Last Updated 8 June 2021

Completely enclosed within South Africa, but separated from it by its mountain ranges, the Kingdom of Lesotho is a small democracy, with a population of around 2 million.1https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/lesotho-population/ Since gaining independence from Great Britain in 1966, Lesotho has seen decades of poverty, economic crises and unstable politics.2https://www.britannica.com/place/Lesotho/Religion

The majority of the country’s population are the Sotho (also known as Basotho). Lesotho also has a Zulu minority, a small population of Asian or mixed ancestry and a community of Europeans, largely made up of expatriate teachers, missionaries, and aid workers.3https://www.britannica.com/place/Lesotho/Religion

The dominant religion of Lesotho is Christianity, which is practiced by around 90% of the country’s population. The remaining 10% of the population includes followers of Islam, Hinduism, and traditional African religions.4https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/religious-beliefs-in-libya.html

Systemic Discrimination
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Constitution and government

The Constitution5https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Lesotho_1998.pdf and other laws and policies protect freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as freedom of opinion and expression. The Constitution states that,

“Every person shall be entitled to, and (except with his own consent) shall not be hindered in his enjoyment of, freedom of conscience, including freedom of thought and of religion, freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others, and both in public and in private, to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.”

The government has no established requirements for religious group recognition. By law, any group may register with the government, regardless of its purpose. The requirements for registration are a constitution and a leadership committee. Most religious groups register, but there is no penalty for not registering.6https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Lesotho-2.pdf

Education and children’s rights

According to the Constitution,

“Every religious community shall be entitled, at its own expense, to establish and maintain places of education and to manage any place of education which it wholly maintains; and no such community shall be prevented from providing religious instruction for persons of that community in the course of any education provided at any places of education which it wholly maintains or in the course of any education which it otherwise provides.”

The education ministry pays and certifies all teachers, and requires a standard curriculum for both secular and religious schools.7https://www.state.gov/reports/2020-report-on-international-religious-freedom/lesotho/ Churches own and operate nearly 83% of all primary and 66% of all secondary schools.8https://www.scholaro.com/pro/Countries/Lesotho/Education-System The Catholic Church, the Lesotho Evangelical Church, the Anglican Church, and to a lesser extent the Methodist Church all operate schools, which are publicly funded. In practice, in any school offering religious education – including all religious schools and some secular schools – the subject was mandatory, according to parents and teachers.9https://www.state.gov/reports/2020-report-on-international-religious-freedom/lesotho/

Family, community and society

LGBTI+ rights

Lesotho does not recognise same-sex marriages or civil partnerships. It also does not ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. However, in 2012, male same-sex activity was legalized.10https://ilga.org/downloads/02_ILGA_State_Sponsored_Homophobia_2016_ENG_WEB_150516.pdf Female same-sex activity has never been outlawed.11https://lib.ohchr.org/HRBodies/UPR/Documents/Session8/LS/MSG_UPR_LSO_S08_2010_MatrixSupportGroup.pdf

LGBTI+ people face societal discrimination in Lesotho however attitudes towards the community are slowly evolving and becoming more tolerant and accepting. For example, in May 2013, the first gay pride march took place.12https://web.archive.org/web/20160520154938/http://www.osisa.org/lgbti/blog/small-march-big-step-lgbti-lesotho

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

Freedoms of speech and the press are guaranteed by the constitution, but are not always respected in practice. Media outlets and journalists face severe libel and defamation penalties when criticizing or reporting on political leaders, and reporters are occasionally harassed, threatened, and attacked.13https://www.africafex.org/lesotho

Freedoms of assembly and association are guaranteed by the constitution, but sometimes demonstrations are broken up violently by police.

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