South Africa: IGLHRC Condemns the Killing of 19-year-old Zoliswa Nkonyana in Capetown and Other Violence Against Lesbians

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) joins two South African groups--the Forum for the Empowerment of Women and the Triangle Project-- today in condemning the killing of Zoliswa Nkonyana in Capetown, South Africa and called for an end to continuing violence against lesbian women in South Africa. On February 4, Nkonyana was stoned, beaten and stabbed to death in front of her house by a gang of men for being a lesbian. As reported in the Johannesburg Sunday Times on February 19, “as the mob battered Zoliswa Nkonyana, 19, her stepfather, Gcinumzi Mandindi, watched from the back door of their home—unaware that the victim was the child he regarded as a daughter.”

The murder of Zoliswa Nkonyana was immediately condemned by the Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW), a black lesbian/bisexual young women's group in Johannesburg and a leading support organization for black lesbians, and the Triangle Project, the largest gay and lesbian organization serving the Western Cape Province. (The FEW and Triangle Project press releases on the killing of Zoliswa Nkonyana are attached.)

“The international community must be alerted to this pattern of violence against women being abused, beaten and murdered, particularly in the traditional township areas, because they do not conform to prescribed gender norms,” stated Paula Ettelbrick, executive director of IGLHRC. “In condemning the murder of Zoliswa, we are adding our voice to that of FEW, the Triangle Project and other LGBT groups in South Africa. We offer our support as they mourn Zoliswa and our assistance as they call for a full investigation and prosecution of this case and demand that the police investigate similar attacks. National and local government officials and service providers such as doctors, nurses and social workers, must address the reality of ongoing violence against lesbians in South Africa.”

Ettelbrick and Cary Alan Johnson, senior Africa specialist for IGLHRC, were in South Africa when the story of Zoliswa’s murder broke and were able to meet with FEW and other South African gay and lesbian organizations to offer IGLHRC’s assistance.

“While we welcome the arrest of six suspects by the South African police, this murder follows a wave of attacks in recent years on young lesbian women in different parts of South Africa,” stated Johnson. “FEW has been documenting violence against young lesbians to show that these are not isolated incidents but a pattern of homophobic attacks putting the lives of many young women at risk. How tragic that the murder of Zoliswa and comes on the heels of the ruling by the South African Constitutional Court in favor of gay marriage.”


The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) is the only human rights organization solely devoted to improving the rights of people around the world who are targeted for imprisonment, abuse or murder because of their sexuality, gender identity or HIV status. IGLHRC addresses human rights violations by partnering with and supporting activists on the ground in countries around the world, by monitoring and documenting abuses, by engaging offending governments, and by educating international human rights officials. A US-based non-profit, non-governmental organization, IGLHRC is based in New York, with offices in San Francisco and Buenos Aires.