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South Africa Lesbian Zoliswa Nkonyana's Killers Sentenced

First Posted: 02/ 1/2012 4:34 pm Updated: 02/ 1/2012 4:34 pm

Activists in South Africa are commending a judge's decision to sentence four men convicted of killing an openly gay lesbian to 18 years in prison, Agence France Presse reports.

Zoliswa Nkonyana, a 19-year-old woman from Khayelitsha, a village outside Cape Town, was stoned and stabbed to death by the four men in 2006, according to the BBC, and the ruling judge said homophobia and hatred fueled the crime.

AFP notes that prosecutors were satisfied with the ruling; they had asked for 15-year sentences, and reportedly believe that the judge sent a message that violence against gays would not be tolerated. MSNBC reports that South Africa's constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual preference, though discriminatory violence remains rampant.

Human Rights Watch accused South Africa of "desperately failing lesbian and transgender people" by not taking further actions prior to this ruling, AFP reports, and UN chief Ban Ki-moon criticized many African countries Sunday for treating gays as "second-class citizens or even criminals."

Despite being the only African country to allow same-sex marriage, the BBC reports, South Africa has a history of violent crimes such as "corrective rape" against lesbians. In addition, a recent study found the female homicide rate in South Africa was six times the global average.

But activists hope this sentencing will change things for the better.

"It is the first case in South Africa where sexual orientation and identity was named and recognized as an aggravating factor in a murder trial," Marlow Newman-Valentine, Deputy Director of Triangle Project, a South African organization that fights discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans-gender people, told MSNBC. "We are extremely happy about the outcome of this particular trial, but we have a long way to go."

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Filed by Ryan Craggs  |