The Carlton Centre mall

The Democratic Alliance says that it’s shocked at the police’s handling of the recent attack of a lesbian woman at the Carlton Centre mall in Johannesburg.

Debbie Schafer, the DA’s Shadow Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, said that not only is it “unacceptable” to be assaulted because of one’s sexual orientation, it is “despicable when the person assaulted tries to report the matter to the police, the very people who are supposed to protect us from harm, only to be told that the matter is ‘not a big issue'”.

On June 13, Bonisiwe Mtshali (29), who works at the centre, gave her girlfriend Khanyisa Ndoda (21) a goodbye kiss. Three security guards who saw the kiss began to insult the women. When Mtshali confronted them, they allegedly beat her unconscious.

Ndoda told The Star newspaper that when they reported the incident at the Johannesburg Central police station “the police advised us to drop the charges,” as “it wasn’t a big case and would be expensive”.

According to Schafer, this response by the police was unacceptable.

“Crime is a big issue. Being assaulted is a big issue. Being assaulted to the point where one is unconscious for three hours, is a very big issue. We believe that this conduct goes beyond misconduct on the part of the police, as well as the security guards,” Schafer said.

“It is a violation of the rights of Ms Mtshali to enjoy her constitutionally enshrined right to freedom from discrimination on the grounds of her sexual orientation, and a violation of her right to a safe and secure environment. It also makes a mockery of our criminal justice system. How can we possibly know the extent of this type of crime, when the police are setting themselves up as judges by preventing the matter from even getting to court?”

Schafer added that the DA will be referring the matter to the Human Rights Commission for an investigation. “This type of intolerance and violence must be stopped, and stopped now,” she said.

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