Monday, September 14, 2009

men, meat and homophobia

So for you man readers out there, I gotta tell you about this meat joint that some interns and I visited 2 Fridays ago. Let's be honest--vegetarians have nightmares about places like this. The place is called Mzolis and it is located in one of the townships (for those of you who don't know, townships were created largely after the apartheid government's Groups Areas Act in the 50s and 60s that evicted the majority of the black and coloured populations from their homes near the city center to a barren land of shantytowns on the fringes of the city) called Gugulethu. The place is BYOD (bring your own drinks) and consists of about 30 round tables under a tent. You go inside the building next door to order in front of a giant counter with pounds and pounds of raw lamb, sausage, pork and chicken behind it. Your order your meat, pay and take it through a dark and sketchy hallway to a grill in the back. 15 minutes later you come back to the sweetest gift of the angels above: a giant bowl of mixed grilled meat in a savory BBQ sauce. You stumble tipsy-like to your table and join your friends animalistically fending off one another as they rip the meat apart in the bowl and stuff it into their mouths with their bare hands. 20 minutes and some major food baby later, you find yourself dancing around the table with your friends and grinning from ear to ear with meat sauce smeared across your cheeks, hands, arms and clothes. YUMMY!

While not spending every free minute packing on the pounds at Mzolis, I've been doing some really interesting work on women's and LGBT rights at the office. While South Africa was the first country to outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, homophobia runs rife. Polls estimate that 80% of south africans are homophobic, and news of "corrective" rapes (where a man rapes a lesbian with the intent of "curing" her sexuality or punishing her), tortures and murders of LGBT individuals are all too common. Many social theorists link the violence to stress of unemployment and poverty that the majority of the perpetrators experience in the townships. Of the 36 reported murders of lesbians in south africa in 1998, only 2 cases came to trial, leading to only one conviction. My roommate and I are working with an incredibly committed and organized local NGO called Triangle Project to monitor the murder trial of Zoliswa Nkonyana . She was beaten by youths, aged between 17 and 20, who chased her, pelted her with bricks and finally beat her with a golf club a few metres from her home ( Unfortunately, events like this are all too common in south africa...and across the world.

I cannot help but feel that while an individual should be entitled to forming his or her own moral suppositions regarding sexuality and sexual identity, it is absolutely unacceptable for any person to express those views through physically, verbally or psychologically violent means. Ideologies and belief systems, similar to culture, are not inherently bad, but become problematic when they harm other human beings and violate certain fundamental human rights. To fight for the protection of another person's human rights is does not mean you must condone his or her lifestyle and behaviors. You simply recognize the other as a human being who, like you, is entitled to human dignity...for reallllzzzzz.

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