Lesotho: LGBTI Support Group Registered

In what has been described by activists as a significant milestone for the Lesotho Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, transgender and Inter-gender (LGBTI) communities, November 2010 saw the registration of MATRIX support group as a Non-Profit Organisation by the Lesotho Law Office.

Men who have sex with Men (MSM), Women who have sex with Women( WSW) and other people who identify as LGBTI are an important and undeservedly vulnerable population in Lesotho.

Across the African continent there has been an increasing recognition of the high HIV risks among these key populations. Moreover, these HIV risks are in part driven by stigma and discrimination.  While discrimination affects physical and mental well-being, it also impedes access to HIV prevention, testing and treatment.

These types of barriers lead to a diminished confidence in the Health system and a less than optimal and often nonexistent engagement by LGBTI community members.

Matrix Support Group was established in 2008 March when a group of ten gay friends came together and formed what was known as the ‘discussion group’.  Members came together to discuss the issues that affected them as homosexuals living in Lesotho and how to further develop as a functioning organization.

Through these meetings a network of the LGBTI community in Lesotho began. Since its official recognition in 2009 MATRIX has become one of the cornerstones of the LGBTI community providing psychosocial and other support services, outreach activities and discussion groups.

Speaking on the registration, a MATRIX member states “Symbolically this is an important achievement for our organisation. We are the first LGBTI organisation in Lesotho- and this is empowering for all our members. Secondly, this recognition opens up more opportunities for us as an organisation, we are obliged to fight for the rights of our members and ensure they live in a society free of discrimination.

Also, being registered as an NGO means that we can bring our activism to a higher level and we hope to do so in the coming months”.
A recent UNDP supported Cross-sectional Assessment of Population Demographics, Sexual Practices, HIV Risk Status, and Human Rights Contexts of Sexual Minorities in Lesotho (2010) outlines the current situation for LGBTI community in Lesotho. Firstly, it recognises that such minorities do exist in Lesotho.

This study further identified the group as a population at very high risk of HIV infection with a self-reported HIV prevalence of 11.6% (22/190) among a relatively young sample of MSM. It also revealed that the group perceive themselves as having very little access to targeted HIV prevention programs which is expected, given the lack of these services in Lesotho.

This study was commissioned as part of UNDP’s HIV & Sexual minorities Project which is being implemented in collaboration with UNAIDS and the Lesotho Council of NGOs (LCN).

Now an established Organisation MATRIX wishes to intensify its campaign in advocating for the rights of the LGBTI community in the hope of building a society in Lesotho that is free from discrimination, abuse and stigma.

by: Fiona Coyle, HIV & AIDS Officer, UNDP Lesotho http://www.undp.org.ls/hivaids/LGBTI_Support_Group_Registered.php

Source – Behind The Mask