THE Lesotho Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) has condemned the army’s decision to sack three female soldiers for allegedly defying a standing order which barred them from falling pregnant within five years of joining the force.
In 2014, the LDF introduced a standing order barring its graduates from falling pregnant during their first five years of service because of what former army commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, said was a demanding schedule at the time.
The standing order immediately applied to 50 females out of the 299 new soldiers that graduated in 2014, with Lt Gen Tlali saying there was no room for child-bearing because of the heavy artillery the soldiers would be using over the next five years.
“This group will not be expected to have children for the next five years because we have very big things planned for them,” Lt-Gen Kamoli said at the time.
“They are going to be using very heavy weapons which require people who are strong and healthy.”
Three female soldiers who subsequently fell pregnant were expelled from the force early this year and they have since dragged the army to the High Court demanding reinstatement.
The court case is set to be heard on Monday and this week, FIDA addressed a media briefing where it condemned the army decision, saying it violated the basic rights of women.
FIDA lawyer, Koena Thabane, said the court case would coincide with the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence – a campaign that began on 25 November to 10 December 2017.
“As the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence are being commemorated internationally and locally, it has come to our attention that in these 16 days, there is a court case in the High Court of Lesotho involving three female soldiers who were fired from the LDF for falling pregnant,” Advocate Thabane said.
She said firing the three women- two of whom were married –was an indication that gender-based violence was still rife in Lesotho and must be eradicated.
Adv Thabane said the LDF standing order went against efforts the country had made to abolish practices that discriminated against women.
“The National University of Lesotho and the Lesotho Agricultural College also had regulations that students residing on campus must not fall pregnant and in 2006, the Agricultural College expelled a student for falling pregnant.
“However, the student won a court case against the college and that law was also abolished.
“Now the LDF case is the worst form of gender based violence given that some of these soldiers are married and one of them was granted permission by the LDF to get married,” Adv Thabane said, adding, the LDF standing order also violated Section 18 of the Constitution of Lesotho which provides for freedom from discrimination.
According to the constitution, discrimination involves affording different treatment to different persons on the basis of sex, race, language, religion, political affiliation, nationality, social rank and birth among other things.
The constitution further calls for legislation “in pursuance …of promoting a society based on equality and all justice for all the citizens of Lesotho and thereby removing any discriminatory law”.
LDF Deputy Public Relations Officer, Colonel Lieutenant Mashili Mashili, confirmed the dismissal of the trio for falling pregnant, adding, “I however, cannot get into the details of this matter as it is in the courts of law and responding to your questions would be discussing the case itself”.