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The Elephant in the Room of Women’s FIFA World Cup Soccer

By Melanie Nathan, September 13, 2023.


There is a great anomaly courtesy the ‘elephant’ in the FIFA WOMEN WORLD CUP SOCCER room, that has escaped attention and opportunity.


It has been 15 long years since the brutal rape and murder of soccer player, Eudy Simelane, who played for the South African national women’s team, Banyana Banyana. Eudy was found dead in April 2008 in an open field in KwaThema, Springs, in Gauteng. She had been abducted, gang raped, beaten and stabbed several times because of her sexual orientation. Imagine had she lived to see Banyana Banyana play this year’s World Cup in New Zealand and Australia? Who knows by now she may have been a national coach.


While South Africa has taken some steps to mitigate this epidemic of so called “corrective” rape of lesbians, the country’s lesbians still endure the horrific violence, all these years later, and the rest of the continent has become worse. This brutality is licensed by the criminalizing penal codes, the uptick in anti-homosexuality legislation, and the current hunting by governments, such as Uganda, of gays.

Through watching the World Cup, when following the Jamaican, Nigerian and Zambian teams I was struck by the likelihood that there are lesbians in those teams and that as such their sexual orientation insists on a disturbing anomaly: Can they truly be heroes in their countries if their mere existence considers them demons and criminals in their home countries?


With these good citizens, talents, stars, players, subject to this cruel anomaly, the reflection ought to be on how unjust and ridiculous these hateful laws are, drenched in misunderstanding and the opportunism of those who scapegoat for their own agendas. These laws are the historic product of colonization. The new laws, tantamount to ongoing colonization of these countries, are directed at the instance of American Christian Evangelicals exporting homophobia to the continent.


We forget how difficult life is when one has to remain in the closet, and worse when one is in hiding, and yet worse when one has been threatened directly or experienced the persecution or violence.


Several players and coaches have reached out to Melanie Nathan and African Human rights Coalition, from across the continent who are now in hiding due to heightened anti-LGBTI laws and the hunting of gays that is occurring.


African Human Rights Coalition has started a fund for the extraction of soccer players to safety or protection. So far, with the help of a most generous donor, we have assisted 3 players to flee their countries of origin. While in general we prefer solutions within people’s own countries, when faced with years in prison, beatings, rape and torture, for simply being one’s authentic self, we must act with the immediacy and urgency this requires.


We are calling on LGBTQI+ teams, players, coaches worldwide to join our movement for change, for those in immediate danger and need of protection, and to assist us in finding durable solutions. We are especially calling on our lesbian sisters and allies in these communities who enjoy measures of freedom from such violence and oppression to step up and be part of the global family for such support. This year, Uganda passed The Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023, which includes the death penalty. Other countries passing such, following suit at this time, or hunting gays include Kenya, Namibia, Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Tanzania. DONATIONS ARE GRATEFULLY RECEIVED HERE.

By Melanie Nathan, ED of African Human Rights Coalition (AHRC) Melanie is also a country conditions expert witness for LGBTI asylum seekers from African countries, to include Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, Cameroon, Nigeria, Senegal, Namibia, and more.... commissionermnathan@gmail.com

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