Fight gender-based violence

Fight gender-based violence

About three years ago, a female teacher was brutally murdered by her husband somewhere in Maseru in their home. Her badly decaying body was found a few weeks later by the neighbours. The man is still roaming the streets of Maseru even today. Some few weeks ago a former schoolmate was viciously strangled to death by her lover. Apparently she had been in an abusive relationship for quite some time. These two cases are not isolated as women have been murdered, whether by people they know or by strangers.

The stories mentioned above are just a tip of an iceberg in an ocean of brutality perpetrated against women in Lesotho. This is because our socialisation as Basotho, which has now manifested into some kind of indoctrination, dictates that females should be married.
The marriage for females, unlike that of the male counterparts often has the lowest age deadline limit, passing the limit attracts all sort of names ranging from lefetoa (one who has been passed) to mokubata (no longer worthy). To avoid being given these derogatory labels, some girls end up marrying just anybody that will take them out of their misery.

Unfortunately when things go west, divorce is not an option for some people. This is because our cultural and religious socialisation dictates that divorce is an indication of weakness and failure to be resilient when hardships rock the marriage. It is for the reasons mentioned in the preceding paragraphs that some women decide to stay in abusive relationships.
The notions of being a strong resilient woman, are some of the reasons so many women stay in abusive relationships that often end in their homicide.
Other women also give advice that encourages staying in abusive relationships where a woman is told that lebitla la mosali ke bohali (your grave should be at your in-laws’ a place). And indeed the women end up dying at the hands of their abusive husbands.

It is very sad that women continue to be killed and violated by their partners and strangers even though the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development to which Lesotho is a signatory clearly stipulates in Article 4(3) that, “State Parties shall implement legislative and other measures to eliminate all practices which negatively affect the fundamental human rights of women, men, girls and boys, such as their right to life, health, dignity, education and physical integrity.”

Regrettably, there are some people that choose to trample on the rights of others, such as trampling on their dignity and taking their lives.
In addition, it is not uncommon in Lesotho to find a woman who is oblivious to her reproductive health, HIV and AIDS rights. There are still women, particularly in the highlands that believe they have to get the permission of their husbands to go to the clinic.

This happens despite the fact that Lesotho has ratified the SADC Gender and Development protocol by developing the Gender and Development Policy of 2003 that is currently under review so that it accommodates present challenges. We are in a new horizon where women homicides should be curbed. The killings do not just affect the families emotionally, they put a dent on our economy as the number of orphans is increased. The violence against women affects our social development. Furthermore, children from families where gender-based violence is rife are also likely to get into violent behaviour. Some children even go as far as fighting their mother’s boyfriends.

As it stands, there is need to involve the media in promoting a culture of gender equality that combats gender-based stereotypes and ideologies that encourage violence against women.
Also the Ministry of Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation (MGYSR) in collaboration with NGOs should strengthen their campaigns on raising awareness against prevailing gender-based social stereotypes as well as facilitating the adoption of educational strategies around women’s human rights and women’s role in the private sphere.
The MGYSR should ensure that the condition and position of women who face multiple forms of discrimination, especially gender based violence, improve and take all measures to facilitate the elimination of discrimination against these women.

I have also heard through the grapevine that the MGYSR is in the process of developing a Domestic Violence Bill. If the bill could be passed timeously, it will help curtail the many intimate killings that we see in our country. It will also be important if other ministries could follow suit and mainstream gender into their activities.
It is also of paramount importance to include the Ministry of Education and Training in the fight against gender based violence. This is because the education sector in any country is strategically placed to influence the community.

That is to say, if we teach our children the repercussions of gender based violence, they will be able to influence their parents and the communities around their schools.
Also, the children, by virtue of being future leaders are important in that they will grow up with the knowledge that gender based violence is a cancer that our society does not need and which should be eradicated in all its forms.

Conversely, when the HIV/AIDS pandemic was rife in Lesotho, the government implemented a two percent budget allocation for the fight against the pandemic.
I think it is time the government treats gender based violence as serious as it is and make the necessary budgetary allocations and adjustments. Let us unite in the eradication of gender based violence and ensure that our children are raised in homes that have peace and tranquillity.

BY: Kelello Rakolobe

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