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Lesotho, my rape champ country

By Thakane Rethabile Shale  

It is always so refreshingly pleasant to see my country on the top three list of anything, mainly because we are leaders in so little so it is always nice to get a little recognition.

Well in case you were previously unaware Lesotho occupies the number three spot in the world for RAPE!! Coming in behind Botswana and not surprisingly South Africa.

Some countries would be shamed by such a spot. They would vehemently deny its validity and do their all to reverse it.

You would likely find campaigns, writings, programmes and a police force working tirelessly to move down that unfortunate list if not totally away from it, but if you think that will happen here you clearly underestimate how decades of not winning at anything has affected the gentle psyche of Basotho.

We are so unused to leading in anything that we will do our very best to maintain our spot on the Rape Champions. In fact, we could try to occupy the number one spot but South Africans are unmatched in rape so we will never prosper.

When one talks about rape the assumption is to think about it in terms of men, the common rapists of our day, but we fail to address a more pressing group – women.

Women love rape, well at least Basotho women do. Not on themselves of course but other women getting raped is something Basotho women are scarily comfortable with.

Not only are Basotho women comfortable with other women getting raped, they actively encourage it. Is there a woman you dislike? As a Mosotho woman you can hope she gets raped! Is there a girl who got raped? Basotho women are sure it was her fault and she deserved it. Do you have labour grievances? Basotho women call for the labour minister to get raped by some of her male counterparts.

The latest scandal in our dance with rape occurred when factory workers who were understandably less than satisfied called on the prime minister, and a couple of his ministers to rape the labour minister Keketso Rantšo.

This is of course not the first time that our people have been called on to rape a public figure. Who can forget the disgusting utterance made by one Thato Poonya when he called for Nthakoana Ngatane to be raped?

But as disgusting as Poonya was, and I am told he apologised, history has taught me to disregard what men say in matters of consent, but to have a group of women calling for another woman to get raped is a little harder to stomach.

Factory workers calling on another woman to get raped is more bothersome than if anyone else had done it. This is a group of women that is by far the most marginalised and vulnerable in the country, not only economically but they are more at risk of assault, sexual abuse and generally anything bad. I am unsure whether to hate them or to feel extremely sorry for them.

Could it be that instead of callous they had to imagine the worst thing that could happen and hope that the minister in what they regard her hallowed seat would be scared into empathy?

To the average woman working in the factory, a minister is someone who does not suffer the normal day to day afflictions of hunger; trying to raise children on a meagre salary and having those children turn to crime or prostitution because hard as you try there is never enough in the house.

To them the minister does not know the horrible working conditions and thinly veiled contempt they are treated with, not only at work but in all spheres of life. “Basali ba Lifeme” is a term the rest of us use with the scorn we normally reserve for vermin.

Now I am not at all supporting that song, it was disgusting as are all threats of rape, but perhaps it is worth jumping off our high horses and imagining the amount of anger, despair and desperation those women felt when they made such utterances. Condemning them for the song while right, does not address the underlying problem.

*Thakane Rethabile Shale is a lawyer, writer and investigative journalism fellow with MNNCIJ

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