A prominent female football player gang-raped and murdered in South Africa last week was the victim of homophobic violence, according to activists.

Midfielder Eudy Simelane, 31, was buried earlier this week.

She had played for the national women’s squad, nicknamed Banyana Banyana.

Ms Simelane was returning home from a night out with friends in Kwatema, near Johannesburg, when she was reportedly targeted by a gang of youths.

Her body, which showed signs of repeated stabbings and rape, was found on open ground nearby.

“We believe that it is a homophobic hate crime simply by the fact that the victim in this case was a well known lesbian,” Carrie Shelver of People Opposed to Women Abuse told the South African Broadcasting Company.

In February human rights groups and gay activists launched the 07-07-07 Campaign.

On that day last year two lesbian women, 34 year old Sizakele Sigasa and 23 year old Salome Masooa, were raped, tortured and killed in Meadowlands, Soweto.

Their hands were tied up using their underwear and their tied ankles using their shoelaces.

Both had been shot several times. On February 4th 2006 lesbian Zoliswa Nonkonyane was murdered by a mob of 20 men.

None of these cases have been solved.

Gay rights group Triangle Project claimed police ignore reports from gay and lesbians that they had been assaulted or raped because of their sexual orientation and some health workers had refused to help lesbians who had been raped.

“Thirteen years into our democracy and our progressive constitution, which includes the protection of the human rights of LGBTI persons, we find ourselves still marching for freedom,” the group said in a statement launching the 07-07-07 Campaign.

“Our black sisters in townships and rural communities are continued targets of corrective rape; verbal, sexual and physical abuse; plagued by violence and trapped by the collective oppressions of sexism, homophobia, hetero-normative values and patriarchal structures.

“Black lesbians and effeminate men are humiliated and publicly shamed resulting in their brutal and violent deaths which are ignored by local authorities and national leadership.”

In response to these criticisms South Africa’s Police Inspectorate has promised “decisive action” against officers who ridicule gay people or ignore homophobic hate crimes.