March 10, 2009 – Behind The Mask
Secret lives of lesotho gays and lesbians
by Lesego Tlhwale (BTM intern)
Lesotho – The myth that homosexuality is unAfrican seems to be debunked each day as, among other things, more and more homosexuals surface in different countries of this continent. With the Kingdom of Lesotho being famous for adherence to its Basotho traditions, many mistook it for a gay free country. However, recently gay and lesbian people have surfaced in that country, with a short term goal of fighting for recognition, not only by society but also by the ruling kingdom.
Even though there are no laws criminalising homosexual conduct in Lesotho many homosexuals live secret lives, fearing possible discrimination from their families and community, should they come out. Talking about being a lesbian in Lesotho, 30 year old Kgati Maila* who resides in one of Lesotho’s rural villages says people in her community, influenced by cultural beliefs, view homosexuality as an inhuman act of evil. Even sharing her story with Behind the Mask seems to be difficult for this working class woman, who has been in the closet for more than 13 years.
She however discloses that she shares a house with her partner who is 40, and the partner’s 19 year old daughter, while her 13 year old daughter stays with her mother. “Our life is normal even though it is a secret. Our families suspect that we are lesbians but they are not sure, even though there are rumours that we might be dating”, Maila says
Asked of the time she discovered her sexuality, she says “After having a child at 17, I realised that I was attracted to women and since then I had no doubt about my sexuality.” Even though she says she is not proud of her behaviour, Maila explained how she and her partner often have misunderstandings that lead to her [Maila] being violent towards her. “She would even seek protection from the police and elderly people in the area.”
This behavior has been one of the reasons that led to her being taken to the chief, by her partner’s family, to clear her name in 2007. “They wanted me to say in front of the chief that I am not a lesbian. They even instructed me to stop seeing my partner and said I should move back home, since it is not acceptable for me to share a house with a woman.” According to Maila, discrimination of homosexuals is not widespread in Lesotho. She says this could be because many gays and lesbians are staying in the closet, only out to their peers.
Maila is not the only one, Thabiso Kikume* is a gay man, one of many homosexuals in that country. He coordinates a one-year-old unregistered LGBTI support group called Matrix Discussion Group in the country’s capital Maseru. The group was, according to Kikume, started by a group of gay men from the US and some from Maseru, who saw a gap in the country regarding the issues around LGBTI community. The group meets secretly every Saturday, at a local church, to discuss issues affecting homosexuals in the area.
“Part of the discussions is about identity crises amongst lesbians, as they are women and are expected to dress in a certain respectable way. We also discuss health issues.” He adds that the group is looking at registering as a gay organisation and approaching the government, with a view to have the LGBTI community recognised in Lesotho. While it has not done much on the issue of HIV and AIDS, the group is planning a workshop this week which will teach the LGBTI community about “dangers of HIV/AIDS amongst same-sex relationships.”
“Part of the workshop will cover prevention strategies for homosexuals against HIV/AIDS and STIs. He added that invitations to the workshop are mainly done by word-of-mouth as they don’t want to make group members uncomfortable by inviting the community at large.”
“We are hoping for a great turnout even though many gay people are in the closet”, Kikume concluded.
27 May 2009 – Plus News
AFRICA: Prevention efforts and infection patterns mismatched
Johannesburg (PlusNews) – In at least five African countries, scarce resources are being spent on national HIV prevention campaigns that do not reach the people most at risk of infection, new research has found. Between 2007 and 2008, UNAIDS and the World Bank partnered with the national AIDS authorities of Kenya, Lesotho, Swaziland, Uganda and Mozambique to find out how and where most HIV infections were occurring in each country, and whether existing prevention efforts and expenditure matched these findings. The recently released reports reveal that few prevention programmes are based on existing evidence of what drives HIV/AIDS epidemics in the five countries surveyed.
In Lesotho, where nearly one in four are living with HIV, an analysis of national prevalence and behavioural data found that most new infections were occurring because people had more than one partner at a time, both before and during marriage. But Lesotho has no prevention strategies to address the problem of concurrent partnerships, or target couples who are married or in long-term relationships.
An evaluation of Mozambique’s prevention response found that an estimated 19 percent of new HIV infections resulted from sex work, 3 percent from injecting drug use, and 5 percent from men who have sex with men (MSM), yet there are very few programmes targeting sex workers, and none aimed at drug users and MSM. The research also found that spending on HIV prevention was often simply too low: Lesotho spent just 13 percent of its national AIDS budget on prevention, whereas Uganda spent 34 percent, despite having an HIV infection rate of only 5.4 percent.
Debrework Zewdie, director of the World Bank’s Global HIV/AIDS Unit, noted that the current global economic downturn made it more important than ever to get the most impact out of investments in HIV prevention. "These syntheses use the growing amounts of data and information available to better understand each country’s epidemic and response, and identify how prevention might be more effective." The reports made recommendations on how the countries could move towards more evidence-based prevention strategies to make more efficient use of limited resources.
Lesotho was advised to revise the content of its prevention messages to address multiple concurrent partnerships and integrate partner reduction into all future policies. One of the recommendations to Mozambique was that condom promotion programmes be focused on high-risk groups such as sex workers. The five-country project also aimed to build capacity to enable these nations to undertake similar studies in future, as part of their ongoing efforts to evaluate and plan HIV responses.
10 February 2010 – Lesotho Times
Clash over gays
by Caswell Tlali
Maseru — Delegates attending the Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (LCN) annual general conference last Friday clashed over the association’s decision to help an organisation advocating for the rights of homosexuals. Matters came to a head after the annual report which was tabled before the delegates revealed that the council had given technical assistance to Matrix Support Group, an organisation for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals and intersexual people.
The report said the LCN had been brought in as a technical partner when Matrix Support Group received some funds from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). LCN, the report said, was helping the group manage and account for funds. That revelation sparked angry responses from delegates who accused the organisation of assisting “ungodly acts”. Angry delegates demanded that the LCN stops associating with the Matrix Support Group. Thabo Thelingoane, the secretary-general of the Construction and Allied Workers Union (CAWULE), was the most vocal of the delegates.
A livid Thelingoane demanded that the council stop assisting programmes involving homosexuals. “Basotho are a Christian nation and Christian principles do not allow them to promote homosexuality,” Thelingoane said. “We are a Christian society which is not supposed to intermingle with Satan’s people,” He added that he was not happy to be part of an organisation that “assists Satan’s people to further their ungodly behaviour”.
Thelingoane later told the Lesotho Times that he is Catholic. When LCN president Lira Theko tried to call him to order, telling him that Lesotho was not constitutionally a Christian state, Thelingoane stubbornly insisted that “homosexuality is ungodly”. And even when officials threatened to eject him from the conference hall, Thelingoane remained adamant. “Expel me if you want but I still say CAWULE does not agree to homosexuality because homosexuals are Satan’s people,” he said.
It is however not clear whether Thelingoane was expressing his own views on homosexuality or the official position of the labour union that he leads.
Read Article HERE
August 19th, 2011 – Behind The Mask
Open Society Hosts Meeting Of LGBT Activists From Southern Africa
The Open Society Initiatives for Southern Africa (OSISA) has just concluded a three day meeting in Johannesburg for LGBT activists from 13 regional countries. During the meeting participants were asked to form three groups (Lesbians /Bisexual women/WSW, Gay/Bisexual/ MSM and Transgender /FTM/MTF/Non conforming) to identify the problems faced by each group regarding HIV/Aids. Most of the groups shared the same sentiments such as legal framework, laws and policies that hinder the LGBT community from accessing services. They also discussed access to justice, access to education, social empowerment, socio-cultural issues and hate crimes.
“It was open and fair enough to cover HIV related issues facing LGBT communities regionally and I strongly believe that all the ideas together will bring change in African countries” said TP Mothopeng from Lesotho’s Matrix Support Group. During the meeting activists also shared their experiences on sexual orientation, gender identity and HIV/Aids, examined country specific context for LGBT and HIV issues, developed an advocacy agenda and strategy and then elected 10 people who will now represent the LGBT group at the next joint workshop which will take place in October where the three key groups will be represented.
Ian Swartz, OSISA programme coordinator for LGBTI special initiatives said in his opening remarks “The goal of the meeting is to build the capacity of the three key groups (LGBTI activists, women living with HIV, and sex workers) in 13 countries to develop a regional advocacy and lobbying strategy to address HIV and Aids.” For many years the HIV within LGBT sector has been led by gay men and it is only recently that the WSW were brought on board. As a result of these changes this meeting was totally different and the Trans community found they scored more nominations than the other identities to be on the working group.
In October 2010 UNIFEM [now UN Women] issued a call for proposals to work with three marginalized communities [namely sex workers, women living with HIV and LGBT communities] to develop regional advocacy strategies on HIV and Aids. The HIV and Aids programme, in partnership with the Women’s Rights programme and the Special Initiative on LGBT rights submitted a proposal and were awarded the contract.