The trial of nine men accused of murdering a lesbian in Khayelitsha, South Africa, has resumed.

Football player Zoliswa Nkonyana, 19, was stoned, beaten and stabbed to death on February 4th 2006 in the township on the outskirts of Cape Town.

She was known to be a lesbian and gay rights activists say her murder was motivated by homophobia.

It is claimed that she was killed after she tried to use a female toilet in a bar but was told to use the men’s facility by other women.

She left the bar but was allegedly followed by the group of men and attacked.

Nkonyana was stoned with bricks and beaten with golf clubs in front of her stepfather, who was said to be unaware the woman he regarded as a daughter was the one being attacked.

The trial has been postponed around 20 times and some of the defendants claim their constitutional rights were violated because they were “minors” when their statements were taken.

Now aged between 19 and 25, all nine deny Nkonyana’s murder, along with two charges of attempted murder for attacks on the dead woman’s friend and a man who was accompanying her.

Yesterday, around 200 protesters from a variety of gay groups protested outside the court in Khayelitsha calling for justice for Nkonyana and for her murder to be treated as a hate crime.

Marlow Valentine, director of the Triangle Project, told the Cape Times that the court must recognise the homophobic element of the killing.

“It needs to be made clear that it was not another township murder,” he said.

A report released in March 2009 suggested that there was a rise in ‘corrective rapes’ and assaults on lesbians in South Africa.

Charity ActionAid said women in Johannesburg and Cape Town were suffering an increase in homophobic attacks and sexual assaults which are seen as a form of punishment or “cure”.

Figures suggest there are an estimated 500,000 rapes in South Africa every year and for every 25 men accused of rape in the country, 24 walk free.

In September, a man was jailed for life for the murder and rape of a lesbian South African footballer.

Eudy Simelane, a player for Banyana Banyana and prominent South African gay rights activist, was stabbed to death in April 2008. She had been robbed, gang-raped and stabbed to death. Her body was left in a stream.

Themba Mvubu, 24, from Kwathema, was found guilty of murder, robbery and being an accessory to the rape.