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Rape scourge haunts Lesotho

Business

Nthatuoa Koeshe

The Lesotho Mounted Police Services (LMPS) have recorded an alarming 845 cases of sexual assault incidents in the country since January 2022.

48 more cases increase from that recorded last year around the same time.

According to the LMPS crime statistics, Qacha’s Nek has more cases of sexual assault with perpetrators being mostly people close to the victims.

Just this week, the LMPS reported 5 cases of sexual assault cases in their weekly crime reports with one being a 74-year old woman who was raped by a 62-year old intruder who broke into her house in Qacha’s Nek.

Reports also told of a 13-year old girl who was raped by her 19-year old brother. On a similar case, a 15-year old was also raped by her mother’s 40-year old boyfriend.

Reports show that this man had been raping the girl since she was 12. The case came into light because the victim is currently five months pregnant.

These are the few cases of a hundred others which the police report of weekly, further proving that sexual offences are serious crime in Lesotho which the government should look deeper into.

There is a range of crimes that are considered sexual offences, including non-consensual crimes such as rape or sexual assault, crimes against children including child sexual abuse or grooming, and crimes that exploit others for a sexual purpose.

Sexual offence crimes can occur between strangers, friends, acquaintances, current or ex-partners, or family members.

Some studies have indicated that women are four times more likely than men to experience sexual assault or unwanted touching.

In August 2019, a survey by the Workers’ Rights Consortium (WRC) revealed that sexual abuse of women was rampant in Lesotho textiles factories owned by Nien Hsing, a supplier for Levi Strauss and other brands in the United States of America.

The WRC is an independent labour rights monitoring organisation based in the United States.

It investigates working conditions in factories around the world to identify and expose the practices of global brands and retailers “that perpetuate labour rights abuses”.

The survey found that nearly two-thirds of women from three factories who were interviewed reported “having experienced sexual harassment or abuse” or having knowledge of harassment or abuse suffered by co-workers.

Women from all three factories surveyed identified Gender-Based Violence and Harassment (GBVH) as a central concern for themselves and other female employees.

Then in September last year, a Commonwealth study revealed violence against women and girls costs Lesotho more than $113 million (about M1.9 billion) a year.

The study estimated the total cost, including loss of income and expenses associated with medical, legal and police support, equated to around 5.5 percent of Lesotho’s gross domestic product (GDP).

The cost of $113 million meant each Lesotho citizen loses at least $50 (about M730) every year to violence against women and girls.

The bulk – $45 million â€“ was attributed to legal protection, healthcare, social services and learning loss.

This is more than twice the amount – $21 million – Lesotho spent on health, education and energy in the 2019/2020 fiscal year.

“Due to COVID-19, there were lockdowns where we had to spend most of our time with our spouses and children. This put them in danger of abuse. That when we heard about increased cases of rape and killings of women and girls by males,” said Prime

Minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro following the publication of the Commonwealth report.

“To you my fellow men and boys of Lesotho, where is the protection of this country and its people that has been culturally entrusted to you? Why have you abandoned that responsibility? I appeal to you to take the responsibility of protecting the country and Basotho,” Majoro added.

He was speaking at the National Prayer against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) event at ‘Manthabiseng Convention Centre in Maseru in December 2020.

The event was part of Lesotho’s commemorations of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence which started on November 25, and ended on December 10, 2020.

The most recent crimes statistics report by the Bureau of Statistics (BOS) revealed that 1,419 sexual offence cases were reported across the country from January 1, 2020, to December 31, 2020, but does not consider any actions taken thereafter. Sexual offence cases constituted 11.7 percent of all serious crimes reported last year.

The report read: “Of all the 12,144 reported serious crime cases, housebreaking, stock theft, sexual offence and assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm cases constituted the highest reported cases of serious crimes in 2020.”

In 2019, out of the 13,263 serious crimes reported, 1.449 were cases of sexual assault. This represents a meagre 2.07 percent decrease.

Qacha’s Nek’s Superintendent Thembinkosi Sibanda said men should repent and refrain from raping women and children and start protecting them.

He said parents should also teach their children to protect each other and spend more time with their children so that they become aware when something is not right.

“Parents should also refrain from being drunk at all times to avoid their children being abused in their presence. The public should also report rape incidents to the police if there are any suspicions of such or signs from a child.”

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