Inheritance: A driver of Domestic violence in Lesotho

Inheritance: A driver of Domestic violence in Lesotho

Date: June 26, 2018
  • SHARE:

By Manteboheleng Mabetha

Maseru, 22 June: In Lesotho women are subjected to plenty of injustices with regard to inheritance as shown by the stories below:

Two elderly twins who were in a polygamous marriage have been disposed of their late husband’s property by their step-son who was born of a younger sister wife. The elderly women have even fled their home fearing for their lives as their step son has been threating to kill them. Despite them being older wives in the polygamous marriage the inheritance laws of the country give the first born male child all the inheritance rights. The two women have been moving from office to office to seek help but all has been in vain.

Another story is that of a young woman who was made the sole heir of the estate by her late father. When her father passed on she was still a minor and could not access her inheritance. After the death of her mother she had come of age and was hoping she would access her inheritance but she discovered that her brother has dispossessed her of her all her inheritance. Her efforts to seek intervention and protection from her brother have thus far proved futile. She is still in limbo regarding her inheritance that was stolen by her brother who said no girl will get any inheritance from his father as he is the rightful heir.

In Lesotho, customary Law is guided by the Laws of Lerotholi that were promulgated in 1903. During that era Lesotho was a highly patriarchal society and the place of women in society was not recognised. The customary laws of Lesotho as specified in the Laws of Lerotholi, state that an heir will be a first born male child, it goes further to indicate that in the case where there is no male child in the family, the inheritance will go to the male next in genealogy of that family. In essence, according to the customary laws of Lesotho, a female child is not entitled to any inheritance even in the case where the female is the only child to her parents.

Lesotho ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1995 with a reservation.  In 2011, CEDAW Committee urged Lesotho to include in its Constitution and other appropriate legislation prohibition of discrimination against women, which encompasses both direct and indirect discrimination in the public and private spheres.[1] There is an urgent need to repeal or amend the Laws of Lerotholi in order to harmonize inheritance laws in order to remove discrimination and gender inequalities.

The ability of the girl child to inherit immovable property persists under customary law. Under civil law, such inheritance can only apply where there has been a “Will”, provided the testator has abandoned ‘customary mode of life and adopted a European mode of life.’[2] The inconsistency of the two legal regimes undermines women’s equal inheritance rights. This exposes women and girls to multiple vulnerabilities such as contracting HIV and AIDS, marrying at an early age, dropping out of school and being excluded from economic opportunities due to lack of skill.

[1] Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women

[2] Administration of Estates Proclamation 19 of 1935

Comment on Inheritance: A driver of Domestic violence in Lesotho

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *