Page last updated at 11:09 GMT, Wednesday, 23 September 2009 12:09 UK

Relief as lesbian's killer jailed

Supporters of Eudy Simelane outside court
Activists have been campaigning outside court against 'corrective rape'

Gay activists in South Africa have welcomed the life sentence handed down to a man for the killing and gang rape of lesbian football star Eudy Simelane.

Ms Simelane was one of the first women to live openly as a lesbian in KwaThema township near Johannesburg.

The Lesbian and Gay Equality Project says lesbians are often targets of sexual violence by people wanting to "cure" their homosexuality.

Judge Ratha Mokgoathleng described the attack as "brutal and undignified".

More than 30 lesbians have been reported raped and murdered in homophobic attacks in South Africa since 1998.

'Attackers knew her'

"We express relief at the conclusion of the trial, and thank everyone who has supported the mobilisations and campaign to ensure justice," The Lesbian and Gay Equality Project said in a statement sent to the BBC.

Eudy Simelane's mother Mally
I'm happy. I'm released. My life will come right again
Eudy Simelane's mother Mally

"We call on all to support the long journey to ensure an egalitarian society."

The body of the former national women's football team player and lesbian activist was found in an open field in KwaThema township in April 2008.

Ms Simelane was approached after leaving a pub and robbed of her mobile, trainers and cash.

She died from wounds to the abdomen after being gang raped and stabbed 12 times. Her naked body was dragged towards a stream and dumped.

In the Delmas court, Judge Mokgoathleng said he believed she and her attackers were known to each other.

Themba Mvubu, who had pleaded not guilty to all charges, was also sentenced to 20 years for being an accomplice to rape and 15 years for robbery.

Two other men were acquitted.

In February, another man who had pleaded guilty to the charges was sentenced to 32 years.

The prosecution initially had said sexuality was not a motive, but activists insisted it was a case of "corrective rape".

After the sentence, Ms Simelane's mother Mally said: "I'm happy. I'm released. My life will come right again", South Africa's Mail and Guardian newspaper reports.

Annual crime statistics released on Tuesday show a 10% rise in sexual offences against women and men - with 27,750 rapes committed between April 2008 and September 2008.

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