Lesotho gained independence from Britain in 1966 and is a constitutional monarchy with a dual legal system consisting of customary law and common law. The major challenges facing the country are high unemployment and HIV/AIDS prevalence rate coupled with food insecurity.
The Marriage Act of 1974 and the Legal Capacity of Married Persons Act of 2006 govern civil marriages. These laws ban forced marriages (as does customary law)and set the legal age of marriage at twenty-one. Males under the age of 18 and females under the age of 16 can, however, get married with written consent of the designated Minister and both parents of the minors. The Children’s Protection and Welfare Act in 2011 defines the minimum age for entering marriage as 18. There is no minimum age under customary law, which provides that both girls and boys can marry after puberty. Regarding early marriage,2006 UN data shows that 155 of girls between 15-19 years old were married.
There is no specific legislation prohibiting domestic violence; cases reported are charged and prosecuted as common law offences of assault, intimidation, etc. The Law Reform Commission has, for some years, been in the process of enacting a Domestic Violence Bill, but no draft is currently available for reviewand few domestic violence cases are brought to trail.
The male/female sex ratio for the working age population (15-64) in 2013 is 0.95 and the sex ratio at birth is 1.03.Lesotho is a country of low concern in relation to missing women due to high AIDS mortality.
With respect to access to land, the principal land legislation in Lesotho is the Land Act of 1979. This legislation is gender neutral. Although the law is gender-neutral, customary practices provide that land is allocated primarily to men through inheritance, requiring women to access land through their husbands. Further, until 2006, married women in Lesotho experienced discrimination in accessing land as legally they were considered to be minors.
There are no reported restrictions on women’s freedom of movement and access to public space in Lesotho and women can apply for a passport in the same way as a man.In the 2009 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), women report that the decision to visit her family or relatives is made mainly by the husband and wife jointly (34.3), as opposed to mainly the husband (28.7%) or mainly the wife (31.9%).The Constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly and expression. The government generally respects these rights in practice.
African Development Bank (2005) Kingdom of Lesotho: Multi-sector gender profile, available at (http://www.afdb.org/fileadmin/uploads/afdb/Documents/Project-and-Operations/lesotho.pdf (accessed 15 November 2013).