…alarming stats are indicative of high prevalence of sexual crimes against women in the country
FORTY-FOUR percent of male prisoners are serving time for sexual offences, the United Nations (UN) has said.
The alarming statistics are a clear indication of the high prevalence of gender-based violence (GBV) directed at women by their male counterparts, UN Resident Coordinator, Aurore Rusiga, said.
Speaking at a recent UN-sponsored Media Capacity Building workshop on GBV, Ms Rusiga said GBV was a national crisis which has to be urgently addressed.
A 2019 government report to the UN Human Rights Council stated there were 2216 inmates in the country’s jails. Of these, 2151 were males and 65 were women.
Speaking at the workshop to capacitate journalists to better report on GBV, Ms Rusiga said Mafeteng and Mohale’s Hoek had the highest numbers of male prisoners serving time for sexual violence. Mafeteng leads the way with 71 percent of male prisoners incarcerated for sexual crimes while 62 percent of male inmates in Mohale’s Hoek are in the slammers for the same offences.
Ms Rusiga said the Covid-19 pandemic had also led to an increase in various forms of violence against women.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has made things worse. It has contributed to increases in domestic and sexual violence, child marriages, sexual exploitation and abuse due to economic stress, school closures and mobility restrictions,” Ms Rusiga said.
“The elimination of gender based violence is part of the UN 2030 agenda. Women’s equality and empowerment is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but also integral to all dimensions of inclusive and sustainable development.
“This means that all the SDGs depend on the achievement of Goal 5, which calls for gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. Women and girls in Lesotho and everywhere must have equal rights and opportunities, and be able to live free from violence and discrimination,” she said.
In a separate interview, Lesotho Correctional Services (LCS) spokesperson, Senior Cadet Officer Pheko Ntobane, said the number of convicts serving time for sexual offences was worrisome.
Sco Ntobane said the high level of violent crimes against women was partly due to cultural beliefs by some of perpetrators who were not even aware that their actions were criminal.
Due to the offenders’ failure to appreciate that their violent behaviour against women was illegal, it was hard for such inmates to be rehabilitated whenever they were imprisoned, he said.
“Some men fail to understand that they have committed any crimes. During their entire period in prison, they remained unconvinced that were in the wrong. Offenders need to be made to understand that they have violated the law,” Ass Supt Pheko said.
On his part, the Crime Prevention, Rehabilitation and Re-Integration of Ex–Offenders Association (CRROA) president, Nkalimeng Mothobi, said numerous sexual offences went unreported especially in the remote parts of country.
Sexual violence is also common in the highlands and rural areas where child marriages are culturally acceptable, Mr Mothobi said.
A 2020 Commonwealth study on the economic cost of violence against women and girls revealed that GBV costs Lesotho more than US$113 million annually. The bulk of these costs are for legal fees, healthcare for victims, social services and loss of learning, the study stated.