By Robert Hamblin, and Sistaz Hood
“Her work was illegal and her identity a shame. Transgender sex workers suffer more than just one hate in society” said Netta Marcus from the Sistaz Hood Transgender Sex Workers support group at Sex Worker Advocacy and Education Task force (SWEAT) in Cape Town.
The transgender women* from The Sistaz Hood marched in solidarity with lesbian and gay groups today, to protest the non delivery of government action on hate crimes in South Africa. The LGBT people participating in the march handed a memorandum of demands to Western Cape ANC official Songezo Mjonggile.
In recent weeks, there has been a very visible surge in hate crime towards LGBT people. Nine LGBT people were murdered in SA. In Cape Town the Sistaz Hood lost one of their members, Sasha Lee 37, only two weeks ago. She was stabbed through the heart and left to die on a pavement in Wynberg. She is one of many sisters the group has lost in the years they have known one another.
There is no research on Trans people in South African but an international study with five participating countries found that one transgender woman is killed for every working day of the month.
Most often these transwomen are sex workers. The study documents the homicides of transgender women where clear hate crime was documented by authorities. **
In recent weeks Sasha-Lee was not the only gender variant person to be murdered because of their lives and situations as people challenged by gender identity or sexual orientation. A gay man in Kuruman was near decapitated and a transgender women in the Eastern Cape was also murdered this week.
Other campaigns in the last 24 months have created a very clear consciousness about the systemic violent rape of lesbian women because of their sexual orientation. Government has failed to produce the hate crimes response it has promised and the problem becomes more fatal for LGBT people each day that government fails to respond.
The Sistaz Hood Transgender women sex workers group is one of the largest known organised gatherings of transgender people in South Africa on a regular basis. The members also do advocacy work whereby they document the typical situations of the average black transgender woman of South Africa. Severe marginalisation due to stigma surrounding gender variant presentation has them leading outsider lives since their teenage years. The average group member has been indigent since they were a young age and sex work is most often part of their survival strategies.
They struggle with ensuing addiction issues, homelessness and HIV and experience a consistent prejudice from all that is a service provider regarding health and other basic human rights. Fear of being murdered is daily reality for all of them. Every single one of them has lost a friend to a hate crime.
Says Sistaz Hood: We are who we are – stop Killing us. We implore government to respond to this genocide.
*Transgender woman: A transgender woman is a person who was born with a male body and who has the gender identity of a woman. (Male to female transsexual)
For more images of The Sistaz Hood visit the SWEAT FACEBOOK page.