Trafficking in Persons Report 2011

LESOTHO (Tier 2)

Lesotho is a source and transit country for women and children subjected to conditions of forced labor and sex trafficking, and for men in conditions of forced labor. Within Lesotho, women and children are subjected to domestic servitude and children, to a lesser extent, to commercial sexual exploitation. Basotho women and children are exploited in South Africa in domestic servitude and some girls brought to South Africa for forced marriages in remote villages may subsequently encounter situations of domestic servitude or commercial sexual exploitation. Long-distance truck drivers offer to transport women and girls looking for legitimate employment. En route, the drivers rape some of these women and girls, before forcing them into prostitution in South Africa. Others voluntarily migrate to South Africa seeking work in domestic service and are detained in prison-like conditions and forced to engage in prostitution. Some Basotho men who migrate voluntarily, though illegally, to South Africa to work in agriculture and mining become victims of forced labor; many work for weeks or months without pay, with their employer turning them over to authorities to be deported for immigration violations just before their promised pay day. There is evidence that Basotho residents in South Africa return to Lesotho as labor recruiters for farms in South Africa. Basotho are also coerced into committing crimes, including theft, drug dealing, and drug smuggling under threats of violence, through forced drug use, or with promises of food. Most traffickers operate in informal associations and acquire victims from their families or neighbors. Chinese and, reportedly, Nigerian organized crime rings, however, acquire some Basotho victims while transporting foreign victims through Lesotho to Johannesburg.

The Government of Lesotho does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the year, the government enacted comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation that prohibits and punishes all forms of trafficking and requires protection measures for victims of trafficking. It also convicted and punished at least one trafficking offender. The government’s anti-trafficking efforts, however, continue to lack inter-ministerial coordination, as well as a mechanism to ensure formal identification and protection of victims. By enacting an anti-trafficking statute and continuing to draft a national action plan, the government has demonstrated political will to combat trafficking in persons, build capacity to undertake stronger anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts, and improve victim protection measures in the coming year.

Recommendations for Lesotho: Complete implementing regulations for the 2011 anti-trafficking act; finalize and implement the national anti-trafficking action plan; investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses under the 2011 act; provide care to victims of trafficking via government centers or in partnerships with international organizations or NGOs, and develop a formal mechanism, in line with the 2011 act, to refer victims to such care; develop a formal system to proactively identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations; increase training for law enforcement officers in victim identification, particularly at border points; forge a partnership with South African police to investigate reports of Basotho forced to labor on farms in South Africa and prosecute exploitative farm owners; establish a system to collect and analyze data on victims identified and assisted, trafficking offenses investigated and prosecuted, and trafficking offenders convicted and punished; and launch a national anti-trafficking awareness campaign.


The government increased its capacity to conduct law enforcement efforts by enacting anti-trafficking legislation and investigating suspected trafficking cases. In December 2010, the Parliament passed the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, which comprehensively prohibits and punishes all forms of trafficking in persons. Becoming effective in January 2011, the act prescribes penalties of 25 years’ imprisonment or a fine of $142,857 under Section 5(1) for the trafficking of adults and life imprisonment or a fine of $285,714 under Section 5(2) for the trafficking of children; these penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with other serious crimes. Labor recruiters who knowingly recruit workers for forced labor are liable for the same penalties as traffickers. However, the government has yet to draft implementing regulations necessary to enforce the legislation. In the absence of anti-trafficking legislation prior to passing the act, the government reported its investigation in 2010 of 84 cases nationwide under the Sexual Offenses Act; however, due to the government’s continued lack of a law enforcement data collection mechanism, specific case details were unavailable for the majority of these prosecutions at the close of the reporting period. In Maseru District, the government convicted at least one trafficking offender under the Sexual Offenses Act, sentencing him to 15 years’ imprisonment for raping his domestic worker, whom he had also assaulted with a pick axe and failed to pay during her eight months’ employment. Seven of these cases led to joint investigations between the Child and Gender Protection Unit (CGPU) of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) and the South African Police Service (SAPS), which remain ongoing. During the reporting period, the LMPS and SAPS began meeting periodically to discuss cross-border crimes, including human trafficking. The government did not provide data on investigations, prosecutions, convictions, or sentences of public officials complicit in human trafficking, though there was no evidence of government involvement in or tolerance of trafficking on a local or institutional level. In 2010, the LMPS provided training on trafficking definitions and basic victim identification to some of its officers.


Through its passage of the 2011 anti-trafficking act, the government increased its capacity to protect victims of trafficking over the last year by requiring the establishment of care centers throughout the country and granting new rights to trafficking victims. The act requires such centers to offer accommodation, health care, counseling, and rehabilitation services, as well as temporary basic material support for the care of child victims and reintegration of adult victims into their families. Still without such centers, the government partnered with NGO-run care centers to provide victims with assistance; of the seven victims NGOs provided services to during the reporting period, the CGPU referred four. In March 2011, the Department of Social Welfare trained 21 officials from each of four districts on trafficking definitions and basic victim identification. Medical services were provided to victims free of charge at government hospitals and clinics. In August 2010, the government opened a one-stop drop-in center in Maseru, for the protection of victims of gender-based violence, including specialized services for both male and female victims of trafficking; the centers’ staff are primarily privately funded, though include some government employees. Due to financial constraints, the center is unable to provide accommodation, life skills, and other services. No visitors to the center were identified as trafficking victims during the reporting period. In 2010, the government allocated $171,428 to the Department of Gender for administrative costs, outreach, and sensitization campaigns to combat gender-based violence, including trafficking in persons.

Law enforcement officers did not proactively identify victims among other vulnerable populations, such as women and children in prostitution. While the act requires police to begin investigation of trafficking cases within 24 hours and refer victims to a place of safety, the current lack of a victim referral system is a significant gap in Lesotho’s anti-trafficking efforts. The act protects victims from prosecution for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked, provides foreign victims with permanent residency as a legal alternative to their removal, and encourages victims to assist in the investigation of traffickers. It is unknown whether victims assisted in investigations or prosecutions during the year. There is no evidence that victims were prosecuted for acts committed as a result of being trafficked.


The Government of Lesotho continued strong efforts to prevent trafficking. The Multi-Sectoral Committee on Trafficking drafted the anti-trafficking act and a national plan of action; the committee has not, however, formally met since June 2010 and the plan has not been finalized. In June 2010, the government released a Rapid Assessment of Trafficking in Persons in Lesotho, the first formal assessment of trafficking in Lesotho, conducted by a consultant with support from UNDP, the Ministry of Home Affairs, and NGOs. Authorities also conducted several high-visibility information campaigns. In June 2010, the Ministry of Home Affairs sponsored a workshop to sensitize 70 parliamentarians on trafficking in persons. In December, the ministry issued a public service announcement warning people to be wary of offers of job and educational opportunities, recommending that such offers be verified with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In December, the ministry also screened a film on human trafficking at the main cinema in Maseru, reaching a total of 150 people. Three weekly radio programs focus on trafficking in persons; the head of the CGPU participates in these programs. The Ministry of Home Affairs, in partnership with the Government of South Africa, ran sensitization campaigns on gender-based violence, including a portion on trafficking in persons, which targeted border regions where trafficking is more prevalent. The government did not take action to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts.

Associated documents

  • Document ID 1004978 Related / Associated
  • Methodology associated with Trafficking in persons report 2011

    Trafficking in Persons Report 2011 (Periodical Report, English)