File Photo: Clyde Robinson

Maseru - A complaint has been lodged with the African Commission about a law providing for male-only succession to chieftainship in Lesotho, the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (Salc) said on Tuesday.

Senate Masupha, the first-born child of a chief, is challenging section 10 of the Chieftainship Act, which denies daughters the chance to succeed to the office of chief on the basis of their gender, Salc said in a statement.

The complaint was submitted to the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights by Salc and the Federation of Women Lawyers (Fida-Lesotho).

“This case is not just about me, but about all women in Lesotho,” Masupha said.

“It is aimed at ending women's second-class status and ensuring we have equal access to all aspects of Lesotho life.”

Masupha had challenged the law in the Lesotho Constitutional Court and Court of Appeal. She argued that denying her the opportunity to succeed to chieftainship because she was a woman violated her constitutional rights.

Both courts upheld the law finding that it did not amount to unfair discrimination.

Masupha, Fida-Lesotho and Salc were arguing that section 10 of the act violated fundamental rights guaranteed under a number of regional agreements which Lesotho had ratified.

Attorney and member of Fida-Lesotho, Kuena Thabane, said the group hoped the African Commission would redress the discrimination.

“The Lesotho courts failed to uphold a fundamental right enshrined in our Constitution and under Lesotho's regional and international law obligations,” she said.

Annabel Raw, a project lawyer for Salc, said Lesotho needed to bring its laws in line with other countries in Africa, which did not permit “blatant discrimination”.

Sapa