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EU Urges Lesotho to Uphold LGBTQI+ Rights Amid Calls for Inclusivity

3 July 2024 by Teboho Khatebe Molefi

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Members of The People’s Matrix in Lesotho. Photo Supplied.

Lesotho schools are not the safest or most welcoming places for students who do not identify strictly as boys or girls to express themselves and learn freely. According to Mahlape Mota, a Master’s graduate from the University of Free State, this is because teachers in Lesotho expect students to fit into traditional ideas of what it means to be a boy or a girl.

Mota also mentioned that a gay student was bullied by both teachers and students for not fitting into these traditional ideas at a school in Teyateyaneng, Berea district.

Mota explained: “The findings indicate that teachers promote and enforce heterosexuality in schools due to a lack of knowledge of gender and sexual diversity. The results showed that masculinity and femininity were used as gender and sexuality descriptors.”

Paola Amadei, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Lesotho, said that all Basotho can help create a more just and inclusive Lesotho by addressing the legal and social barriers faced by the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ+) community.

Amadei urged people to remember King Moshoeshoe I’s vision of a diverse and inclusive nation and to think about how collective silence affects communities. She appealed to Basotho to reflect on the societal impact of collective silence and its toll on communities – as LGBTQI+ individuals are integral members of our society, deserving recognition, respect, and protection.

On May 17, 2024, the EU in Maseru partnered with LGBTQI+ rights group, The People’s Matrix, to mark International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) – a day which aims to advocate against the discrimination of LGBTQI+ communities.

Celebrated annually on May 17, IDAHOBIT marks World Health Organisation (WHO)’s anniversary of the 1990 decision to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder. Since its inception in 2004, the day serves as a vital platform to raise awareness about the discrimination and violence faced by LGBTQI+ individuals worldwide.

This year’s theme, ‘No one left behind: equality, freedom, and justice for all’ is a call for unity and solidarity at a time of global anti-democracy and anti-rights pushback, when many LGBTQI+ individuals continue to face violence, stigma, and discrimination.

The United Nations (UN) said this theme alludes to the central, transformative promise of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals, namely: “Leave no one behind.”

Alarming rates of violence

Speaking on the commemoration day at the Maseru Club, Amadei highlighted that this year’s IDAHOBIT takes place at a time when alarming rates of violence against LGBTIQ+ persons are being witnessed worldwide. She pointed to increasing discussions on further criminalisation being ignited in a number of countries since the last IDAHOBIT.

“We witnessed new laws criminalising LGBTIQ+ persons, court decisions stigmatising the movement as extremist and otherwise leading to further discrimination under the guise of protecting the traditional family.

“This goes together with foreign information manipulation and interference, including disinformation campaigns targeting the LGBTIQ+ community, spreading harmful information and fuelling violence and hate speech,” Amadei said.

In Lesotho, Dee Malelu, the Faith and Religion Advocacy Officer for The People’s Matrix, told Uncensored News that legal protection for LGBTQI+ people remains a major gap in protecting their rights.

Malelu explained that the country’s legal system does not provide comprehensive protections for LGBTQI+ individuals, lacking anti-discrimination laws and legal recognition of same-sex relationships.

“Societal attitudes towards LGBTQI+ individuals are still largely negative, leading to stigma, discrimination, and violence. Many LGBTQI+ individuals face rejection from their families and communities,” Malelu explained.

In 2022, High Court Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane said the judiciary would be a “key role player” in ensuring equal rights for LGBTQI+ people in Lesotho.

“In this Kingdom of Lesotho, the [LGBTQI+] community factually exists as part of society. There is no local jurisprudence yet on what these rights mean for the [LGBTQI+] community, even though the Constitution guarantees two important rights: the right to respect for private and family life (in section 11) and freedom from discrimination (in section 18).”

Meanwhile, The People’s Matrix plays a crucial role in advocating for the rights of its community members, earning them recognition from Amadei.

“I would also like to commend them (The People’s Matrix) for all their brave work in support of the LGBTQI+ community here in Lesotho, whether it is through advocacy, awareness-raising, research or participation in local and international fora,” Amadei said.

On May 17, 2024, International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia, and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT), the European Union (EU) continued its collaboration with The People’s Matrix, building on past initiatives such as film screenings facilitated in partnership with Sesotho Media and Development. The film screenings provided platforms for LGBTQI+ community members to discuss challenges they face with law enforcement officials.

The EU has demonstrated its commitment to advancing LGBTQI+ rights through robust legislation and progressive policies. The EU LGBTIQI+ Equality Strategy, adopted in 2020, outlines a comprehensive framework aimed at promoting equality and combating discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics.

Between January 2020 and December 2022, approximately 850 LGBTQI+ human rights defenders worldwide received support channelled by the EU via the consortium


Dee Malelu of The People’s Matrix highlighted that discrimination in employment often leads to high rates of unemployment and poverty among LGBTQI+ individuals.

“There is a need for targeted economic empowerment programmes.”

Malelu further pointed out that LGBTQI+ individuals often face barriers in accessing healthcare services, including stigma and discrimination from healthcare providers.

“This includes access to Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights services, mental health support, and HIV/Aids care,” Malelu told Uncensored News.

Speaking on the commemoration of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia, and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) in his home country, American Secretary of State, Antony J Blinken, highlighted that the day was, in the main, meant to reflect upon the violence and discrimination LGBTQI+ persons worldwide suffer and for nations to re-commit to opposing these acts. 

He said: “This year, like every year, we state unequivocally: LGBTQI+ persons deserve recognition of their universal human rights and human dignity.”

Blinken pointed out that LGBTQI+ persons continue to face insidious forms of stigma and discrimination. He noted that, despite advancements towards equality in many countries, LGBTQI+ individuals still face severe consequences such as death sentences for their sexual orientation or gender identity.

He said they are subjected to coercive conversion therapies and normalisation surgeries, discriminated against in accessing health services, restricted from exercising fundamental freedoms, and denied the dignity of same-sex partnerships and family fulfilment.

“As we reflect upon the injustices that LGBTQI+ persons and their allies endure, we must not forget that today is fundamentally a day of action.  On this day and every day, the United States stands with LGBTQI+ persons around the world. 

“We will continue to advocate for the rights of LGBTQI+ persons not just because we have a moral imperative to do so, but because it helps to strengthen democracy, bolster national security, and promote global health and economic development,” he added.

Meanwhile, Mahlape Mota’s thesis titled Exploring the Attitudes and Experiences of High School Teachers Towards LGBTIQ Students in Lesotho Schools revealed that teachers in Lesotho considered heterosexuality as normal, while LGBTIQ people are perceived as abnormal, enforcing compulsive heteronormativity.

Mota further explained that for the most part, the majority of teachers struggled to pronounce or explain the abbreviation ‘LGBTIQ,’ revealing the disregard of gay and lesbian people in everyday life.

“The findings also revealed that teachers identify LGBTIQ people by behaviour, looks, clothing and how they speak, indicating that gender stereotypes are prevalent in many societies and that such views rigidly define the characteristics of each sex as well as the social roles that are acceptable for men and women.

“The responses of the teachers further revealed that heterosexual masculinities and femininities are normalised and glorified. The results suggest the need to provide in-service training for teachers who are allocated LSE classes,” Mota explained.

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