Legislative responses to child victims of abduction into forced marriages in Lesotho
Keywords:Abduction, child, child abduction, legislature, victim, forced marriages
Chobeliso, as it is known in Lesotho, is the practice of abducting young girls for marriage. Despite global authorities establishing child marriage as a violation of human rights, chobeliso continues to be practiced, particularly in communities that perceive it as a customary, religious and/or social norm. Furthermore, limitations of legislation may inadvertently contribute to perpetuating forced child marriages. This paper explores the role of the Lesotho legislature in responding to child abductions for forced marriages. A sample of 10 adult female participants from the Semonkong area in Lesotho, who were abducted and forced to marry as children, were selected using a snowball sampling technique. In-depth interviews were used to collect data that were analyzed thematically. The findings revealed that most women were abducted and forced into marriage while they were under the legal age of marriage and the offenders were not prosecuted. There are limitations of law in prosecuting cultural practices considered customary by the Basotho people. Even though existing laws protect children's rights, Basotho people perceive forced marriage as acceptable. This paper argues that preventing forced child marriage requires strengthened legal frameworks to ensure increased awareness, greater enforcement of existing laws and severe punishment to increase deterrence measures.
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