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Promoting democracy, human rights and rule of law in Southern Africa
October 18, 2012
USAID/Southern Africa Supports Regional Activists in Lesotho Legal Battle.
USAID/Southern Africa, through the Justice as a Right in Southern Africa Program, is supporting the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) to pursue constitutional litigation against discrimination of women in Lesotho. Ms. Senate Masupha wishes to succeed as chief of her village in Lesotho.
The Chieftainship Act in Lesotho provides for male-only succession to chieftainship, though the Lesotho Constitution clearly provides for non-discrimination based on sex. Ms. Masupha's case argues that the Chieftainship Act discriminates against her on the basis of her sex and contradicts the Constitution.
This case demonstrates how customary laws and practices can sometimes be a hindrance to the attainment of equality and must be examined closely against constitutional norms. SALC is providing expert legal advice to the attorneys in this case and is also acting as an amicus curae – or friend of the court – whereby they have filed a brief in support of Masupha’s claim for equality.
USAID/Southern Africa and its partners hope to leverage a recent successful precedent setting case in Botswana to support the Lesotho case. With non-USAID funding, SALC succeeded in supporting a challenge to customary law in Botswana where three women were denied the right to inherit a family home they occupied and improved over the years.
A nephew challenged them, based on customary law that gives the youngest born son the right of inheritance. On October 12, 2012, a Botswana judge ruled that this law discriminated against women and was unconstitutional. This decision is seen as a crucial step forward for women's rights in Botswana and a positive precedent for women' rights more broadly.
USAID/Southern Africa and its partners continue to build momentum for more fully expressed democracy, human rights and rule of law in Southern Africa through the Justice as a Right in Southern Africa Program and successful litigation of this kind.