Lesotho mulls decriminalizing same-sex relationships



Pascalinah Kabi

Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing yesterday said Lesotho was going to look into decriminalizing same-sex relationships to stop the spread of HIV.

Mr Metsing said the move would remove barriers preventing members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community from accessing HIV and AIDS services.

The deputy prime minister, who was addressing the media in the wake of decisions made at the 2016 United Nations General Assembly High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS held in New York last week, said it was important for Lesotho to adopt measures for the eradication of the disease which continues to wreak havoc among communities.

Mr Metsing led Lesotho’s delegation to the three-day assembly that discussed AIDS issues  within Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which include ending poverty and hunger, improving health and education.

The assembly further had panel discussions on topics such as preventing new HIV-infections and ending stigma and discrimination through social justice and inclusive societies.

“The meeting agreed that we must fast-track the prevention of HIV and AIDS in our respective countries.

“So for us to fast-track the 90-90-90 targets by 2020, we need to ensure HIV-services are inclusive of key populations like prisoners, sex-workers and men having sex with men, women having sex with women or even a boy having sex with a boy,” Mr Metsing said.

He added it was against this background that the General Assembly discovered that these key populations’ human rights have been violated for years because of exclusive HIV and AIDS services.

“The Assembly further agreed that there are certain practices that must be decriminalised for member-states to achieve these set goals,” he said.

“For example, the issue of men having sex with men or a boy with a boy is not accepted or legal in this country but the main issue here is, if they are doing it and this is giving us problems like an unwanted disease burden, what are we saying about this?”

Mr Metsing said it was worrying that some people are refusing to bring condoms into prisons citing it was illegal for men to have sex with men.

“Even if it’s illegal for them to have sex, are we saying people should continue to infect each other because it’s illegal for a man to have sex with a man? Aren’t we giving them a death sentence by refusing to give them condoms even though HIV and AIDS is not a death sentence?” he asked.

He further said the country needs to take drastic measures to ensure the LGBTI community accesses HIV and AIDS services hassle-free.

This, he added, could be achieved by training health workers some of whom have “a bad attitude towards these people who, like everyone else, have the right to HIV and AIDS services”.

Health-workers and every Mosotho should understand HIV and AIDS services can never be “one size fits all”, Mr Metsing added.

“It is important for us, as a country, to have inclusive services which cater for everyone’s needs. Human life is an important thing and we must do everything in our power to save lives even if we have to do away with things like cultural practices preventing us from saving lives,” Mr Metsing said.

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