A Vocal Protester Of Rape Culture Takes Her Own Life After Being Raped

“The university is failing to accept this is the current issue. Khensani died for something she was protesting against. How can you say the university has changed when someone has died?”



An anti-rape activist in South Africa took her own life two months after she was allegedly raped by a fellow student.

23-year-old Khensani Maseko was a law student at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa, and always voiced her concern over the alleged rape culture at her varsity.

Last week, the woman killed herself before writing on her Instagram, “No-one deserves to be raped!”

 “The university immediately made contact with her family [after the alleged rape was reported] and they travelled the next day from Johannesburg to Grahamstown for a meeting where they elected to take Khensani home for a while,” the university said in a statement.

However, she took her life just three days before returning to her university. She was laid to rest in Johannesburg. After Maseko’s death, the suspect was reportedly suspended from the university.

The incident sent a wave of grief and anger across the city and renewed calls for stricter measures against rape.

Student representatives called for a “campus shutdown” after Maseko’s demise and as a result academic activists at the university were shut down for two days.

The 23-year-old was a supporter of the 2016 student protest against rape culture. The protest initiated a poster campaign “Chapter 212” that urged students to talk about the rampant issue and how to take measures against it.

The protest came after students criticized the university authorities’ lack of interest on rape allegations and their lenient attitude towards it. The widespread demonstrations resulted in a list of eleven alleged rapists being leaked on social media.

Students said no action was taken by authorities when they first reported against the suspects.

In the wake of the protests, all academic activities at the university were shut down for a week and the protests ended after authorities set up a team to address the concerns of the students.

However, students said none of their demands were met and now Maseko’s death serves as a proof.


“The university is failing to accept this is the current issue. Khensani died for something she was protesting against. How can you say the university has changed when someone has died?” said Maseko’s friend, Siya Nyulu.

Sizwe Mabizela, the university’s vice chancellor, addressed students at a memorial for Maseko and said the problem exists because the society fails to educate men.

“We always tell young women how they should conduct themselves, yet we fail to tell young men they have no right to interfere with the bodily integrity of another person,” he said.

Mabizela added, “We hope this tragic incident will allow the university an opportunity to reflect and engage, even deeper, on how we must pull together as a university and society to eliminate the scourge of gender-based violence.”

Apart from being a vocal anti-rape activist, Maseko was an active member of the university’s student body. She was elected to the Student Representative Council in 2016 and was also a member of party student group the Economic Freedom Fighters.

She also took part in the 2017/18 “Miss Varsity” competition and won the title.

“The world has lost a jewel. It lost someone who really stood up for women. There is something about Khensani that let her stand out. She was confident and when she spoke you could feel her power,” said her friend Florence Bagonza, who now lives in Uganda.

Maseko’s friend Eric Ofei, who mentored her as she ran for the Student Representative Council, said she had such a personality that she couldn’t be ignored.

Sexual violence in South Africa is a serious problem and rape figures of the country are among the highest in the world. According to a report, in 2016-2017, 138 out of every 100,000 women were raped.  

Banner / Thumbnail : ALEXANDER JOE/AFP/Getty Images

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