocates for gay rights, said in a statement Wednesday.
Although crimes against gay people are a problem in South Africa, the country has some of the strongest laws protecting gay rights on the continent. It is one of the few countries in the world where gay marriage is legal. Reporter Robyn Dixon captured the paradox in The Times last year:
South Africa has a liberal constitution promising equal rights for all, and cosmopolitan Cape Town has a thriving gay scene. But for black lesbians living in urban townships, it's little better than in many other countries on a homophobic continent.
The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Assn. released a report last May on homophobia around the world. It included this map of lesbian and gay rights in Africa, which range from countries where people can be put to death for same-sex acts (shaded in red) to those that recognize gay marriage (only South Africa, shaded in green.) Double click the map below to get a larger view:
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Photo: Patrons visit a predominantly gay tavern in Kwa Thema, east of Johannesburg, in May. Credit: Denis Farrell/Associated Press