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SAfAIDS Policy Brief: Lesotho Violence against Women and HIV: Upholding the Zero Agenda by moving towards a Protective Legal and Social environment for Women

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Gender-based violence (GBV) is a significant driver of HIV infection among women in Lesotho. National efforts are increasingly focusing on the elimination of violence against women as key in combating the spread of the epidemic. As the World Health Organization noted, violence against women is often both ‘a cause and consequence of HIV’ (2005). Similarly, as noted by UNAIDS (2009), ‘women living with HIV are more likely to have experienced violence, and women who have experienced violence are more likely to have HIV infection.’

In the southern African region, governments are responding positively by passing legislation to criminalise gender-based violence in its many forms; legislation exists to criminalise marital rape and other sexual offences. However, the problem remains at the level of implementation. This is the case in Lesotho where there is a comprehensive National Action Plan (2008) to end gender-based violence, yet a co-ordinated implementation strategy is missing. Similarly, the Domestic Violence Bill is yet to be passed. This poses the risk of a continued increase in domestic violence, and therefore in HIV infection. Advancing human rights offers a way of strengthening the legal instruments that counter women’s risk and vulnerability to HIV infection.