Feature

Police prioritise GBV cases

…As at least five women are killed in July

Ntsoaki Motaung

The life of Martha Rasekoai was remembered by Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS)’s Women Network through a peaceful match.

The march which was graced by the presence of Development Planning Deputy Principal Secretary (DPS) Teboho ‘Malisebo ‘Mokela and ministry’s officers, representatives from Women and Law in Southern Africa Lesotho (WILSA), Legal Aid and Caritas Association was intended to shine a line on the ever-escalating deaths of women and young girls reported in the country.

Rasekoai who was a civil servant was reportedly last seen entering a 4+1 taxi near Masowe where she resided, heading to work on July 26 this year.

She worked at the Ministry of Development Planning as the Chief Economic Planner.

She never made it to her office. Her body was discovered near a footbridge at Ha Thetsane with a wound from a sharp object.

The DPS said it was in the early hours when Rasekoai left home to get a taxi to work accompanied by her child who went back home after her mother entered the 4+1 taxi.

“Her children tried to call her, but she was could not be accessed through her phone. They called her office to check if she arrived, but she was not there. From that moment we wanted to find out what could have happened that made her not report for work while she left home indicating that she was going to work,” she explained.

“We were sad when the following day after searching everywhere for her, it was announced by the police who came to the ministry, that they found her dumped near the fallen footbridge at Ha Tsolo.

“She was wearing a coat that wasn’t hers, with an open wound on the hand that we suspect happened when she tried to protect herself,” ‘Mokela narrated.

She indicated that Police investigations are still ongoing and they hope the suspects will be found and arrested.

Rasekoai’s death adds to the statistics of women and youth girls’ deaths recorded with the police.

According to the police reports, in the last month of July until 10 August, at least five women were reported dead and suspected to have been killed by men, while six women including children were sexually abused and one woman was assaulted by a suspect in a robbery case.

The July murder reports are confirmed by the world population review report of 2019 which ranked Lesotho in the top 10 countries with the highest murder cases.

The report indicated that according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s Global Study on Homicide 2019, 464,000 people were murdered in 2017—more than five times as many as were killed in armed conflicts during the same period.

“Socioeconomic factors can drive homicide rates and the factors include gender stereotypes, social inequality, unemployment, political instability and firearms.”

The death of Rasekoai and the police statistics on the killings of women continue to contribute to the country’s unenviable position of unresolved killings of women and children that have rocked the country in recent years.

The Police Women’s Network protested in remembrance of the importance of the life of a woman and a push to have issues of Gender Based Violence (GBV) spoken of.

While addressing the gathering, LMPS Deputy Commissioner of Police Dr Mahlape Morai revealed that the LMPS is moving to prioritise cases of violence against women and children this women’s month of August.

She pointed out that the priority comes in the wake of an increasing number of GBV cases observed by the police.

“The LMPS has seen an escalating number of criminal cases of brutal killings of women and children countrywide. This has forced the Commissioner of Police to prioritise criminal cases of violence against women and children this women’s month,” she said, noting however that the police will not turn a blind eye on other criminal acts.  

Morai pleaded with communities to work hand in hand with the police and report acts of violence happening daily.

“These crimes happen in our communities, however, most of them go unreported, not even by bystanders. We appeal to community members to work with the police and report these crimes so that perpetrators of these are brought to justice and victims are saved,” she pleaded.

“We are marking this month under the theme: Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow, and when cases of femicide escalate, the LMPS deem this a pandemic.

The LMPS has not only declared this a worrying pandemic, but it is engaging all in its efforts to achieve a remarkable turnaround in Lesotho Policing. This will be achieved through the implementation of different initiatives that will not only cover Maseru but will be levelled down to other districts. We want to see change,” the DCP said.

Senior Inspector Mojabeng Mokotjomela from the Child and Gender Protection Unit (CGPU) within the LMPS, disclosed that statistics over time have shown that at least 86 percent of women have been abused at some point in life, adding that at least 41 percent of males are perpetrators of GBV.

She added that statistics continue to show that most of the people who become victims of GBV are women and children.

“…But that does not mean there are no men whose rights are violated by either other men or women,” she said.

While there are many factors which lead to unreported cases, she stressed that the unreported cases of GBV are usually those affecting women who do not have financial independence.

“A lot of GBV cases go unreported because most of the women think about what their lives would be like after leaving their abusive partners. Most women do not have sources of income thus harbour their abusers and fail to report the acts in fear of losing their livelihoods.

“I plead with women to report abuse because it starts as a minor act, but escalates to a point where one ends up dead,” Mokotjomela said.

She concluded by stating that, the Ministry of Gender, Youth, Sports and Recreation has free counselling services for victims of all forms of abuse.

A Commonwealth report of September 2020 found that violence against women and girls is costing Lesotho at least 5.5 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) through absenteeism from work by victims, court litigations, hospitalisation and counselling, among other things.

The 2020 United Nations Women Report on the other hand indicates that one in three women and girls in Lesotho have been abused by their sexual partner in the last year, with less than 40 percent of women who experience violence reporting it or seeking help.

Teboho ‘Malisebo ‘Mokela the Deputy Principal Secretary (DPS) of the Ministry of Development Planning said the National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) II is coming to end at the end of the financial year and pleaded with all stakeholders to take part in the drafting of the NSDP III and come up with strategies that combat GBV.

 “We have to come up with new effective strategies, action plans and most importantly, implementation plan. All of these should go along with already existing plans not leaving behind the communities,” she stressed. 

CGPU Senior Inspector Mojabeng Letšela on the other hand explained that CGPU offers services to victims of GBV and it deals mainly with the protection of children, women, LGBTQI+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex and others) community and men who are victims of GBV by investigating cases and ensuring that cases are prosecuted successfully, as well as sensitizing the communities on issues of GBV.

Women’s Network is a network that was formed by the police from Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries in 2007 and is mandated to empower women police officers, fight gender-based violence and facilitate peacebuilding.

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