Three found guilty of gang raping gay man in landmark verdict for South Africa

(Photo by RODGER BOSCH/AFP/GettyImages)

Three men have been found guilty of the gang rape of a gay man in South Africa – the first time the country has issued a guilty verdict in a male rape case.

Austin Fritz, Rodney Beukes and Peter John Adams were due to be sentenced Monday (7 February) but the hearing has been postponed until 1 March.

The trio kidnapped a young gay man in the Western Cape’s Ceres region in August 2017 and repeatedly raped him, lawyers told the Worcester Regional court. It also emerged that one of the three men was a minor at the time of the attack, and he already had a criminal record for violent crime.

The judge was told it was the second time the victim had been targeted by the trio, but that he had not reported the first attack.

“A young gay man, gang-raped by three straight men, and all three have been found guilty of kidnapping and rape, which is a great win for us,” Sharon Cox, from LGBT+ outreach organisation The Triangle Project, told Eyewitness News.

“We’ve had these cases before and we’ve never had success with them. This is the first time that we have a guilty verdict in a gay male rape,” Cox added.

However, the judge is unable to sentence the three men for their homophobia, because a 2018 hate crime bill that would protect LGBT+ South Africans still hasn’t been signed into law.

Homophobic violence in South Africa

The successful conviction of three men for the gang rape of a gay man has renewed calls from LGBT+ advocates for the government to implement the Prevention and Combating Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill B9 of 2018.

Such demands had grown louder in the spring of 2021 after four LGBT+ people were murdered in South Africa in less than a month.

Lonwabo Jack, Nathaniel Mbele, Andile “Lulu” Ntuthela and Sphamandla Khoza were all brutally murdered, leading to protests at the South African parliament in April 2021 as LGBT+ people demanded tangible action over the rise in hate crimes.

But just two months later, in June, the violence continued as two lesbian women, Anele Bhengu and Lulama Mvandaba, were murdered.

The horrifying attacks on the LGBT+ community claimed the lives of at least 16 LGBT+ people in the first six months of 2021.

However, the true scale of violence may never be known, as most hate crime cases go undetected, according to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, because witnesses are reluctant to come forward.

The comprehensive hate crime bill would punish hate crimes based on “age, albinism, birth, colour, culture, disability, ethnic or social origin, gender or gender identity, HIV status, language, nationality, migrant or refugee status, occupation or trade, political affiliation or conviction, race, religion, or sex, which includes intersex or sexual orientation”.

While the bill was open to public consultation as far back as 2016, it has stalled as critics insist it will infringe on freedom of speech.