Lesotho: GL addresses SRHR issues

Lesotho: GL addresses SRHR issues

Date: December 22, 2018
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By Tokelo Lefoka

Maseru, 22 December:  Gender Links Lesotho held a two-day SADC gender protocol alliance meeting at Avani from the 15th to the 16th of November 2018. The meeting was grounded on the findings of SADC gender protocol barometer that was launched under the broad theme of #she decides.

During the meeting, a panel discussion was held. It revolved around the sexual health of women and issues such as teenage pregnancy, legal and safe abortion, gender based violence, HIV and sexual diversity. The discussion highlighted the need for the government of Lesotho under the responsible ministry to implement laws that benefit the sexual reproductive life of citizens.

“We don’t feel free to talk about sex or sexual life of women with men due to our mixed feelings and respect that we give men as women.” Said Mpho Mosase, a participant at  the meeting. She further argued that religion plays an important role in the way sexual issues are addressed. She also said that one could not talk about sex or condoms due to his or her religion.

Furthermore, it was indicated that a major cause of teenage pregnancy and early marriages is poverty. Poverty also leads to many other things such as human trafficking and child labour. The participants discussed possible ways to eliminate and prevent early marriages and teenage pregnancy. One way that was suggested as a possible solution was that parents should talk to their children about sex related issues even though in many societies it is regarded as a taboo.

Other issues that were raised were Indigenous Knowledge System (IKS), norms and beliefs as well as the longstanding tradition of abduction for marriage.

Throughout the discussion laws that suppress the rights of disabled people such as section, 57 of the constitution of Lesotho were brought to light. The law states that people who cannot speak are not eligible to be appointed as senators and prohibits deaf persons from being appointed in the upper house (parliament) solely based on disability.

The meeting also broke new ground in areas such as violence against women and girls. Participants appealed to men to be protectors of women and not persecutors.

Through the issues raised at the discussion, it was established that the government should implement policies aimed towards  the planning, standardisation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of sexual reproductive health rights (SRHR) services provided to the public.

The members also approved that the government should provide women with free pads and that all VAT on sanitary wear must be removed. They further argued that some girls fail to go to school during their menstruation cycle because they do not have money to purchase pads.

While there were doubts expressed in relation to the sections on sexual reproductive health rights, the constitution promotes health gain as a society gain. It elevates the issue from a private domestic concern to a level of public policy and broadens the definition to include acts previously justified in the name of culture and tradition. These things need to be considered; women’s rights as human rights and women’s sexual rights as part of her human rights, and the rights of the girl-child.

Gender Links Lesotho country manager Manteboheleng Mabetha appealed to the women parliamentarians who were at of the meeting to fight for the issues raised to be included in the national reforms.

Tokelo Lefoka is a Gender Links intern from Lesotho. This article is part of the Gender Links  News Service

Image source: Tokelo Lefoka

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