Lesotho reviewed by the UPR: refusal to decriminalise homosexuality


On the afternoon of 5 May 2010, the Working Group on the UPR reviewed the human rights situation in Lesotho. Ms Mpeo Moiloa-Mahese, Minister of Justice, headed the high-level delegation.


On the afternoon of 5 May 2010, the Working Group on the UPR reviewed the human rights situation in Lesotho. Ms Mpeo Moiloa-Mahese, Minister of Justice, headed the high-level delegation. Several States acknowledged the challenges of poverty, HIV/AIDS and food insecurity faced by Lesotho in making progress towards the realisation of human rights, and commended Lesotho for its ratification of the majority of international human rights instruments, formulation of its Vision 2020 national development plan, and advances in the promotion of gender equality through increased rates of participation of women in politics. However, a significant number of States also expressed concern and offered constructive criticism in the following areas:

  • Encouraging the implementation of a formal moratorium on the death penalty with a view to its complete abolition
  • Better protection of freedom of expression, especially with respect to the media, and the need to review provisions that currently criminalise defamation and to lift restrictions on privately-owned media
  • The need to intensify efforts in the protection of women’s rights, especially in the context of domestic and gender-based violence, practices of female genital mutilation, and the need to combat persistent discrimination against women in the areas of inheritance and property rights. States particularly urged the lifting of Lesotho’s reservation to Article 2 of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women
  • Strengthening the protection of children’s rights, including through implementing measures to address cases of sexual abuse of children in the home and child labour. States also stressed the need to ensure the compliance of the Child Protection and Welfare Bill with the standards of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, particularly with respect to the age of criminal responsibility
  • Redoubling efforts to prevent HIV infection, particularly among women and children
  • Continuing to strengthen poverty eradication efforts and strategies.
  • Urging decriminalisation of consensual same-sex relations between adults
  • The need to increase efforts to establish a national human rights institution in line with the Paris Principles
  • The need to ensure the domestic implementation of international standards, including in the context of the application of customary laws which conflict with international obligations
  • Encouraging ratification of the second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture; the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; and the Convention on Enforced Disappearances

The Lesotho delegation took two opportunities to respond to questions and was generally forthcoming in its engagement with the UPR. While it provided candid answers to many questions, at other times the delegation’s responses lacked detail. The delegation expressed its surprise at questions on the issue of female genital mutilation and stressed that such practices do not occur in Lesotho. It emphasised its commitment to the UPR process, but also sought to highlight the issues of limited availability of resources and capacity, and the receptiveness of society to human rights principles as factors impacting the State’s ability to ensure the human rights of its population. During the adoption of the outcome report, Lesotho rejected some recommendations that it argued did not fall within the realm of international human rights, or were not based on facts (including recommendations on eradication of FGM). Among the rejected recommendations were to issue a standing invitation to all special procedures, and decriminalising homosexuality. It accepted 36 recommendations and another 51 that had already been implemented or were in the process of implementation, and will respond to 25 recommendations by the Council’s session in September 2010.