A STUDY by the Lesotho Planned Parenthood Association (LPPA) in Leribe and Botha-Bothe has revealed a high prevalence of intimate partner violence (IPV) in the districts which entails both sexual and physical abuse.
The LPPA commissioned the Women and Law in Southern Africa (WILSA) to undertake the baseline study, which was held in December 2014, to inform stakeholders on relevant future interventions in the context of IPV.
Presenting the results of the study at a Maseru hotel on Thursday, WILSA Consultant Likeleli Matlho said over the years, LPPA, with the support of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), had implemented gender-based violence (GBV) programmes in response to increased incidences of IPV.
“In order to facilitate this noble intention, LPPA has decided to document the extent of IPV in the districts of Leribe and Botha-Bothe,” Ms Matlho said.
“In Lesotho, the high maternal and child mortality rate is attributed to various reasons including unfavourable socio-economic factors such as GBV and sexual violence as well as early marriages.
“According to the country reports on Human Rights practices, the following societal abuses included abuse of spouses and children; sexual abuse; restrictions on women’s rights; discrimination against women; stigmatisation of persons with disabilities and HIV/AIDS; and child labour.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines IPV as behaviour by an intimate partner or ex-partner that causes physical, sexual or psychological harm, including physical aggression, sexual coercion, psychological abuse and controlling behaviours.
Among the key findings of the report was the high prevalence of IPV in the districts of Leribe and Botha-Bothe.
“For example, of all respondents interviewed, at least 72.9 percent of them indicated that IPV exists in their respective communities and approximately 70.9 percent of them explained that they have either witnessed a case of IPV or experienced it in the last five months,” the study notes.
“Sexual and physical abuse have emerged as the most common forms of IPV that respondents heard of (58.6 percent), witnessed IPV (38.5 percent) or experienced IPV (20.7 percent) in the last five months (58.6 percent 38.5 percent respectively),” said Ms Matlho.
“The predominance of these two forms is probably a result of their dangerous consequences. Indeed, respondents are aware that the two forms are the most reported to various security and administration institutions.”
The study further observed that women and girl children were the most common victims of IPV and “at least six times more at risk of IPV especially sexual abuse” than men and boys.
“Women constitute the majority of intimate femicide or intimate partner homicide (59.7 percent), while men constitute the majority of victims among spousal poisoning (81.1 percent) and suicide cases (67.2 percent),” it further read.
Instances of IPV, the study noted, occurred mostly at home among spouses (83.2 percent) while children who witnessed IPV at their homes constituted at least 51 percent. However, IPV reporting is still low in the two districts.
“In focused group discussions (FDGs) in Botha-Bothe, participants repeatedly emphasized the fact that other forms of violence, such as intimidation and economic deprivation were generally dealt with internally in the households,” she noted.
“The findings from FGDs revealed also that both hitting and sexual abuse were mainly committed by males against females.”
According to the study, rape (58.2 percent) or sexual violence (10.2 percent) and deprivation from resources were higher among rural communities (54.7 percent) than in urban communities (nine percent). However, hitting and insults and intimidations are slightly higher in urban areas than in rural ones.
Despite Lesotho’s commitment to international standards on achieving gender equality, the study further noted, national frameworks and practices were still lagging behind due to cultural and customary practices such as inheritance issues which contribute in the high prevalence of IPV among women and girls.
“The study has revealed that major causes of IPV include but are not limited to the following: absence of domestic violence law, persistence of patriarchal values, limited knowledge of existing laws, alcohol and drug abuse, persistence of negative cultural beliefs and perceptions on gender stereotype, economic dependence by the victim on the perpetrator.”
The limited literature on IPV in Lesotho also compounded the problem, Ms Matlho said, since most reading material available related to domestic violence and GBV reports.
“Although Lesotho has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1995 and submitted its initial report in 2010, the domestication of the Convention remains weak,” she said.
The lack of institutional programmes targeting behaviour change and patriarchal mind-sets contribute to high incidences of partner violence cases among Basotho women which ultimately lead to high incidences of HIV and AIDS, the study observed.
Ms Matlho said: “The Lesotho Universal Periodic Review Mechanism Report reflects underreporting in the police statistics, as many survivors preferring non-legal redress for fear of victimisation and violence by the partners or perpetrators.
“This, therefore, means that there are many cases of unlawful sexual acts which go unreported.”
She added that even though Lesotho enacted GBV-related laws, there was no specific law or policy dealing with issues of IPV.
“Issues of IPV are dealt with under general principles of common law and other related statutory provisions,” Ms Matlho said.
LPPA Chief Executive Mofokeng Makhetha said the findings were a clarion call to action against the scourge of IPV, which he further noted was not unique to Lesotho.
“Regardless of gender, we need to know what measures can be taken to eliminate IPV and this was the main reason for the study,” he said.
Mr Makhetha added that not a day passes by without GBV or IPV cases being reported to the police, “and as stakeholders, we need to do something and not have a business as usual approach”.