Sexual violence and rape culture in Lesotho on decline as agencies target education of boys

Lesotho makes headway in tackling sexual violence against women by developing programmes to train men and boys

Violence against women and girls in Lesotho is often normalized.

According to a 2014 national survey, 33 percent of women and 40 percent of men in Lesotho believe wife beating can be justified.

Studies show that herd boys in the country are frequently among the perpetrators of gender-based violence. The programme, thus, targets herd boys as well as other at-risk groups, such as out-of-school youth and adolescent mothers.

In 2014, UNFPA and Help Lesotho began an intensive five-day training, and then monthly meetings for six to eight months. The programme covers interpersonal skills, goal setting, anger management, and how to communicate and negotiate respectfully with others. It also provides comprehensive sexuality education, including how to access health services and prevent HIV transmission.

Two participants of the programme shared how the programme has benefited them.

“Before, I never used a condom, and I would force myself violently onto girls and young women,” a 22-year-old participant who grew up in, Haba Tseka, an area where violence is considered a normal, masculine trait.

Another participant, a 21-year-old said, “I felt strong in those moments because I had learned that this is how women should be treated,” he said.

But both boys say their perceptions have changed after participating in UNFPA-supported information sessions, which introduced them to ideas about human rights – including women’s and girls’ right to live free of abuse and violence. They are strong advocates of the training programme and believe it can help reorient men against gender-based violence. Over 600 herder boys and young men have benefited from the programme.

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