Lesotho: woman challenges gender blind Chieftainship Act

Date: September 11, 2012
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Name of the article : Judgment reserved in chieftainship row

Name of publication : Lesotho Times

Name of journalist : Nat Molomo

Date : 30 August, 2012

Country : Lesotho

Theme : Culture and tradition, laws and policies and gender equality

Skills : Perspective, sources

Genre : News

GEM classification : Gender blind

In Lesotho, it is a custom that chieftainship remains male dominated. Women (particularly widows) do occupy the office “under certain circumstances”. Qualified women are side-lined on the basis of the custom which is governed by patriarchy tendencies. Despite the existence of this discriminatory custom, Senate Masupha – a woman – is challenging the custom and the Chieftainship Act which disentitles women. This media highlight analyses an article that reported on the chieftainship court case between the Senate and Lepoqo Masupha (her half-brother).

The headline is appropriate and reflects the content of the article fairly.


Considering that the story is about a “row”, the journalist should be commended for attributing attorneys from both sides of the story – the article is balanced. Further, the reporter gave some space to Senate Masupha at the beginning of the article explaining why she is challenging the succession custom and Chieftainship Act.

However, in addition to the above sources, the reporter could have also interviewed other experts who are not directly involved in the case in order to get an independent opinion or views. For instance, the reporter could have either interviewed a gender expert or human rights activists. Considering that the two main sources attributed in the story are men, the two suggested sources would be women.

The article uses gender neutral language except using gender instead of sex. Briefly, gender describes the socially constructed differences between men and women while sex is the biological difference between men and women. In this case, the third paragraph of the story was supposed to use sex and not gender.

Visual images
The article uses an image is Senate Masupha. The picture is relevant and makes the story authentic.

Story angle and perspective
The article is about a court case in which Senate Masupha is challenging Lesotho Chieftainship Act and chieftainship succession custom for discriminating against women. The Senate argues that the act be struck off because it is a customary law in legislative form which has no merit. From a human rights point of view, the Act and custom are against the very fundamental human rights and gender equality efforts.

The article is objective as it presents both sides of the story through their respective attorneys. The journalist should be commended for giving two parties involved in a row an opportunity to present their case. Quoting Senate Masupha at the expense the accused gives the article some gender perspective.

Nevertheless, the missing voices limit the article’s perspective and depth. As pointed out under sources, interviewing a gender expert and/or human rights activists could have changed the article’s perspective. Considering the nature of the story, the activists would have sided with Senate Masupha. From a human rights point of view, the accused – in this court case – are impinging on Senate Masupha’s rights because of her sex. The activists would have also condemned the custom for not giving women under normal circumstances a succession right to chieftainship. Further, they would also call for gender mainstreaming in the Chieftainship Act. In other words, interviewing the suggested sources would have set the agenda in a public domain to discuss the Act and gender issues as opposed to a way the article has been reported.

Placement and position
Although on page six, a bold headline cutting through the page, a coloured border and a sizable image make the article prominent.

Training exercise
– Design a campaign to advocate why women should also take chieftainship positions in Lesotho?
– Debate customary laws vs gender equality and human rights in Lesotho and write a news analysis based on debate proceedings
– Write an essay and discuss customs and traditions that impinge on women rights in your locality and why they need to be put to an end.

Other training resources
SADC Gender Protocol 2011 Barometer – Constitutional and legal rights chapter


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