28 April 2008
On 28 April 2008, Banyana Banyana midfielder Eudy Simelane was found in a ditch in the outskirts of her home township KwaThema, Gauteng. She had been raped, robbed and murdered. Her rape was a reaction to her sexual orientation as Simelane was an out lesbian woman.
Simelane had had a successful soccer career and used her celebrity status as part of her LGBTI activism. She was out in her community and while reactions to her homosexuality were mixed, KwaThemba did have a known and celebrated LGBTI friendly sub-culture. This made Simelane’s abduction, rape and murder all the more alarming. The violence against her was particularly brutal as she had been gang-raped and then stabbed over 25 times.
‘Corrective’ rape is a common threat to black lesbian women in South African townships, the idea being that raping a lesbian woman will ‘cure’ them of their homosexuality. The term has caused controversy with many LGBTI organisations preferring terms such as homophobic or transphobic sexual violence.
Two of the four attackers were convicted. Thato Mphithi and Themba Mvubu were the first men in South Africa to be convicted of ‘corrective’ rape despite there being over 30 reported cases in the decade before Simelane’s murder. Upon leaving the court, Mvubu—who was sentenced to life imprisonment—stated that he “was not sorry” for his crimes.
Alfredsson, Karin. “Eudy Simelane”, Cause of Death: Woman. Accessed 2 February 2017, https://www.causeofdeathwoman.com/eudy-simelane.|Gqola, Pumla. Rape: A South African Nightmare. Johannesburg: MFBooks Joburg, 2015.|Kelly, Annie. “Raped and Killed for being a Lesbian: South Africa Ignores ‘Corrective’ Attacks”, The Guardian South Africa. 12 March 2009, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/mar/12/eudy-simelane-corrective-rape-south-africa.|Smith, David. “Life for Man in Rape and Killing of Lesbian South African Footballer”, The Guardian South Africa. 22 September 2009, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/sep/22/eudy-simelane-gangrape-and-murder