Four women have accused an off-duty police officer and his mother of beating them for hours with wooden sticks in the latest case of homophobic violence reported in South Africa.
The assault took place at the house of the police officer—whose name was not released to the public—where the women were sleeping after attending a party with his brother, as they told Cape Town-based news outlet GroundUp.
The police officer, who served in the police force of Mthatha, a town in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, but he had been temporarily suspended for reasons that were not disclosed entered the room where the women where staying, unannounced. His mother was with him, too, the women recalled.
“They both were carrying long wooden sticks,” one of the women told the South African news outlet, asking to remain anonymous for fear of repercussions.
“The officer and his mother told us that we had brought the evil spirit of homosexuality into their home and told us they’ll beat lesbianism out of us. They then beat us nonstop for hours,” she added.
One of the women passed out after being kicked with a boot and another woman’s finger was broken during the savage beating. The women said they were then locked in the room until the following morning.
They decided to report the violence to hold the officer and his mother accountable. “The SAPS [South African Police Service] member is supposed to protect us but he is the very same person who abuses us. We are also part of this society. We deserve respect.”
The Mthatha police force has yet to respond to a request for comment from PinkNews, but they confirmed to GroundUp that the officer was under investigation for grievous bodily harm and that he had been suspended on an unrelated matter.
While same-sex marriage is legal in South Africa and discrimination based on sexual orientation is unconstitutional, society largely continues to stigmatise LGBT+ people. A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2013 found 61 percent of South Africans opposed homosexuality.
Journalist and South African native Darin Graham told PinkNews earlier this year that homophobic attacks are particularly common in the Eastern Cape province. “LGBT people living there are three times more likely to be attacked then anywhere else in the country,” said Graham.