Khensani Maseko, a student from Rhodes University who was allegedly raped by her then boyfriend in May, died at her family home in Johannesburg on Friday afternoon in an apparent suicide.
The Rhodes University SRC has expressed their shock, while on social media tributes have poured in, with many spreading the hashtag #RIPKhensani and voicing their outrage at Maseko’s suicide and at South African rape culture in general.
Some pointed out the added significance of Maseko’s death coming in Women’s Month, a time of the year when South Africans are meant to show support for women’s rights and resolve to stop the country’s scourge of violence against women.
Maseko was an SRC alumnus, active in campus politics as a member of the EFF.
Nhlakanipho Mahlangu, a member of Rhodes SRC, said: “We know the amount of promise she had to offer us all, I mean to offer the entire country. We’re very shaken, it’s a very difficult time for us as the SRC, and we wish her family all the strength and support that we can.”
READ MORE: SA is a nation of abusers, stats show
The rape of South African women is among the highest in the world, according to a Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) report released in June. “A total of 250 out of every 100 000 women were victims of sexual offence, compared to 120 out of every 100 000 men,” the 2016-17 Victims of Crime report stated.
“Using the 2016-17 South African Police Service statistics, in which 80% of the reported sexual offences were rape, together with Stats SA’s estimate that 68.5% of the sexual offences victims were women, we obtain a crude estimate of the number of women raped per 100 000 as 138.
“This figure is among the highest in the world.”
While the murder rates of both men and women declined steadily between 2000 and 2015, the murder rate for women increased drastically, by 117%, between 2015 and 2016/17, Stats SA noted with concern.
The number of women who experienced sexual offences also jumped from 31 665 in 2015-16 to 70 813 in 2016-17 – an increase of 53%.“These are drastic increases in less than 24 months,” the report said.
Those suffering from depression or who have friends or loved ones who are advised to contact the following organisations:
Lifeline 24-hour crisis line: 0861 322 322
SADAG helpline: 0800 567 567/ or sms 31393