Thuli Rudd was arrested after the body of Pitseng Vilakati was found in a churchyard in December 2009.
Rudd later appeared in court and pleaded guilty to a charge of murder. She was said to have been covered in bruises when she appeared, raising suspicions that she had been beaten by police.
The couple had made news in Swaziland when they announced they were to marry in what was believed to be the first lesbian marriage in the kingdom.
The media, the churches and ordinary people vilified the couple because of their sexuality.
The case has attracted international attention in human rights circles.
Monica Mbaru of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission in Africa says that Thuli is being tried and convicted by the media and the public before the investigation has been completed and that a strong possibility of this being a hate crime by homophobic persons may be ignored in the haste to prove Thuli guilty and further feed into the already high levels of homophobia.
Fikile Vilakazi of the Coalition of African Lesbians, a pan African network of over 20 member organizations of lesbian women and transgender people in 13 countries across Africa, appealed to all fair-minded and freedom loving people in Swaziland to continue to resist and challenge all forms of discrimination, including that based on homophobia in this country.
Dawn Cavanagh, an activist on the Board of the Coalition of African Lesbians, applauded all those who wrote and called in to the media throughout the publicity around the relationship between the two women and their later engagement.
She called for sustained courage in speaking out for the rights of all, including those in same sex relations, to choose with whom to have intimate relationships.
Fikile Vilakazi strongly condemned the sustained and vitriolic verbal attacks on the persons of Thuli Rudd and Pitseng Vilakati. She stated that this constituted emotional abuse and a violation of their rights and the rights of all LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people in Swaziland.
LGBT activists in Swaziland have consistently declared that same sex relations are a reality in Swaziland, as they are worldwide. The movement to open up society and to enable those who are attracted to members of the same sex is strong and vibrant. It is a fact that same sex relations have been in African societies for centuries.
The Coalition of African Lesbians and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission strongly condemned the murder of Pitseng Vilakati and all other acts of violence against women in Swaziland.
It calls on the state to ensure a prompt, full and thorough investigation to bring the murderer or murderers to book. ‘We call on the state in its prosecution of Thuli Rudd to exercise fairness and to ensure that the homophobia that exist, even within the criminal justice system, and the violations of the rights of LGBT people are not allowed to permeate and colour the state’s case. Thuli has the constitutional right to innocence until proved guilty following thorough investigation and a fair trial,’ it said in a statement.
The Coalition of African Lesbians and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission says ‘it will ensure that Thuli Rudd has access to her constitutional rights and that this case is carefully monitored and documented to ensure that justice is done, both for Thulani and for the late Pitseng Vilakati’.