It was around 11pm on a Friday night in Gugulethu - a township on the edge of Cape Town - and Millicent Gaika, 30, was almost home when a man she recognized stopped her and asked for a cigarette. Gaika obliged. The man then pushed her into a nearby shack, and beat and raped her for five hours. Gaika told police that throughout the assault, her attacker repeatedly said: "You think you're a man, but I'm going to show you you're a woman." Charged with rape, the 43-year-old man is scheduled to go to court on March 15.
Gaika was that rarity in South Africa, indeed all Africa: an openly gay woman. And since her attack in 2009, she has become something of an icon in the battle against the South African phenomenon known as "corrective rape." Virtually unknown to the rest of the world at the time of Gaika's ordeal, corrective rape has since become a hot issue. Through online campaigns, nearly a million people have joined local activists in demanding that the South African government recognize corrective rape as a hate crime. But with so few cases of homophobic violence resulting in trials - and of those, almost none ending in conviction - they have a long fight ahead of them.