Lesotho’s Constitution heavily patriarchal and colonial based

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By Nicole Tau

It is 2020, and with reforms underway, Lesotho’s Constitution needs to be reviewed with some sections of the Constitution said to be promoting gender-based violence and inequality in the country.

Some of the sections of the constitution that are said to be promoting inequality and gender-based violence include sections 18(4) (c), 20(2), and 44.

Advocate Thabang Ramakhula, an Advocate for Women’s Rights and good governance in an exclusive interview with KDNews said these sections are among those that need to be reviewed and set aside for a more progressive constitution that promotes gender balance and equality.

Ramakhula said although Section 18(4) of the Constitution entails Freedom from Discrimination, it essentially blocks women from enjoying this protection through sub-section 4(c).

“This it does through legalizing discrimination against women if this discrimination is on the basis of the customary law of Lesotho,” Ramakhula said.

With Constitution’s Section 20 addressing the Right to participate in Government, Ramakhula said that Section 20 fails to address foundational reasons that have for decades kept women in the margins of government participation.

“Section 18(4) (c) also negates this right by protecting customary law’s discrimination of women. Sub-section 2 is also problematic, as it subjects the authority of section 20(1) to provisions of the Constitution, which include section 18(4) (c),” Ramakhula said.

Ramakhula believes women’s “foundational” discrimination and subordination to men is heavily rooted in and is perpetuated by culture, customs, and customary law.

Gender Equality in Lesotho was reported to be at a staggering 1 percent in 2019 by World Bank Organization. The report states that although women’s status in Lesotho has improved in recent years, gender inequalities still persist.

Recently, on September 11, Minister of Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation, Likeleli Tampane announced a Collaboration of her Ministry with the Office of the First Lady on initiatives that will promote Gender Equality as well as “Address” Gender Inequities and Inequalities.

When asked whether Women’s Rights are adequately protected in Lesotho, Ramakhula said that In Theory, Lesotho portrays a beautiful theoretic image, especially when focusing on laws individually, in reality, and in practice, however, that is not true.

In Ramakhula’s words, “It is the lived reality on the ground that lets us know if there is true freedom”.

A National University of Lesotho alumni; Ramakhula currently holds a Masters of Laws in Human Rights and Democratization in Africa from the University of Pretoria and currently an LLD candidate at the University of Free State.

It is in her professional opinion that discriminatory areas of the Constitution and the Customary Law, Laws of Lerotholi have to be amended and the gender quotas should be constitutionalized so that there are at least 50 percent of women at the National level, not just local government resulting in more women-friendly policies.

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