This article is a result of field research in Lesotho conducted from 5-12 April 2014.
The Court of Appeal of Lesotho (apex court) gave a decision that will make the hearts of all human rights defenders bleed. The decision is a setback to the fight for equality and for the recognition of women’s rights as human rights.
The case in question is that of SENATE GABASHEANE MASUPHA V. THE SENIOR RESIDENT MAGISTRATE FOR SUBORDINATE COURT OF BEREA & OTHERS. (SENATE’S CASE). The judgment was delivered on 17 April 2014.
The facts of the case in brief are; the appellant is the first daughter and only legal child of the deceased chief in Lesotho. Upon her father’s death, the mother assumed the chieftainship position of the deceased. And not too long, the mother passed on and the appellant sought to inherit the chieftainship of her father which devolved to her late mother, she was denied her right. Her half-brother from another woman who her father had not legally married will be entitled to the said title, based on the fact that women are not allowed to succeed their father with regards to chieftainship matters under the customary law of the Basotho people.
The appellant angered by this discriminatory practice, challenged it at the constitutional court but did not succeed; she appealed the decision at the apex court to enforce her right to chieftainship but also had no success.