UNFPA backs enactment of Domestic Violence Bill


Argues the law is bound to ensure safety of women



MASERU – Lesotho has made notable strides to attain gender equity and equality but delays in enacting the Domestic Violence Bill has stakeholders worried. The bill will be a much needed weapon for victims of domestic violence. The Bill is aimed at providing for protection, prevention and rights of survivors of domestic violence and related matters, and to bring to an end, the high rate of gender-based violence (GBV).

From nations the world over, Lesotho included, studies show an increase in domestic violence and intimate partner violence and the law to counter domestic violence is further intended to ensure that all those who are at risk of suffering domestic violence receive the necessary protection. It is for this reason that many international organisations have taken action to implement programmes that address the high rates of GBV in the country.

According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Country Representative, Dr Marc Derveeuw, the different sections of the law provide for restorative justice and the establishment of a council to preside over proceedings and establishment of a family court and procedures to bring cases before the court, among other things.

Domestic violence legislation improves women’s threat point thereby lowering domestic violence. Dr Marc said the law is important for protection of women in Lesotho, where they become subject to violence, but for the UNFPA, they are specifically looking at domestic violence, sexual violence, rape and verbal abuse. He said the Bill is going to offer a lot of protection for women in Lesotho, ensure that at least GBV is reported officially, while to the law it falls on the criminal offence, meaning the police will have to act on all allegations of domestic violence being reported to them by women or men or even neighbours.

Apart from that, he said the Bill will cater for the intimate partners, so victims do not necessarily need to be married or have some form of union. For UNFPA, he said, they are going to focus on the roll-out of the law in the country. “It means we will have to work with the three systems; we are already working with the Lesotho Mounted Police Service, working on data collection and putting in evidence about what is happening and also reported,” he said.

He further noted that they will be working with the traditional chief system where they have prepared a roll-out of understanding the law to the chiefs. Dr Marc made it a point also that for UNFPA, that is an achievement, a starting point for the future planning, future actions for GBV, specifically for domestic violence. “The law will ensure that victims, mostly women, are provided with the support and assistance they need after the occurrence of violence,” he further highlighted.

Women who spoke to this publication say they hope to start seeing positive feedback from victims regarding how victims’ cases are handled and their outcomes. ’Mamosebetsi Mabote said they hope with these changes, they will see bail being denied more regularly for GBV cases, more protection for domestic violence victims, quicker applications for protection orders, and maximum sentencing for the crimes.

A domestic law creates civil and criminal remedies for victims of domestic violence, such as Orders for Protection, and imprisonment against the offender. From the Child and Gender Protection Unit (CGPU), Sub Inspector Mojabeng Letšela of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) noted that issues affecting women and children must be part of core issues that the police focus on and fight against. She said the CGPU affords services to victims of GBV and deals mainly with protection of children, women and men who have suffered from GBV by investigating cases and ensuring prosecution of cases, as well as sensitising the community of issues of GBV.

A domestic law creates civil and criminal remedies for victims of domestic violence, such as orders for protection, and imprisonment against the offenders. The counter domestic violence law also defines domestic relationship to cover for family members and cohabiting partners, and or co-parenting, this will help cater for a lot of Intimate Partner Violence that happens in non-formal union, including property grabbing of cohabiting parties.

Because the law will require implementation this means that there will be need to provide appropriate budgets at all levels of government to combat domestic violence and the government will begin to feel the seriousness of domestic violence. The law will also promote cross-agency collaboration and coordination of all different stakeholders working in the area of GBV, and this includes police, the judiciary, the correctional services and civil society organisations.

This is important since implementation of domestic violence legislation requires multi-agency communication and collaboration, at all levels. On GBV alone, Lesotho is reported to lose over M1.9 billion per year in initiatives geared towards the fight against the scourge, according to United Nations Coordinator, Amanda Mukwashi.


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