Lesbian activists in the South African capital of Cape Town held a demonstration outside parliament yesterday to call for more action on the problem of ‘corrective rape’.

The 25 campaigners from lesbian group Luleki Sizwe want Justice Minister Jeff Radebe to recognise the issue as a hate crime.

‘Corrective rape’, as it is known, is the rape of lesbians to try and ‘turn’ them straight. Campaigners say it is becoming more common.

The most high-profile case was in 2008, when lesbian footballer Eudy Simelane was raped, beaten and murdered. Two men were jailed for her killing.

As well as demonstrating outside parliament, Luleki Sizwe has organised a 170,000-signature petition from around the world asking the government to look at the issue.

Luleki Sizwe founder Ndumie Funda told the Canadian Press: “We have shown that we can mobilise tens of thousands of people in South Africa and around the world, and the ministry now knows that they can no longer ignore our long fight against corrective rape. The question now is what they will actually do about it. The ball is in their court.”

The groups wants research to be commissioned into corrective rape and a national plan to tackle sexual violence, as well as hate crimes.

A 2009 report 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.