On Friday 18 November 2022, as part of our support of Human Rights in Lesotho, The Hub joined Lesotho’s LGTBQI+ advocacy organisation, The People’s Matrix Association, in a commemoration of the Transgender Day of Remembrance. The day began with a peaceful march through the centre of Maseru, starting at Setsoto Stadium and ending at Victoria Hotel. A procession of LGBTQI+-identifying Basotho and allies walked peacefully together in solidarity through the streets, with the majority of participants dressed in symbolic black attire, interspersed with the bright colours of rainbow and transgender flags.
At Victoria Hotel, the group congregated in a large hall decorated with rainbow flags and banners. An important moment in the day was when all of the lights were dimmed and attendees held lit candles, sang together, and observed a shared moment of silence in remembrance of transgender-identifying people who have suffered from discrimination and violence.
Giselle Ratalane, Project Coordinator at the People’s Matrix Association, spoke of the numerous challenges faced by transgender-identifying Basotho. Ratalane explained that ‘one in three transgender people in Lesotho (36 percent) has been denied access to health care.
’This is in part due to the many hurdles that transgender Basotho face when attempting to apply for legal gender recognition. Although Lesotho’s legal framework does allow for this, Ratalane commented on the fact that ‘outdated terminology, inconsistencies, and a lack of guidelines limit the ability of transgender persons to successfully apply for legal gender recognition on their identity documents.’– Giselle Ratalane
‘It was wonderful to have so many people here today,’ said Ratalane, ‘and to have so many transgender people coming out for the day visibly, publicly, and also proudly. It’s not easy in Lesotho today to be somebody who is visibly cross-dressing or expressing yourself differently from what is expected. We still get a backlash in what continues to be a very patriarchal society. This leads to many instances of violence, discrimination, and harassment. But even with these challenges, so many transgender people are choosing to publicly appear at events like today’s, which is really important.’
Founded in 2008, the People’s Matrix Association has been at the forefront of pressing for equal rights for LGBTQI+-identifying Basotho. Commenting on the organisation’s future advocacy plans for transgender rights, Ratalane spoke of immediate plans following the Transgender Day of Remembrance.
‘We are working with strategic stakeholders in both the NGO space and the government to discuss legal gender recognition. We’re hoping to work together with the government to modify laws and adopt a bill for the protection of transgender people. This will help transgender people in Lesotho to get their gender markers changed without any of the hurdles that they currently face today.’