A WOMEN’S rights movement dubbed The Total shutdown yesterday staged a protest march to press the government to provide a one stop shop for justice for victims of gender-based violence.
At least 50 women marched from the Maseru racecourse to Sefika sa Moshoeshoe in the central business district in solidarity with women from other regional countries. The march was also used to mark the beginning of the women’s month which is celebrated in August every year in South Africa.
The march was held under the theme “My body not your crime scene”.
The women displayed placards denouncing what they called “toxic masculinity and the harm it inflicts in the lives of women”.
The demonstrators also barred men from participating in the march arguing that men are responsible for harmful dominance over women in societies.
Human rights lawyer and coordinator of the demonstration, Lineo Tsikoane, read a list of demands which they hand over to the principal secretary to the cabinet, ‘Matiheli Sekhants’o. The women said they expect a government response within 14 days.
Ms Tsikoane lamented that some victims have failed to access justice because of lack of consistency in sentencing perpetrators of certain crimes.
“Women are often made to explain their stories to a chain of police officers when ever they want to report a case of abuse and this discourages some to even report such cases,” Ms Tsikoane said.
“We want a place where our cases will be given necessary attention. We also want a hotline which victims can report such cases.”
The women demanded the government must prioritise the provision of legal aid to female victims of gender-based violence. They said some of the victims fail to get the justice that they deserve because they cannot afford good lawyers to represent them in courts.
Ms Tsikoane also said the women were worried that despite reporting to the police, some perpetrators continue to roam the streets.
“We have all kinds of perpetrators roaming the streets because our courts release them on bail while others are fined and they walk freely,” Ms Tsikoane said.
“We want that to stop because they victims never heal.”
Ms Tsikoane also accused the police of further tormenting the victims of abuse by failing to deal decisively with their complaints.
“A lot of victims complain that they are not taken seriously when they report to the police who make them feel useless for reporting and that must end.
“This march should serve as a reminder to all perpetrators that enough is enough,” Ms Tsikoane said.
She also urged women to unite and support each other.
“As women we also play a role in condoning these behaviours by making other women feel bad for speaking out about abuse and reasoning why it happened and that should also stop,” Ms Tsikoane said.
At the march, different women detailed their harrowing experiences at the hands of men. Among the common issues were rape and physical violence.
“I was raped twice and when I reported to the police I was told it was too late,” one of the young women said.
Another said her friend was raped by her neighbour and reported to the police but the perpetrator is still roaming the streets.
Also present at the march were members of the LGBTIQ community who also complained about sexual violence.
“As lesbians we come across double challenges that other women in communities face and we are told we are not women enough,” said one woman who refused to be named.
Hardly a week passes without reports of abuse of women and girls in Lesotho, a country that is ranked first in the world in terms of sexual violence against women.