Homophobia In Sport Programmes

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Corrective Rape

In 2008 a report by South Africa’s Human Rights Commission expressed alarm at the “growing phenomenon of ‘corrective’ rape” in schools across the country, with young boys believing that lesbian girls need to be raped in order to ‘correct’ their sexual orientation. 'Corrective rape' has two dimensions, violence against women and homophobia. Campaigners say that 31 lesbians have been killed because of their sexuality in the past decade and more than 10 lesbians a week are raped or gang raped in Cape Town alone. 67

Homophobia is one of the factors that contributes to the overall toll of abuse in sport, and together with other forms of discrimination, it can make sport an unsafe activity for many children. People in all regions of the world experience violence, harassment, discrimination, exclusion, stigmatization and prejudice because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. 66

Girls can experience violence based on their sexual orientation, whether a girl is a lesbian or is perceived to be. In some communities, the physical strength associated with an athletic female is considered gender deviant and somehow associated with homosexuality. All over the world, gay athletes keep their sexual identity a secret; for fear that disclosure will result in social exclusion from the team, discrimination by peers and coaches, loss of opportunities or instances of physical or sexual violence. In a handful of countries, homosexual acts are still punishable by law.

Only 3 years ago, in the township of Kwathema, Eudy Similane was found partially clothed, gang-raped, beaten and stabbed. Eudy played football for the South African national team Banyana Banyana and Springs Home Sweepers F.C. Those who knew her remembered her as talented, passionate and humble. She was a “voracious equality rights campaigner” and one of the first women to live openly as a lesbian in Kwathema. 68

From a programme design perspective, all staff and participants in a sport context have an obligation to protect girls from this, and any other, violence or abuse, regardless of their ethical position. Issues of homophobia must be addressed openly and uncompromisingly, as with any other form of GBV. 

Sexual Abuse among Girls and Women with Disabilities

Girls and women with disabilities are exposed to a greater risk of physical and sexual abuse through their status as women and worse, through their status as persons with disabilities. “Compared to women without disabilities, girls and women with disabilities were more likely to report more intense experiences of abuse, including the combination of multiple incidents, multiple perpetrators, and longer duration”. 69

An epidemiological study carried out by Sullivan & Knutson in 200, found a 9% rate of maltreatment for children without disabilities vs. 31% rate for children with disabilities. They also deduced that children with disabilities were 3.4% more likely to be abused. 70

Are girls and women with disabilities more susceptible to GBV?

  • They may find it difficult to call for help, protest or get away
  • They may be less conscious of the laws that protect them and have less access to information.
  • Women and girls with disabilities can have mobility issues which renders them susceptible to GBV and unable to flee perpetrators.
  • Women and girls with cognitive and communication impairments may find it hard to process and report GBV. 71

Girls and women with disabilities need to know what to do to prevent violence and abuse from happening to them. Education is needed to create a greater awareness of GBV. Sport can reinforce positive self-esteem by helping a girl with a disability recognise the things that make her feel good or what she likes about herself.


66 . UNICEF report on Protecting Children from Violence in Sport prepared by the Innocenti Center, p 14

67 . “Teenage lesbian is latest victim of 'corrective rape' in South Africa” at  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/09/lesbian-corrective-rape-sout...

68 . “Raped and killed for being a lesbian: South Africa ignores 'corrective' attacks” at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/mar/12/eudy-simelane-corrective-rap...

69 . “Preventing Violence against Women and Girls with Disabilities”, April 2011, Pacific Rim International Conference on Disabilities. Retrieved from http://wwda.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Think-Piece_WWD.pdf

70 . Sullivan, P. & Knutson, J. (2000). Maltreatment and disabilities: A population-based epidemiological study. Child Abuse & Neglect, 24 (10), 1257-1273.

71 . Retrieved from www.genderlinks.org.za/attachment.php?aa_id=10984