Lesotho is not ranked in the 2012 SIGI due to missing data for one or more SIGI variables. However, the country note below sets out information and data relating to variables where this is available information.

In 2011, the Human Development Index for Lesotho was 0.450, placing the country at 160 out of 187 countries with data.  For the Gender Inequality Index Lesotho received a score of 0.532, placing the country at 108 out of 146 countries with data. In 2011, the World Economic Forum ranked Lesotho 9 out of 135 countries in its 2011 Global Gender Gap Report, with a score of 0.7666 where 0 represents inequality and 1 represents equality.

Discriminatory Family Code: 

Under the common law Marriage Act 1974, the minimum age for marriage is 16 for girls and 18 for boys. There is no minimum age for customary law marriages with the law providing that both girls and boys can marry after puberty. Both common and customary law requires the consent of both parties in marriage and prohibit forced marriages.[6]

Based on 2004 data, the United Nations reports that 18 per cent of girls between 15 and 19 years of age were married, divorced or widowed.[7]  With respect to early pregnancy, the most recent data available is from 2004 which estimated that 5 percent of 15 to 19 women were pregnant with their first child.[8]

The US Department of State reports in 2011 that although polygamy is not recognised by the formal legal code, it was practiced under customary law by a small minority.[9]  A 2004 Demographic and Health Survey found that only 5 percent of married men had more than one wife. Polygamy is slightly more common in rural areas.[10]

In 2006, the government introduced the Legal Capacity of Married Persons Act which provides equal rights and responsibilities to parents and spouses.[11]

The Lesotho Land Act of 1997 allows widows to stay in the matrimonial home provided they do not remarry, thereby giving the widow usufruct rights and not ownership rights.[12]  It is reported that the practice of forcibly dispossessing widows of their property or land is common, particularly in the context of HIV/AIDS.[13]  Under customary law, it is reported that daughters do not have the same inheritance rights as their brothers.[14]

[6] Mapetla, M. (2009) p.38 [7] United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2008) [8] World Health Organisation (n.d) [9] US Department of State (2011) [10] Demographic Health Survey (2004) [11] Mapetla, M. (2009) p.38 [12] UN Habitat (2005) p.21 [13] African Development Bank (2005) p.11 [14] Mapetla, M. (2009) p.38

Restricted Physical Integrity: 

The Sexual Offenses Act of 2003 prohibits rape, including spousal rape, and mandates a minimum sentence of five years' imprisonment, with no option for a fine.[15]  There is no specific legislation prohibiting domestic violence but general assault provisions under common law and customary law apply.[16]  The law does not specifically prohibit sexual harassment.[17]

With respect to the effectiveness of laws, the US Department of State reports that courts have heard a number of rape and attempted rape cases, several of which resulted in convictions. However, few domestic violence cases are brought to trial.[18]

The US Department of State reports that violence against women is common in Lesotho. In 2008, there were 1300 reported cases of rapes and 7700 reported cases of domestic violence.[19]  Attitudes that condone and excuse violence against women are common in Lesotho. The African Development Bank cites a survey conducted by Tulane University which found that 44 percent of women agreed that it is a woman’s own fault if she is raped and 39 percent of women agreed that it is a wife's obligation to have sex with her husband even if she doesn't like it.[20]  Further, a 2004 Demographic Health Survey found that 20 percent of women believe that a husband is justified in beating his wife if she refuses sex with him, 36 percent believe a husband is justified in beating his wife if she neglects the children and 37 percent if she argues with him.[21]

It is also reported that violence against women and children is increasingly considered socially unacceptable due to the government’s advocacy and awareness programs and the work of non-governmental organisations.[22]

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is reported to not exist in Lesotho, although information on specific legislation against FGM is limited.[23]

Having control over the timing and spacing of children is an important aspect of women’s physical integrity. In Lesotho, abortion is permitted for therapeutic reasons to save the woman’s life. It is not permitted in the event of rape or incest, due to foetal impairment, on request or on social or economic grounds.[24]  A 2004 Demographic Health Survey found that 37 percent of married women use contraception and 35 percent of married women use modern forms of contraception. The data suggests that there remains reluctance amongst couple to discuss family planning with 30 percent of married women reporting never having discussed family planning with their spouse. Further, access to family planning appears to be a problem with 31 percent of married women reporting an unmet need for family planning.[25]

[15] US Department of State (2010) [16] United Nations General Assembly (2010) State report p.13 [17] US Department of State (2010) [18] US Department of State (2010) [19] US Department of State (2010) [20] The survey is not dated. African Development Bank (2005) Annex 3 [21] Demographic Health Survey (2004) [22] US Department of State (2010) [23] Inter-Parliamentary Union (n.d.) [24] United Nations Population Division (2007) [25] Demographic Health Surveys (2004)

Son Bias: 

Gender disaggregated data on rates of infant mortality and early childhood nutrition are not available for Lesotho. Lesotho has achieved gender parity in primary and secondary school enrolments which indicates that there is no preferential treatment of sons in access to education.[26]  However, the African Development Bank reports that women and girls continue to bear the burden of unpaid domestic work which indicates persistent discriminatory attitudes towards girls and women.[27]

The male/female sex ratio for the total population in 2012 is 0.97.[28]

Lesotho does not appear to be a country of concern in relation to missing women.

[26] World Economic Forum (2010) p.192 [27] African Development Bank (2005) p.4 [28] Central Intelligence Agency (2012)

Restricted Resources and Entitlements: 

With respect to access to land, the principal land legislation in Lesotho is the Land Act of 1979. This legislation is gender neutral.[29] Although the law is gender-neutral, customary practices provide that land is allocated primarily to married men which requires women to access land through men.[30] Further, until 2006, married women in Lesotho experienced discrimination in accessing land as they held minority status and were considered the property of their husbands. In 2006, the government passed the Legal Capacity of Married Persons Act that sought to eliminate the discrimination previously imposed upon married women through customary law, giving married women the right to apply for and register land in their own names.[31]  According to 2008 data from the Lands Surveys and Physical Planning, around 40 percent of resettlement or combined land is owned by women.[32]

Although common law provides women and men equal rights in accessing property other than land, customary laws had previously considered married women minors, thus preventing them from owning or managing property other than land. Again the Legal Capacity of Married Persons Act gives women the right to own and manage property in their own names. The law also provides members of a couple the equal capacities to dispose of an asset.[33]

Under civil law, women in Lesotho have the right to access to bank loans. However, a lack of knowledge about the laws and limited collateral to place against their bank loans continue to prevent women from accessing bank loans.[34]  The government has sought to redress this inequity by introducing a gender credit programme to provide women capacity building services and credit support. The government reports that women make up 80 percent of the beneficiaries of this programme.[35]

[29] Mapetla, M. (2009) p.57 [30] Mapetla, M. (2009) p.58 [31] United Nations General Assembly (2010) State report p.12 [32] Mapetla, M. (2009) pp.57-58 [33] African Development Bank (2005) p.7 [34] Mapetla, M. (2009) p.57 [35] United Nations General Assembly (2010) State report p.13

Restricted Civil Liberties: 

There are no reported restrictions on women’s freedom of movement in Lesotho.

The US Department of State reports that the government in Lesotho generally respects press freedom and the right to association.[36]  A study on the representation of gender in the media in Lesotho found that women’s views and voices are under-represented in the media with women constituting only 21 percent of the news sources in monitored media. The study also found that gender specific news items did not have a profile in Lesotho media.[37]

With respect to women’s participation in political life, the World Economic Forum reports that women make up only 24 per cent of Lesotho’s parliamentarians and 32 per cent of Ministerial positions.[38] The most recent elections were held in 2007.[39]

The Labour Code of 1992 provides for basic workers rights including the provision of adequate working conditions, including the prohibition of unfair treatment to female employees. The Code provides pregnant workers with maternity leave of six weeks and six weeks after confinement; the right to benefits for the full support and maintenance of herself and the child, the right to free medical care, and once back at work, time-off to nurse the child during the day. The Code leaves the option regarding payment to the discretion of the employer as to whether to pay salary to the women employee during maternity leave.[40]

[36] US Department of State (2010) [37] Mapetla, M. (2009) pp.88-89 [38] World Economic Forum (2010) p.192 [39] Inter-Parliamentary Union (2010) [40] African Development Bank (2005) p.13


Lesotho is a constitutional monarchy with a dual legal system consisting of customary law and common law. The major challenges facing the country are extremely high unemployment and HIV/AIDS prevalence rate coupled with a high degree of food insecurity.[1]  The World Bank classifies Lesotho as a low income country.[2]

Although women in Lesotho fare well on indicators such as educational attainment and wage equality, the persistence of discriminatory customary laws pose obstacles to women’s equality in the family and access to resources. Discriminatory practices under customary laws are reported to be a factor contributing to the feminisation of poverty in Lesotho.[3]  Women in Lesotho also have a relatively high rate of HIV/AIDS which is commonly attributed to their unequal position in society.[4]

The constitution of Lesotho guarantees the right to equality and non-discrimination on the basis of sex, however customary laws are exempted from this constitutional guarantee.[5]  Lesotho became a party to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1995. Lesotho has never submitted a report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.

[1] African Development Bank (2005) p.1 [2] World Bank (n.d.) [3] World Economic Forum (2010) p.192; African Development Bank (2005) p.6 [4] African Development Bank (2005) p.9 [5] Sections 4 and 18, Chapter 2 of the Constitution of Lesotho


African Development Bank (2005) Kingdom of Lesotho: Multi-sector gender profile, available at http://www.afdb.org/fileadmin/uploads/afdb/Documents/Project-and-Operations/lesotho.pdf (accessed 20 November 2010)

Central Intelligence Agency (2012) The World Factbook: Sex Ratio, available at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2018.html (accessed 9 March 2012)

Demographic Health Survey (2004) Lesotho: Standard DHS, 2005 – online data, available at http://www.statcompiler.com/index.cfm (accessed 20 November 2010)

Equality Now (1999) Equality Now submission to the UN Human Rights Committee, available at http://www.equalitynow.org/english/campaigns/un/unhrc_reports/unhrc_lesotho_en.pdf (accessed 20 November 2010)

Inter-Parliamentary Union (2009) Parliamentary Campaign to Stop Violence Against Women, Female Genital Mutilation, Legislation and other national provisions, available at http://www.ipu.org/wmn-e/fgm-prov-c.htm (accessed 1 November 2010)

Inter-Parliamentary Union (2010) Parline Database: Lesotho, available at http://www.ipu.org/wmn-e/classif.htm (accessed 1 November 2010)

Mapetla, M. (2009) Southern African Development Community Gender Protocol Baseline Study: Lesotho, available at http://www.genderlinks.org.za/article/sadc-gender-protocol-barometer-baseline-study-lesotho-2009-10-16 (accessed 20 November 2010)

UN Habitat (2005) Lesotho: Law, Land Tenure and Gender Review, Southern Africa, available at http://www.unhabitat.org/pmss/listItemDetails.aspx?publicationID=2131, (accessed 20 November 2010)

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2008) World Marriage Data 2008, available at http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/WMD2008/Main.html (accessed 10 October 2010)

United Nations Development Programme (2010) Human Development Report 2010 Lesotho, online edition, available at  http://hdrstats.undp.org (accessed 1 November 2010)

United Nations Development Programme (2011) Human Development Report 2011, available at http://hdr.undp.org/en/media/HDR_2011_EN_Complete.pdf (accessed 29 February 2012)

United Nations General Assembly (2010)  Human Rights Council, Working Group on Universal Periodic Review, National Report Submitted in accordance with paragraph 15 (a) of the annex to Human Rights Council Resolution 5/1: Lesotho, A/HRC/WG.6/8/LSO/1, Geneva.

United Nations Population Division (2007) World Abortion Policies 2007, Available at http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/2007_Abortion_Policies_Chart/2007_WallChart.pdf (accessed 13 October 2010)

US State Department (2010) 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Lesotho, Available at http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/af/135960.htm (accessed 20 November 2010)

US State Department (2011) 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Lesotho, Available at http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2010/af/154353.htmhttp://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/af/135960.htm (accessed 2 November 2010)

World Bank (n.d.) Online data: Lesotho, available at http://data.worldbank.org/country/lesotho (accessed at 20 November 2010)

World Economic Forum (2010) Global Gender Gap Report 2010, Available at http://www.weforum.org/pdf/gendergap/report2010.pdf (accessed 20 October 2010)

World Economic Forum (2011) The Global Gender Gap Report 2011, available at http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GenderGap_Report_2011.pdf (accessed 2 March 2012)

World Health Organisation (n.d.) Department of Making Pregnancy Safer: Lesotho Country Profile, available at http://www.afro.who.int/en/clusters-a-programmes/frh/making-pregnancy-safer/mps-country-profiles.html (accessed 20 November 2010)

Discrim. Fam. Code Rank 2012: 
Discrim. Fam. Code Value 2012: 
Legal Age of Marriage: 
Early Marriage: 
Parental Authority: 
Violence Against Women (laws): 
Reproductive Integrity: 
Attitudes Towards Domestic Violence: 
Son Bias Rank 2012: 
Son Bias Value 2012: 
Missing Women: 
Fertility Preferences: 
Rest. Resources & Ent. Rank 2012: 
Rest. Resources & Ent. Value 2012: 
Access To Land: 
Access To Property Other Than Land: 
Access To Bank Loans And Credit: 
Rest. Civil Liberties Rank 2012: 
Rest. Civil Liberties Value 2012: 
Access To Public Space: 
Political Participation: 
Political Quotas: