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Gender and Development Policy in Lesotho
Lesotho is an independent state landlocked by the Republic of South Africa. The
Kingdom is governed by both the customary and the statutory laws confusing the
stand of females. The Gender Development Policy for the country has been
formulated. The paper discusses the contents of the policy.
County Credited
Author Details
Title of author
First Name
Name of Institution
Address of Institution
National University of Lesotho
NUL P.O. Roma 180 Lesotho Southern Africa
[email protected]
E-mail address of author
Author biography
Home Economics Educator since 1992. 5years experience in curriculum
development. Currently a lecturer at the National University of Lesotho HE unit. A
part-time examiner and moderator for Department of Technical and Vocational
Training. Represents Student Christian Movement of Lesotho in Christian Council of
Lesotho (HIV/AIDS and Gender Commission) serving as vice chairperson. Planning
on PhD.
Gender Equality
Type of Contribution
Discussion Paper
Gender and Development Policy in Lesotho
Papali Mokobori
Lesotho is an independent state 30,355sq km (11,720 sq mi), that extends 248km NNESSW and 181km ESE-WNW. Lesotho is comparatively slightly smaller than the state of
Maryland. This country is completely land-locked by South Africa. Lesotho has border
gates going into Natal province, Cape Province and Free State, the total boundary length
is 909km. History has it that a larger part of the Free State which is now part of South
Africa was unjustly taken from Basotho by force in the 19th century. The capital city is
Maseru which is situated at the northwest border of the country.1
The situation of Lesotho
Lesotho has a parliamentary constitutional monarchy, it is for this reason; governed by
both the customary and the statutory law.2 This coexistence of the two laws is believed to
confuse the situation of females in Lesotho. This is so because each law is used when it
suits the individuals who are in most cases the males. Lesotho has a strong practiced and
not displayed culture pertaining its women and girl children.
Both the statutory and the customary laws have noticeable negative implications
concerning the status of women. The implications are evident in the fact that the high
female literacy comparatively to that of males has not noticeably translated into even
equal part-taking between males and females in the development of the country. Even
though the population of females outnumbers that of males, Basotho women are in their
numbers still employed only in the low income jobs as opposed to their male
counterparts. In addition to that, the Deeds Registry Act of 1967 provides that no land
shall be registered in the name of a married woman, the land allocation in rural areas
ANON, Lesotho – Location, size, and extent, January 2008,
IPA, Lesotho: History, Geography, Government, and Culture,
mostly is influenced by the customary attitudes and practices that discriminate against
women.3 A possible reason may also be the fact that the law renders a married woman a
status of legal minority. If married in community of property a woman can not even get a
loan or credit without the consent of the husband. Most women do not reveal the type of
marriage they are in; some even lie about it if they are to get some service. The
customary law specifically places women under the perpetual custody and protection of
men, even the younger one such as sons.
When it comes to the issue of heir, according to the customary law, it has to be the first
male child born of the first married wife in the case of polygamous marriages. This heir
succeeds the father in the status of head of the family and assumes all duties, rights and
responsibilities of his late father. 4 A problem arises in a family with only girl children,
because when they die; regardless of the number of the girls still alive in that family. The
inheritance is passed on to their male relatives and thus not benefiting the family of the
deceased. The male relatives who inherit the property do not, in most cases, assist the
children of their late brother/sister whose inheritance they are enjoying.
When a young woman gets married in Lesotho bohali (dowry) is still paid, and no
marriage takes place without this payment, it is only in rare cases where the marriage
stands before it is paid. The price is determined by the bride’s parents and specifically the
father. The payment of this goes through a lot of negotiations with the groom’s parents
trying to have the price reduced and sometimes the bride’s parents remain adamant and
do not reduce the price, with pressure from the bride his parents normally succumb and
pay the price. This obviously results in affected relationships and in most cases the
bride’s parents see the bride as a property bought with a high price and treat as such. It
can be so bad that the new marriages sometimes get dissolved.
For this reason and others, gender based violence has been acceptable in Lesotho to an
extent that some would not feel loved if their men did not beat them up, even at the stage
Government of Lesotho, Deeds Registry Act of 1967,
Ministry of Gender, Youth, Sports and Recreation, Gender And Development Policy, July 2006, pp.6
of just boy friend-girlfriend. Several rape cases are not reported because of the
harassment by the men who listen to the woman reporting a case, they require such
elaborate details that end up embarrassing the complainant and the case is not taken any
further. If this does not happen, the woman gets accused of “asking for it”. Some men
rape their wives and nobody believes that such a thing can happen as the wife is the
man’s property and he can therefore do whatever he pleases with her. This signals serious
gender discrimination that does not consider women as human beings with rights and
needs. Media is also contributing to the situation as it has a tendency of reporting gender
violence sarcastically. Time has come that gender violence is perceived as a serious and
sensitive offence in Lesotho by all.5
If the government of Lesotho is to promote gender equality and empower women; clearly
stated as one of the Millennium Development Goals (goal 3)6, it has to act as early as
yesterday. The Lesotho population has more females than males, it could be helpful to the
country if they could be empowered the development of the country would be easier and
The gender and development policy
The policy was set up by the task force made up of candidates from the civil society
organisations (WLSA, FIDA and LYFE), the National University of Lesotho, and the
government (Ministry of health, gender department, and development and planning). The
overall goal of the policy is to take gender concerns into account in all national and
sectoral policies, programmes, budgets and plans in order to achieve gender equality in
the development process.
Matashane-Marite, K, Women in Law in Southern Africa hosts gender violence course for media
personnel, 15 July 2002,
Millennium Development Goals Monitor, The goals, 2005,
According to the policy; the above will be done through the achievement of the following
1. To ensure ;
i. Equal opportunities for males and females in the development
process to promote better standards of living and to achieve
economic efficiency for all.
ii. Equal access to education, training, and health services and control
over resources like land and credit.
iii. That gender sensitive laws exist and are enforced.
2. To promote equal:
i. Opportunities and participation in politics and decision-making.
ii. Decision-making in sexuality matters to reduce the spread of
HIV/AIDS and other STIs.7
3. To provide direction for development of effective awareness creation programmes
on causes and gender based violence and of mechanisms geared at eradicating
such problems.
4. To guide in allocation of resources and public expenditure in a manner that
ensures equal beneficiary of both males and females.
5. To set guidelines for public awareness and promotion of the link between gender
equality and development through media.
6. To conserve positive and mitigate negative aspects of Basotho culture to promote
equality of men and women and boys and girls also to sustain social stability and
peaceful co-existence.
7. To facilitate the promotion of life skills’ acquisition to overcome gender and
development problems.
The policy makes provision of advocacy for the development and implementation of
gender-sensitive sectoral policies and strategies of all critical areas identifies by Beijing
Platform for Action. These sectoral policies should identify national and sectoral
Ministry of Gender, Youth, Sports and Recreation, Gender and Development Policy, 2006,
benchmarks and clear verifiable indicators for monitoring implementation of the Gender
and Development Policy. Ten sectoral priority areas are selected in the policy document
and meant to be accelerated and more efforts put to enhance gender equity and equality in
all spheres of life. They are:
Gender, poverty and economic empowerment; Gender, education and training;
Gender and youth; Gender, power and politics; Gender and health; Gender based
violence; Gender and Civil Society Organisations; Gender and the Media; Gender and
the Environment; as well as Gender, Science and Technology.8
Currently there is no gender equality in the country. Some of the non governmental
organisations have their own concept papers regarding gender equity and equality, and
are determined to see to it that the government facilitates the implementation of the
policy. The Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL) for instance has held workshops for its
commission members on gender mainstreaming as they are dealing with the Christians at
grassroots, the concern of CCL is that Basotho are faced with abject poverty, domestic
violence, patriarchal structures and these realities magnified effect of the rapid escalation
of HIV/AIDS, problems of globalization, access to decision-making and equal
participation by the marginalized groups. CCL, 2000 mentioned in its concept paper, that
it is the voice of the voiceless; the poor and the marginalised. 9
The author shares the information with the world and is concerned with the
implementation of all the contents of the policy and evaluation thereof. As a gender
activist, it would be of great assistance if the congress/readers could suggest a few means
of possible implementation strategies. This is effort worth noticing but focus on the future
is more of importance.
Ministry of Gender, Youth, Sports and Recreation, Gender And Development Policy, July 2006, pp.6
Christian Council of Lesotho, Position paper on Gender Mainstreaming, 2004,