LGBT+ History Month: Eudy Simelane – the international footballer murdered for being gay

Eudy Simelane's mother Mally (left) and father Khotso (right) sit on the bridge built in honour of their murdered daughter next to a mural of her face on the wall
Eudy Simelane’s dad and mom sit on the bridge bearing her picture that was inbuilt her reminiscence

Warning: This article contains references to sexual assault and violent crime.

An international footballer, coach and aspiring referee, Eudy Simelane devoted her life to the sport.

She was certainly one of the first overtly gay ladies to dwell in her township of Kwa-Thema in South Africa and was a nicely-identified LGBT+ activist.

But due to her sexuality, Simelane was brutally raped and murdered in 2008, aged simply 31.

This is the story of her life and the way the legacy of her dying remains to be impacting South African society.

‘She was a diamond’

Simelane was born on 11 March 1977, in Kwa-Thema, a township in the Gauteng province, south east of Johannesburg.

Her curiosity in soccer began when she was solely 4 years previous, demanding her brother Bafana all the time took her to follow with him regardless of it not being a sport generally performed by ladies at the time.

Passion quickly grew to become dedication as she honed her abilities each day.

“Five o’clock in the morning, she [would be] at the gym – football was her favourite and her priority”, her late mom Mally recalled at a memorial lecture in 2016.external-link

Nicknamed ‘Styles’ as a result of she was left-footed, midfielder Simelane joined her native staff, Kwa-Thema Ladies, now often called the Springs Home Sweepers.

Speaking to the BBC World Service in 2018 about Simelane’s recognition on the pitch, her father Khotso stated: “Everyone came to the ground when she played, number six”.

Springs Home Sweepers has produced a variety of stars together with Janine van Wyk, South Africa’s most capped footballer and captain of the nationwide staff, often called ‘Banyana Banyana’, that means ‘the girls’.external-link

Simelane performed a number of occasions for the nationwide facet, coached 4 native youth groups and needed to qualify to turn out to be her nation’s first feminine referee.

A campaigner for equality rights and social change, she was one of the first women to come out as a lesbian in South Africaexternal-link.

In the 2020 Eudy Simelane Memorial Lectureexternal-link, her brother, Bafana stated: “In sport she was a diamond, scoring beautiful goals. She was a marvellous person, intelligent, everything. It was a package. Everything you would find in Eudy. Jokingly she was playing, teasing others. That is what I miss about her.”

On 27 April 2008, Simelane’s physique was present in a stream just some hundred metres from her dwelling in Kwa-Thema.

Reports acknowledged she was approached after leaving a pub, raped after which stabbed repeatedly.

Despite her dying stunning many, activists claimed many lesbians in South Africa had been focused for ‘corrective rape’, against the law the place the perpetrator goals to ‘remedy’ the sufferer of their sexuality, changing them to heterosexuality.

Thato Mphuthiexternal-link pleaded responsible to the rape and homicide of Simelane in February 2009 and was sentenced to 32 years in jail. The following September, Themba Mvubu was additionally discovered responsible of the crimes and was sentenced to life in jail. When questioned by reporters in courtroom, he responded: “I’m not sorry.”

‘It opened the eyes of many’

Mally Simelane
Eudy Simelane’s mom Mally fought to alter perceptions of LGBT+ individuals earlier than her dying in 2019

Simelane’s sexuality put her in a weak place, one thing her mom recognised, telling the BBC, “the whole of South Africa knew Eudy was a lesbian”.

The unlucky actuality is Simelane’s story is not distinctive – she is certainly one of many victims of comparable, horrific crimes in South Africa.

A yr previous to her dying, Sizakele Sigasaexternal-link, a ladies’s and gay rights activist, and her buddy Salone Massooa, had been heckled outdoors a bar and known as ‘tomboys’. The ladies had been then gang raped, tortured, and shot useless.

Just a number of years after Simelane’s homicide, Noxolo Nogwaza, a 24-yr-previous lesbian, was discovered crushed and stoned to dying in the similar township Simelane lived.

However, as a rustic, South Africa was at the forefront of same-sex rights and have become the first African nation to decriminalise similar-intercourse acts in 1998.

The nation additionally legalised similar-intercourse marriage in 2006, seven years earlier than the act was handed in the UK, and two years previous to Simelane’s tragic dying.

Despite this, the nation nonetheless has the highest number of recorded rape cases per capitaexternal-link. Within this, it is younger, black, lesbian ladies that usually fall sufferer to violent ‘corrective rape’ crimes in South African townships.

According to data released in 2017,external-link 49% of black members of LGBT+ communities in the nation are prone to know somebody who has been murdered for being LGBT+, in comparison with 26% of white group members.

More usually than not, the perpetrators of those terrible assaults are not prosecuted for their actions.external-link

Human rights activists and supporters of Eudy Simelane in August 2009 outside the Delmas court in Mpumalanga, before the trial
Human rights activists and supporters of Eudy Simelane in August 2009 outdoors the Delmas courtroom in Mpumalanga, earlier than the trial

Simelane’s case has been an exception although. Her profile and story captivated the nation and introduced the concern of ‘corrective rape’ to consideration.

Following Simelane’s dying, her mom Mally was instrumental in the struggle to alter her communities’ views on homosexuality, utilizing her Methodist religion as a platform. She united together with her native Pastor, Smadz Matsepe, in a struggle to alter attitudes in direction of LGBT+ people in society. Mally was totally dedicated to preventing prejudice till her passing in 2019.

“It opened the eyes of many and it challenged us to deal with the LGBT+ issue,” Matsepe instructed the BBC.

A bridge was constructed over the stream in Kwa-Thema, subsequent to the soccer discipline the place Simelane’s physique was discovered. The bridge options her face imprinted on it and was constructed “as a reminder of the freedom, dignity and equality for all”, in response to the Lesbian and Gay Equality Project in The Times.external-link

Another initiative arrange with the intention of fixing social attitudes, was The Eudy Simelane Memorial Lecture. This annual lecture, in partnership between the Ujamaa Centreexternal-link at The University of KwaZulu-Natal, The Other Foundationexternal-link, Pietermaritzburg Gay & Lesbian Networkexternal-link, the KwaZulu Natal Christian Council, and Simelane’s household, goals to alter attitudes in direction of LGBT+ individuals, significantly inside some non secular communities.

These our bodies recognised that for there to be a big social change, non secular communities wanted to undertake a brand new outlook on similar-intercourse relationships and marriage, in order that people couldn’t attempt to use non secular grounds to justify violence towards LGBT+ individuals.

Professor Charlene van der Walt from the University of KwaZulu-Natal and Deputy Director of Ujamaa Centre instructed the BBC this yr: “Eudy’s story is an example of what happens to a lot of families and a lot of faith communities, yet the issue of LGBT+ people in faith is often denied or invisible.”

The lecture can also be a chance to stimulate conversations round LGBT+ communities.

Van der Walt added it was particularly essential to proceed these dialog throughout the Covid-19 pandemic the place LGBT+ individuals are “vulnerable” as a result of they usually are “in a family setting that doesn’t accept” their sexuality.

“We have made a massive leap in the right direction,” she stated.

In the 2020 lecture, Simelane’s brother Bafana, stated: “History repeats itself, so now, this lecture is eye opening to the community and other families that they must not take it as a curse if someone is gay, lesbian or transgender”.

Despite the tragic dying of Simelane, it despatched an essential message throughout South Africa and was a catalyst for these tasks and conversations to happen.

If you’ve got been affected by points raised on this article, there’s information and assist accessible on BBC Action Line.


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