Lesotho Constitutional Court to Hear Landmark Chieftainship Case Tomorrow

February 21, 2012

Tomorrow, the Lesotho Constitutional Court will, for the first time, consider the constitutionality of section 10 of the Chieftainship Act, which arguably denies women the right to succeed to chieftainship solely on the basis of their gender.

The case was brought by Senate Masupha, the first-born child of a chief. She is arguing that if section 10 of the Chieftainship Act is interpreted to only provide for male succession to chieftainship then it violates her rights to equality and freedom from discrimination under the Lesotho Constitution.

The case is being challenged by 11 others, including those who believe they have a claim to the chieftainship and the Attorney-General, who argues, in part, that chieftainship is a customary law institution and thus is not protected under the right to be free from discrimination guaranteed under the Constitution. The Lesotho Constitution does provide for freedom from discrimination, but like many other constitutions in southern Africa, it carves out an exception in matters involving the application of customary law. It also provides separately for the right to equality and equal protection of the law.

SALC has intervened in the matter as amicus curiae—friends of the court—arguing that not only does section 10 violate the rights to equality and freedom from discrimination under the Constitution, but that it also violates Lesotho’s international and regional law obligations.

You can read more about the case here.

The hearing is currently scheduled for two days—Wednesday, February 22 and Thursday, February 23. SALC will be providing regular updates from the courtroom via twitter (@Follow_SALC) and this blog. We would love to hear your thoughts, so please post your comments here or on twitter.


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