[ Country-by-Country Reports ]

LESOTHO (Tier 2 Watch List)   [Extracted from U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2009]

Lesotho is a source country for women and children trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labor. Victims are trafficked internally and to South Africa for domestic work, farm labor, and commercial sexual exploitation. Women and girls are also brought to South Africa for forced marriages in remote villages. Nigerian traffickers acquire Basotho victims for involuntary servitude in households of Nigerian families living in London. Chinese organized crime units acquire victims while transiting Lesotho and traffic them to Johannesburg, where they “distribute” them locally or traffic them overseas. Identified traffickers in Lesotho tend to be white, Afrikaans-speaking men and long-distance truck drivers. Women and children attempting to support families affected by HIV/AIDS and Basotho looking for better employment prospects in South Africa are most likely to be lured by a trafficker’s fraudulent offer of a legitimate job.

The Government of Lesotho does not comply with minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these overall significant efforts, the government has not demonstrated progress in combating human trafficking through effective law enforcement; therefore, Lesotho is placed on the Tier 2 Watch List. A program to train officers in several law enforcement agencies to identify trafficking situations as part of a general strategy to improve law enforcement has not yet resulted in any trafficking related arrests or prosecutions. Officials increased some anti-trafficking efforts, especially in raising the public’s awareness of the risks of trafficking, even as most of their limited resources were directed at addressing the country’s debilitating HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Recommendations for Lesotho: Enact a comprehensive law prohibiting all forms of human trafficking; collect data on victims identified and assisted, trafficking offenses investigated and prosecuted, and trafficking offenders convicted and punished; ensure that victims are not inappropriately punished for acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked; provide increased training, possibly in conjunction with NGOs, to law enforcement officers in victim identification, particularly at border points; provide shelter and services to victims of trafficking, possibly in collaboration with international organizations and NGOs; and increase efforts to raise public awareness of trafficking.

The government did not increase its law enforcement efforts during the past year. Lesotho has no comprehensive anti-trafficking law, which hinders the government’s ability to address human trafficking. Slavery and forced labor are constitutionally prohibited. Existing laws governing abduction, kidnapping, labor exploitation, immigration and sexual abuse of children were used to prosecute trafficking-related crimes in the past. The Child Protection Act of 1980, the Sexual Offenses Act of 2003, the Common Law, and the Labor Code Order of 1981, as amended, prescribe penalties of at least five years’ imprisonment for trafficking crimes, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes. The Child Protection and Welfare Bill, drafted in 2005, defines child trafficking and prescribes penalties of 20 years’ imprisonment for convicted offenders. This bill is currently under final review with the Office of the Attorney General. No current or draft laws specifically penalize the trafficking of adults. The government did not provide data on trafficking prosecutions or convictions in the past year. Other sources stated that investigations of trafficking-related situations are rare because trafficking is not specifically defined as a crime under existing laws, and law enforcement resources and capacity are limited. Some police and customs officers and members of the Lesotho Mounted Police Services’ Child and Gender Protection Unit (CGPU) received training on detecting and curbing a range of illegal activities at border posts, including human trafficking. Law enforcement officers did not proactively identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations such as women and children in prostitution or illegal migrants, and have not been adequately trained to recognize victims they may encounter as part of their normal duties.

The Lesotho government took inadequate steps to protect victims of trafficking over the last year. Officials did not proactively identify victims, and have no formal mechanism for referring victims to service providers. Lesotho has no care facilities specifically for trafficking victims. Orphanages supported by the government of Lesotho and NGOs are available to provide some services to children identified as victims of trafficking. The CGPU staff provided counseling to women and children who are victims of abuse, including some who were possibly trafficking victims. Existing law does not protect victims from prosecution for offenses committed as a direct result of being trafficked. Information is not available on whether authorities encouraged or would encourage victims to participate in anti-trafficking investigations and prosecutions. The law also did not provide foreign victims of trafficking with alternatives to their removal to countries where they may face hardship or retribution.

The government modestly increased its efforts to prevent trafficking during the year. Immigration authorities monitored border crossings for indications of transnational crimes such as smuggling and kidnapping, and received basic training in detecting potential trafficking situations. Police raised public awareness of human trafficking through radio programs and brochures explaining what trafficking is and how to identify it. The government also encouraged the public to report instances of rape, physical abuse, and sexual harassment, including potential sex trafficking situations, and began an associated increase in telephone access in rural areas. In an on-going partnership with NGOs, the CGPU trained 250 children and 70 parents how to report possible child abuse, including suspected incidents of child sex and labor trafficking. A committee composed of several government ministries and the GCPU of the police had nominal responsibility for coordinating policy on trafficking, but was not active during 2008 and early 2009. The government’s ongoing, incremental implementation of tuition-free primary education expanded compulsory school enrollment and attendance in an effort to identify all school-aged children, prevent inappropriate child labor, and reduce children’s vulnerability to trafficking and other crimes.