Noxolo Nogwaza, a 24-year-old lesbian, was found dead in an alley in Kwa-Thema township, South Africa, on Easter Sunday morning. It is believed she was raped and murdered.

Ms Nogwaza was a member of the Ekurhuleni Pride Organising Committee (EPOC), the key LGBTI organisation in Kwa-Thema. The committee, along with the Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL) said that Ms Nogwaza’s face was so badly beaten that she was unrecognisable. Her body had been stabbed all over with glass shards and there was evidence she had been raped.

Victor Mukasa, project coordinator of the Human Rights Defenders Project at CALI, said: “I am so disturbed by this horrific action. It is the responsibility of the South African Government to protect all its citizens. Hate crimes against LGBT people in this country are on the rise and the government should come out openly against these actions.

“Protection of individuals who are vulnerable because of their sexual orientation and or gender identity is something provided for in the Constitution of South Africa and should be put in practice. As a regional advocacy organisation, CAL will work with EPOC and others to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to book.”

In 2008, Eudy Simelane’s body was also found in an open field in Kwa-Thema – she too had been raped and murdered. Last year, a gay man in the same township was attacked by eight men, who allegedly attempted to rape him.

Ntsupe, Chairperson of EPOC said: “It is very clear that these rapists are on a mission. We will not rest until justice prevails. Eudy’s case was not recognized as a hate crime against a lesbian and the same is not done in the cases of many other people who have been raped and/or murdered on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in South Africa.

“EPOC is determined to get to the bottom of the Noxola case and push for justice. It was definitely a hate crime.”

The murder of Ms Nogwaza has been reported to Tsakane Police. She will be buried on Saturday.