AD242: Rights in Lesotho: Citizen views on police abuse, media and personal freedom, gender equality

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Puleng Adams and Mamello Nkuebe

Seventy years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (United Nations, 1948), how many countries can claim to respect and enforce the rights and freedoms to which it entitles everyone in the world?

Lesotho ratified the declaration in 1992 and is a signatory to a number of other international and regional instruments to protect human rights, such as the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979), the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child in Africa (1990). The protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms is entrenched in Lesotho’s Constitution and national legislation.

Yet Amnesty International’s (2018) most recent report on Lesotho cites a “sharp increase” in human-rights violations as the country experienced prolonged political and security crises, including allegations of abuse, torture, and extra-judicial killings. 

Against this background, we examine popular attitudes in Lesotho with regard to basic rights related to the use of physical force, free expression and association, and discrimination.

Findings from the latest Afrobarometer survey show that a remarkable two-thirds of Basotho say police routinely abuse or torture people in their custody. Most Basotho reject wifebeating as “never justified” but endorse physical disciplining of children both in the home and at school.

Strikingly, only one-third of Basotho endorse media freedom, a sharp decline from 2014, while most endorse free association and say they are at least “somewhat” free to say what they think.

Basotho also see equal opportunities for women and men but are divided on whether daughters should be allowed to become chiefs.