By ‘Mapule Motsopa

MASERU – Limpho* was just 12 years when her father raped her.
She said she had to live with him after her mother died when she was only 10 years.
Narrating her story, the now 20-year-old woman said she felt someone touching her when she was asleep and she thought she was dreaming only to wake up to find it was her father.
She said he persisted and went as far as sucking her tiny breast until she woke up.
“Surprised, I asked what was happening and he said I was his only daughter so he wanted to make me a real woman,” Limpho said, adding that she did not understand what he meant until he tore her pyjamas, opened her legs and spit in her female organ before raping her.
“I cried so loud hoping he would stop but he didn’t. Rather he put my panty in my mouth as a way of silencing me,” she said.
“My own father broke my virginity and acted like nothing had happened.”
She said she informed her aunt but she instructed her not to tell anyone, saying she would handle the matter.
“My aunt protected that monster. I hate her for not protecting me. Maybe I would feel better if he had been arrested. The trauma is not fading away,” she said, adding that she grew up with so much anger and self-hate that she started doing drugs as a youngster as a way of trying to ease her pain.
“I dropped out of school because I had no drive. My future was bleak.”
Limpho said she felt hopeless until two years ago when she claimed her life back.
“I stopped my heavy drinking and found a job. Now things are a bit better.”
According to the August,9, police weekly reports, four men in Qacha’snek appeared before Magistrate ‘Mampho Mokoena after they were convicted of rape.
Their victims are three children aged 11, 13 and 15.
The 15-year got pregnant as a result.
Inspector ‘Mareabetsoe Mofoka said perpetrators are aged 19, 40 and 57 and the 19 year-old raped her 13 years younger sister continously.
“The trio were slapped with a 20-year jail sentence for rape without bail,” she said.
This reporter has not mentioned the convicts names to avoid possible identification of victims.
These cases are just a tip of an iceberg as the country struggles with the ever growing monster and social ill, the rape of children.
The 2018 Violence Against Children and Youth Survey (VACS) report in Lesotho revealed that 15 percent of girls and five percent of boys experienced sexual violence prior to reaching 18.
World Vision Lesotho National Director James Chifwelu

The survey also revealed that for 18 percent of girls, their first experience of sexual intercourse was physically forced or coerced.
It noted that for 58 percent of females who experienced sexual violence prior to reaching the age of 18, the first incident of sexual violence was perpetrated by an intimate partner.
Among girls who experienced sexual violence prior to reaching the age of 18, only nine percent received services, the survey revealed.
Former Chief Justice Mahapela Lehohla, in a case he presided over when he was still on the High Court bench, said “the trauma and stigma of rape to the victim of such act is as dehumanising as it is penetrating”.
“In fact, no amount of sentencing can parallel its debilitating effect on the victim’s psychological well-being. It thoroughly corrodes whatever dignity and self-respect she has,” the judge said.
Psychiatriconline.org says “feelings of shame, confusion, and guilt are common” among survivors of rape.
It says a survivor may feel bad for not stopping the assault.
“They may worry about what others will think, or they may possibly blame themselves,” states the publication.
The online magazine’s study found that most survivors report experience flashbacks where they keep replaying the assault in their minds over and over again.
It also says survivors of sexual assault may also be at increased risk of mental health issues such as depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), substance use disorders, eating disorders, and anxiety.
“Individuals who have been assaulted multiple times may be at an even higher risk for mental health issues,” it says.
The magazine says negative reactions from friends, family members, or professionals may increase the risk of mental health issues even more.
Not being believed or being blamed creates greater psychological trauma, it says.
It advises that whether the assault happened yesterday, or it occurred decades ago, a mental health professional can assist you in coping with sexual assault.
“Therapy is a confidential, non-judgmental place to work through challenges,” the magazine says.
“A therapist may help you deal with your feelings, identify new coping skills, and manage your stress.”
“You can discuss specific issues, like how to deal with flashbacks or how to improve your sleep. You might also explore whether you decide to share the fact that you were assaulted with friends or family members.”
“Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness.”
HelpGuide.org observes that “the world doesn’t feel like a safe place anymore”.
“You no longer trust others. You don’t even trust yourself. You may question your judgment, your self-worth, and even your sanity,” it says.
“You may blame yourself for what happened or believe that you’re “dirty” or “damaged goods.”
According to the Bureau of Statistics Crime Statistics report 2016, sexual offence is number three on the chart.
According to a United Nations study conducted in 2015 Lesotho has the highest rape rate in the world, with 61 percent of women reporting having experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives.
The country had a rate of 88.6 rape cases per 100 000 inhabitants in 2011, according to a UN report.
It is said an estimated 10 000 children experience sexual abuse annually, according to World Vision Lesotho (WVL), one of the organisations fighting for children’s rights.
On its website, WVL says it is working to increase the ability of communities to advocate for and monitor the implementation of laws and policies designed to protect children.
“We are working to reduce Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and strengthen the mechanisms that allow children to have a voice at both community and national levels,” the organisation says.
Speaking on behalf of the UN Resident Coordinator at the media capacity building on GBV, Aurore Rusiga said as of January 2022, the percentage of sexual violence offenders in Lesotho prisons was 44 percent with some prisons like Mohale’s Hoek and Mafeteng accounting for 71 percent and 62 percent of sexual violence offenders.
She said the advent of covid-19 had also contributed to the increase of various forms of violence against women and girls.
“The pandemic has made things worse. It has contributed to more GBV with increases in domestic and sexual violence, child marriage, sexual exploitation and abuse due to economic stress, school closures and mobility restrictions,” Rusiga said.
She further said “the elimination of GBV is a part of the 2030 agenda. Women’s equality and empowerment is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, but also integral to all dimensions of inclusive and sustainable development. “
“This means at all the SDGs depend on the achievement of Goal 5. Women and girls, in Lesotho and everywhere, must have equal rights and opportunities, and be able to live free from violence and discrimination. “
She said the UN remains committed in assisting media professionals and other important stakeholders such as law enforcement authorities, the government, civil society organizations, youth groups and women in the fight against GBV.
The Commissioner of Police, Holomo Molibeli, during the handing over of sexual offence investigations material (medical forms) by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA),said statistics reveal that sexual offenses are “rampant.”
He said women and children, as young as two years are being sexually abused.
“This is a very serious issue which needs further collaboration with stakeholders to eradicate it.Receiving 10 000 medical forms shows how highly committed this offense is.”
He noted the performance of the courts “as quite encouraging. Our courts frown when it comes to sexual offenses so that really encourages us. The accused when they are found guilty get high sentences. It is very encouraging and it shows that if we can work together against sexual offenses, the prevalence will be down.”
A recent Commonwealth study, which reports on The Economic Cost of Violence Against Women and Girls has found that GBV costs Lesotho more than US$113 million (about M1.9 billion) a year.
Meanwhile, WVL on Thursday launched a three years project dubbed Citizens Voices Addressing Violence against Children ( CVAVAC).
Prior the launch, WVL through the funding provided by European Union (EU) facilitated a visit to Eswatini meant to create a platform for stakeholders to learn about child friendliness in the children’s courts.
CVAVAC is funded by the EU and managed by World Vision Ireland (WVIRE) in partnership with WVL.
It seeks to empower communities to advocate for improvements in the justice sector, particularly in child rights protection and violence against children, according to WVL National Director, James Chifwelu.
“We complement the government’s efforts in various ways; planning with the government, identifying the needs and also coming in as a liable partner.”
He said the project targets seven districts; Maseru, Berea, Leribe, Mokhotlong, Quthing, Mohale’shoek and Mafeteng.
The project further targets 280 youth CVA leaders, 140 community leaders, 40 justice sector staff, four director level justice sector authorities and 100 000 citizens in the seven target districts.
Chifwelu said the project focuses on three key goals; citizen empowerment, policy infuence and service delivery improvement.
“Empowering youth and communities to meaningfully participate and lead community sensitization and engage local authorities on child rights and protection and address the constraints around three specific child protection legislative efforts ( amendment to the Children’s Protection and Welfare Act 2011, Domestic Violence Bill, 2021 and Initiation Bill). We hope these bills will be passed but we need more voices to come together to ensure we are attaching the importance that these laws have.”
He added “make child appropriate improvements through rehabilitation of children’s courts to meet child friendly courts set standards and justice staff capacity building to enable them to provide improved services in children’s courts.”
EU Head of Cooperation, Mario Varrenti says supporting human rights especially children’s rights is at the heart of the partnership between Lesotho and EU.
He said WV estimates based on surveys revealed that around 10 000 children every year experience sexual abuse.
This he said was even before the pandemic during which violence against women and children as well as early marriage were “on the rise.”
He said Lesotho economic hardships caused by covid-19 increases the risks of children’s abuse.
“Therefore, justice is needed more than ever especially for the most vulnerable.”
He said achieving tangible results require cooperation between all stakeholders.

Maseru Central Prison
Maseru Central Prison