Population: 1.8 million (840,000 under 18)
Government Armed Forces: 2,000
Compulsary Recruitment Age: no conscription
Voluntary Recruitment Age: 18
Voting Age: 18
Optional Protocol: ratified 24 September 2003
Other Treaties: GC AP I, GC AP II, CRC, ILO 138, ILO 182, ACRWC, ICC

There were no reports of under-18s in the armed forces.


National recruitment legislation and practice

Under the Lesotho Defence Force Act of 1996, there was no conscription. The minimum age for voluntary recruitment into the armed forces was 18, and recruits could enlist between the ages of 18 and 24.1 In its declaration on ratifying the Optional Protocol Lesotho supported the "straight-18" position.2

It was unclear how the age of volunteers was determined, since birth registration remained low, particularly in rural areas.3


With an HIV prevalence rate of 23.2 per cent among people aged 15-49, Lesotho was the third hardest-hit country in the world. In 2006 a national policy on orphans and other children made vulnerable by HIV was approved.4 This policy complemented the Children's Protection and Welfare Bill, which consolidated and reformed legislation related to the protection and welfare of children.5 It was expected to be enacted in 2008.6

1 Initial report of Lesotho to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Doc. CRC/C/11/Add.20, 20 July 1998.

2 Declaration on accession to the Optional Protocol, www2.ohchr.org.

3 UNICEF, Information by Country, Lesotho.

4 UNAIDS, Lesotho Country Fact Sheet, 2006, www.unaids.org.

5 "Lesotho: New policy to help orphans and vulnerable children", IRIN, 3 January 2007.

6 Confidential source, Lesotho, October 2007.


This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.