MASERU – Throughout history, transgender individuals have borne the brunt of various forms of abuse, including instances of discrimination and, sadly, even loss of life. They note that challenging societal views and stereotypes surrounding gender identities has often exposed them to stigma and prejudice. As partners, parents, and allies, transgender people are imploring the office of the prime minister to reflect on the societal impact of collective silence and its toll on community, as transgender individuals are an integral members of society, deserving recognition, respect, and protection.
They say it is heartening to observe Lesotho’s positive strides under the Interpretation Act of 1977 in recognising gender rather than sex as the determining factor in identity documents. Acts such as the Registration of Births and Deaths Act of 1973, the Sexual Offences Act of 2003, the National Passports and Travel Documents Act of 2018, the National Identity Cards Act No.9 of 2011, and the Children’s Protection and Welfare Act of 2011, Counter Domestic Violence Act of 2022, the People’s Matrix Association says, reflect a commitment to inclusivity of sexual and gender minorities in the law.
The association further noted that constitutional provisions and acts emphasise the right to confidentiality and the prohibition of discrimination based on gender identity or expression. Tansgender people in Lesotho, through People’s Matrix Association, took this matter to the office of the Prime Minister for attention, with the shared hope that the Prime Minister and his esteemed government can identify and implement the policy solutions.
As they commemorated November 20, as a day of remembrance and advocacy for transgender rights globally, they acknowledged the persistent struggles faced by the transgender community in Lesotho and emphasise the importance of fostering an inclusive society. Disturbingly, a study titled ‘Are we doing alright’, reveals that over a third of transgender individuals in Lesotho, 36 percent have been denied healthcare, a situation exacerbated by the inability to change their gender markers.
To address these issues, the Gender Legal Recognition, a collaborative effort by the People’s Matrix Association, Women and Law Southern Africa Lesotho, and Southern African Litigation Center (SALC), provides invaluable insights into the legal framework challenges faced by transgender and gender non-conforming individuals. People’s Matrix Association’s executive director, Tampose Mothopeng, highlighted that legal gender recognition is not only a fundamental human right but also a vital aspect of affirming the dignity, privacy, and well being of transgender individuals.
While Lesotho’s legal framework allows for gender recognition, outdated terminology, and procedural inconsistencies hinder the effective application for many transgender persons. By addressing the legal and social barriers faced by the transgender community, Mothopeng said they can collectively contribute to a more just and inclusive Lesotho. Police constable Moeketsi Matšabisa of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service, pledged their support to the community, noting that they cannot allow people to abuse them either sexually or physically.
He said they also cannot stand for any harassment and discrimination therefore they should report any form of abuse to the police, adding it has become a norm for this group not to report cases of abuse, with most of them citing fear as the reason why they do not report. The international and local research findings underscore the critical role of legal gender recognition in ensuring access to healthcare, maternal well-being, and overall societal inclusion.