HUMAN rights lawyer and coordinator of the Lesotho chapter of the Total Shutdown Campaign, Advocate Lineo Tsikoane, has described gender-based violence (GBV) as a crisis which will require much more than just the annual 16 days of activism campaigns to address it.
Adv Tsikoane’s remarks come against the background of the 16 days of activism against GBV commemorations which began on 25 November and end tomorrow.
The United Nations Women website states that the 16 days of activism against GBV “is a time to galvanise action to end violence against women and girls around the world”.
“For far too long, impunity, silence and stigma have allowed violence against women to escalate to pandemic proportions—one in three women worldwide experience gender-based violence.
“Women and girls everywhere are experiencing extensive abuse and their stories need to be brought to light. The time for change is here and now,” the website further states.
Adv Tsikoane said although the 16 days campaign was necessary, it was however, not enough to address the scourge of GBV which had reached crisis proportions.
“There is a lot that needs to be done (to fight GBV) starting with the legal system, the police, the prosecution and the courts system.
“Women are often made to explain their stories to a chain of police officers whenever they report a case of abuse and this discourages some to even report such cases,” Adv Tsikoane said.
She further said that the GBV statistics could be much higher as some people chose not to report. She also said it did not help that the country’s record keeping was very poor thus making it difficult to get accurate and reliable statistics on GBV.
Adv Tsikoane said during the 16 days campaign, she has been collaborating with Hub Morija in a video project that documents the stories of women and girls who survived GBV.
“We place survivors and relatives of people that have suffered from any form of violence and give them space to share their stories. We hope that this will be a mirror that will enable Basotho to comprehend why Lesotho has the second highest rape incidents in the world,” Adv Tsikoane said.
On 1 August this year, Adv Tsikoane coordinated the Total Shutdown protest march by female activists in Maseru to fight against GBV.
They handed over a petition to the government demanding among other things that the government reviews past national action plans to end GBV with a view to understanding why such plans failed.
They also demanded the prioritisation of the provision of legal aid to victims of GBV including those who want to hold the state accountable for its failure to protect them from violence and those who have been subjected to lawsuits for publicly naming perpetrators.
Adv Tsikoane said although the march was well-attended and the government promised to act on their grievances, women continued to suffer as rape and other crimes persisted in Lesotho.
“Yes, the protest march happened and the turnout was good. The government turned up to receive our petition but generally nothing changed.
“I am very frustrated with the current state of affairs but I love this country so guess I have to stay optimistic,” she said.
Despite the annual 16 days campaign, the indications are that in Lesotho and in neighbouring South Africa, GBV continues unabated. And if anything, there is an escalation of cases rather than a reduction.
Police statistics in South Africa indicate that the murder rate for women has increased by 16 percent in the past five years and more than 18 000 child rape cases were recorded over the 2017/2018 financial year.
Statistics released in the Sonke Gender Justice annual report (2016-2017) showed that one in three women in South Africa was a victim of domestic violence, and that every eight hours a woman is killed by her intimate partner.
The report shows that gender-based violence is costing the country’s economy R28 billion to R42 billion per year, which amounts to almost 5 percent of the country’s annual GDP.
While such statistics are not readily available here in Lesotho, the crime reports received from the police from the beginning of the year show that GBV continues to flourish despite the 16 Days and other campaigns against it.
On 23 July this year, five women were gunned down in cold blood by unknown killers in Ha-Mokauli, Maseru and up until now the suspects have not been apprehended and the motive for the killings remain unknown.
Before that in May, a Roman Catholic nun was murdered by her lover, a priest with the same church in Leribe and up to now the case has not gone for trial.
In January this year, the Ntširele community in Khubetsoana, Maseru were shocked by the brutal murder of prominent businesswoman ‘Mathabang Radiile (53), allegedly by her live-in partner, Lebohang Nkuebe.
Ms Radiile’s her four-month-old grand-daughter was seriously injured after being sprayed with acid in one of the most gruesome cases of women and child abuse in Lesotho.
Lebohang Nkuebe (41) subsequently appeared in court over the murder and the case is pending.
Last year, there were several cases of the killings of women and children that were reported. The violence and killings are part of wider global scourge which the World Bank says affects one in every three women.
In April, the World Bank published an article which showed that globally, as many as 38 percent of murders of women are committed by an intimate partner.
The World Bank also reported that 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence. It further revealed that seven percent of women have been sexually assaulted by someone else other than their partner.
“One characteristic of Violence against Women and Girls is that it knows no social or economic boundaries: this issue needs to be addressed in both developing and developed countries, and affects women of all socio-economic backgrounds.
“When speaking about violence against women and girls, it is important to remember that this issue involves both men and women and requires a holistic approach. The overwhelming majority of violence is perpetrated by men, and addressing male perpetration is a critical part of addressing the violence,” the World Bank states in its article titled ‘Violence against Women and Girls’.
The World Bank also said it had committed US$150 million in development projects around the world aimed at addressing violence against women and girls.