LESOTHO yesterday joined the rest of the world in commemorating International Women’s Day.
Observed on March 8 every year, the day is supposed to be a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.
This year’s theme was “Equality for women is progress for all” and sought to emphasise how gender-equality, the empowerment of women, women’s full enjoyment of human rights and the eradication of poverty are essential to a country’s economic and social development.
There is no doubt Lesotho has made progress in ensuring gender-parity over the years, but century-old patriarchal traditions continue to make women second class citizens despite the country’s ratification of numerous international conventions pledging equality among the sexes.
The patriarchal nature of our society means women have little or no say at all in matters that could mean the difference between life and death, such as forced or polygamous marriages.
Cases abound in which young girls are forced to marry men old enough to be their fathers due to poverty, with the wellbeing of the adolescent — and her own feelings on the issue — never being taken into consideration.
Because of the oft dictatorial nature of such relationships, they almost always end in tragedy.
In this issue of the Sunday Express, we highlight a number of cases of domestic discord at its most violent, in which women have lost their lives at the hands of people who should be offering them love and protection.
The police have also expressed concern at the wave of violence among married couples, which appears to rage on unabated. These are some of the issues that indicate that Lesotho still has a long way to go in ensuring equality among the sexes.
Suggestions that the advent of organisations advocating gender-equality could be the reason why domestic violence is escalating are unfortunate and highlight how far certain individuals or groups, are prepared to go to defend male dominance in our society.
The fact that times are evolving — and also that women have earned their right to be considered equals and not minors — appears not to have registered among certain societies, hence the brutality that has become a permanent feature in some homes.
But as mentioned by the senior official in the Ministry of Gender, Sports and Recreation, Rannyaliseng Maanela, elsewhere in this issue, the worst thing about domestic violence is it ends up affecting innocent children.
And of equal concern is the fact that certain communities do not want to speak out when violence affects their own families, with such silence often ending in bloodshed which could have been avoided.
Yet without accepting that gender-based violence is a problem in our society, there can never be a solution to this scourge which continues to threaten the very fabric of what makes us a part of civilised society.