Lesotho is a landlocked country and enclave, surrounded by the Republic of South Africa, a constitutional monarchy with a population of 1.88 million people.
Lesotho’s Matrix Support Group, which specialises on LGBTI issues, is in the process of setting up a debate with the government of that country on the issue of homosexuality.
The president of the Matrix Support Group, Sherif Mothopeng, met last week with a senior government official to discuss the issues affecting LGBT people of Lesotho with the aim of sensitizing the government on the issues.
After the meeting, Mothopeng said the government official promised the Matrix that a debate would be organised with the aim to find out people`s opinion on the matter. The Justice Ministry has now organised a first seminar 30 August.
Matrix was established in 2008 March when a group of ten gay friends came together and formed what was known as the ‘discussion group’.
The group was registered as a Non-Profit Organisation by the Lesotho Law Office last November. Delegates attending the Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (LCN) annual general conference last year clashed over the association’s decision to help Matrix. LCN had been brought in as a technical partner when Matrix received some funds from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
UNDP has identified LGBT in Lesotho as at very high risk of HIV infection, in one study it found a self-reported HIV prevalence of 11.6% among a relatively young sample of MSM (men who have sex with men). Lesotho has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world, 25% of the adult population is estimated to be HIV+.
In May this year the principal secretary in Lesotho’s Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, Retslistsoe Maasenyetse, indicated that the government was studying the matter of homosexuality.
After his meeting with the government, Mothopeng said,:
“The government wants to get a clear picture about homosexuality and what we want them to do as human rights unit so we can get support in sensitizing the general community.”Like many African countries Lesotho does not recognize homosexuals and has over the years appeared to cling to the myth that homosexuality is UnAfrican under cover of adherence to Basotho traditions and culture.
As a result, the voice of Lesotho’s gays and lesbians has been silenced for many years.
“We just need to have an open debate with the society that is with key speakers such as traditionalists, clergies all aspects and some professors from University,” said Mothopeng.