Lesotho: Gender-based violence tops list of women’s rights issues to be addressed

A majority (53%) of Basotho say that violence against women is “fairly common” (28%) or “very common” (25%) in their community.

Gender-based violence (GBV) is a reality for many women in Lesotho. The Police’s Child and Gender Protection Unit reports that from January to July 2022, 184 sexual offenses and 45 assault cases were perpetrated against women. In 2021, at least 47% of women murdered in Lesotho were murdered by their intimate partner (Mongoshi, 2021). Gender-based violence is a serious threat to the nation, both developmentally and economically, recognized as one of the drivers of HIV in a country that has the third highest prevalence rate in the world at 23.2% (UNAIDS, 2021).

The Gender-Based Violence Indicators Study by Gender Links (2015) reported that 86% of women and 40% of men in Lesotho have experienced some form of violence in their lifetime, and that a majority of victims do not report the violence to the police or seek medical or legal recourse. Among the barriers to reporting, the study identified community stigmatization of survivors, feelings of shame, inadequate police response to victims, and the belief that domestic violence is a private matter not to be discussed with. strangers. A Commonwealth study (2020) reported that approximately one third of women in Lesotho experience sexual or physical violence in their lifetime and that GBV costs the country 5.5% of its gross domestic product in lost income and in expenses associated with medical, legal, and police support.

Activists accuse patriarchy of fueling GBV in the country (Sello, 2021). Despite the Sexual Offenses Act (2003) and the Married Persons Act (2006) providing for equal rights for men and women in marriage, customary law subordinating women to men is still an integral part of the company in Lesotho. In June 2022, the Upper House passed the Combating Domestic Violence Bill 2021, but critics say police and judicial responses will also need to be strengthened to reduce the problem of GBV in the country (Chikowore, 2022 ).

This dispatch reports on a special survey module included in the Afrobarometer Round 9 (2021/2022) questionnaire to explore Africans’ experiences and perceptions of GBV.

In Lesotho, most citizens say that physical force is never justified in disciplining women. But they say gender-based violence is a common phenomenon and is the single most important women’s rights issue that the government and the country must address.

A majority of Basotho believe that the police are likely to take GBV cases seriously and that GBV should be treated as a criminal matter rather than a private matter.

Main findings

  • The Basotho see gender-based violence (GBV) as the most important women’s rights issue that government and society need to address.
  • A majority (53%) of citizens say that violence against women is a “fairly common” (28%) or “very common” (25%) phenomenon in their community.
  • More than eight in 10 Basotho (85%) say it is “never” justified for a man to physically discipline his wife. About two in 10 think it is “sometimes” (11%) or “always” (4%) justified.
  • Almost six in 10 respondents (56%) consider it “somewhat likely” (29%) or “very likely” (27%) that a woman will be criticized or harassed if she reports gender-based violence to the authorities.
  • A slim majority (53%) of Basotho say domestic violence should be treated as a criminal matter rather than a private matter to be resolved within the family.

Libuseng Malephane Libuseng is the Country Partner Representative for Anglophone countries at Afrobarometer