Call to harmonise laws


. . . as gender violence bill gathers dust

Mimi Machakaire

SKILLSHARE Lesotho says a dual legal system has made it difficult for Lesotho to enact into law the Gender Based Violence Bill that has been gathering dust for the past few years.

In an interview this week, Skillshare Lesotho Director of Monitoring and Evaluation, Peter Bouyando attributed Lesotho’s challenges to a dual legal system consisting of customary and general laws operating side by side and not harmonised.

“I think it has taken so long for Lesotho to have a law that promotes peace and work towards eradicating gender based violence because of the dual legal system”, Mr Bouyando said, adding that Lesotho’s customary law seems to condone violence while bad practices that have remained prevalent such as child marriages are also forms of violence. “To some extent the customary law is blind to some elements of physical, sexual, emotional and economic violence.”

“I also believe that parliament passes bills that are of interest and if a bill is not passed for years, it can mean that the issues are not of national interest. In this case, this is a loss for Lesotho as a law on gender-based violence will attract many good benefits such as ensuring peace in families,” Mr Bouyando said.

He said although women have over the years been at the forefront in advocacy for the enactment of the bill, men who are also victims of gender-based violence, stand to benefit.

Mr Bouyando said among many other programmes, the law would promote public awareness campaigns aimed at helping communities to understand that reporting gender based violence, such as an assault by a partner is not taboo or an embarrassment.

“Some of the reasons why victims rarely report gender-based violence include stigma and societal and cultural attitudes and pressures that perpetuate silence when violence occurs in the home. This violence remains the most telling indicator of the inequalities between men and women,” Mr Bouyando said.

“Most cases of violence particularly, assaults and economic deprivation in families are hidden and never reported to the police because there are no strong and sustainable systems that would ensure safety after one has made a report,” Mr Bouyando said.

The Bill advocates for protection of women from gender-based violence. A Domestic Violence Bill has been drafted but has not yet been passed. If this Bill is passed, it is still very limited, focussing only on violence within the home instead of tackling gender-based violence as a whole.

Gender based violence continues to feature highly on the police crime statistics with cases ranging from sexual assault of children and the elderly to physical assault and killing of both women and men by their partners.

Police Spokesperson, Inspector Mpiti Mopeli said in some cases disputes involving family members sometimes degenerate into serious crime such as assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and murder.

“We continue urging people to seek guidance and counselling from the police whenever they have a misunderstanding that they cannot resolve on their own. That way, they prevent serious crime that can further worsen their relations,” Insp Mopeli said.

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