World Vision Lesotho with the support of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) hosted the commemoration of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence this week.
The objective of the event was to create a platform for women to discuss in depth their role in influencing policies and improving service delivery in different sectors to contribute towards prevention, protection and mitigation of gender based violence, child marriages and other violations that negatively affect the lives of children, youth, adolescents, women and other vulnerable groups in Lesotho.
The event was also aimed at allowing adolescent and young girls to discuss with guests invited the impacts and implications that are brought by the absence of laws that protect them in their lives.
Among the discussed bills was Initiation Bill, Children’s Protection and Welfare Act of 2011 and Counter Domestic Violence Bill.
One of the panelists ‘Mapiti Mabaso a law student from the National University of Lesotho (NUL) also a former young parliamentarian said if the legislature does not pass bills, more women face violence because there is nothing that will really protect them.
“We see high cases of children that get married at a young age because there is no law against child marriages, if there is, it is still a bill it has not been enacted into law. It does not pose any threat to the perpetrators of violence,” she said.
She indicated that there is for instance, no law to clearly state which age is legal for one to go for initiation school.
“Now that there is no standard age for one to be at initiation school, most of the boys who come from the institute feel they are old enough to get married and they get married to young girls and both of them end up dropping out of school.
“We also see a contradiction of the Lerotholi law that says a 16 year old can get married and Children’s Protection and Welfare Act which states that a child is anyone under the age of 18,” she said.
On the other hand, Thato Thinyane a Social Justice Activist pleaded that when the bills eventually become enacted into law, there must be harmony so that no one gets left behind and we find the country dealing with the same problems yet the laws exist. “We do not want to say we want to revise the same laws again in five years to come,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Director of Gender from the Ministry of Gender Youth and Sports Recreation ‘Matau Futho Letsatsi alleged that in most cases perpetrators of violence against adolescents and young girls are males or boys from the initiation school.
“This says to the government ministries who are involved in the making of laws that govern initiation schools, they should make sure that the bill is not going to contribute towards accelerating violence cases. I don’t know if the government sees the contribution of initiation schools or people from them in Gender Based Violence. Most of the perpetrators of rape, murder and assault are men and boys from the initiation schools,” she said.
She indicated that, Lesotho has ratified the agenda 2030 and have to implement it. “The agenda 2030 is about Sustainable Development Goals which the country has to ensure implementation and that also touches on Gender Based Violence,” she said.
For her part, ‘Matšosane Molibeli from the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Culture indicated that to this end, the country still uses the Lerotholi customary law to guide how issues around initiation should be handled.
“The Lerotholi law is from 1910 and a lot has changed so much that the law does not address many challenges we are facing today. It is therefore necessary to have the law that will address those challenges when also still preserving our culture,” she said.
Molibeli said the bill has been going back and forth since 2010 and she is hopeful that next year the bill will be enacted into law.