Almost a year ago Change.org bloggers Alex DiBranco and Mike Jones started covering the South African phenomenon of ‘corrective rape', the increasingly common crime in which men rape lesbian women to 'turn' them straight or 'cure' them of their sexual orientation.
Since then a petition written by a tiny group of lesbian activists in a safehouse in the townships of Cape Town has seen phenomenal success, with well over 100,000 signatures. From Brazil, China and India to South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe, Change.org member's in 163 countries have helped make the South African anti-rape activists' action the most popular petition of all time.
Yesterday the activists had another major breakthrough, as coverage of their Change.org campaign by numerous major South African media outlets took ‘corrective rape' from being an unknown epidemic to a national discussion.
The success of their petition, which calls on South Africa's Minister of Justice Jeffrey Thamsanqa Radebe to combat ‘corrective rape', was first publicized by a lead article in the Sowetan, a national newspaper with a readership in the millions in South Africa's townships and famous for it's role in the country's anti-Apartheid struggle. The campaign has since been featured on South Africa's most popular commercial radio station, South Africa's national broadcaster SABC, Cape Town's biggest newspaper, business publications, international blogs in both English and Spanish and a number of international outlets (both the BBC and Voice of America are working on stories).
For the first time in these women's long and painful quest for justice and rape prevention, there seem to be some lights popping out at the end of the tunnel.
"We're so BLESSED to be part of a community like Change.org that fights together,” Luleki Sizwe activists told us earlier today. “Thank you for standing with us! When any Change.org member starts a campaign, we will stand with them!"
We have reached the breaking point in this campaign: Minister Radebe has still not agreed to even meet with the activists, but news of the petition's success and media interest is likely to increase pressure on the South African government to take the ‘corrective rape' epidemic seriously. It is critical that we keep up the pressure!
Have you signed the ‘corrective rape' petition? If not, won't you take a minute to sign and share with your friends? Click here to sign