Trafficking in Persons Report 2008 - Special Cases - Lesotho

Limited available data suggests the existence of a significant trafficking in persons problem in Lesotho, although this remains unsubstantiated. Lesotho remains a special case for a third consecutive year, due to the lack of reliable statistical information – from either the government or international organizations – regarding trafficking incidents to date. To combat trafficking, the government should consider drafting and enacting laws to prohibit all forms of human trafficking, as well as launching a public awareness campaign to educate all Basotho, but particularly women, children, and traditional leaders, on the nature and dangers of irregular migration and trafficking in persons.

Scope and Magnitude. Anecdotal but uncorroborated reports indicate that Lesotho may be a source and transit country for small numbers of women and children trafficked for forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation. Trafficking within Lesotho does not appear to be organized by rings or criminal syndicates, and some anecdotal information suggests trafficking may be practiced with the sanction of a victim's family, especially in the case of children. Basotho boys may be internally trafficked for use in cattle herding and street vending, while girls may be trafficked for cattle herding, domestic servitude, or commercial sexual exploitation. There are unconfirmed reports that young men or groups of women in some towns operate as pimps, exploiting underage girls in return for food and other basic needs. After migrating to neighboring South Africa in search of work, some vulnerable Basotho women and girls may become victims of trafficking for domestic labor or commercial sexual exploitation. There is also anecdotal evidence to suggest that, to avoid South African immigration controls, Lesotho is a transit point for the smuggling of South and East Asians into South Africa; some of these individuals may be victims of human trafficking. During the reporting period, an Ethiopian domestic claiming abuse by her Ethiopian employer was discovered in Maseru; it is likely that this woman is a victim of human trafficking.

Government Efforts. The absence of a law criminalizing trafficking hinders the government's ability to address the problem. The government has not yet passed or enacted the Child Protection and Welfare Bill drafted in 2005, which includes a provision prohibiting trafficking of children under the age of 18. Existing statutes prohibiting abduction, kidnapping, and the procurement of women and girls for prostitution could be used to prosecute trafficking, but do not sufficiently address all forms of trafficking and were not used during the reporting period. After receiving a report of a potential Ethiopian trafficking victim in Maseru, the Lesotho Mounted Police Service opened an investigation into the case in January 2008. In the absence of a specific law defining trafficking as a criminal offense, the police charged the employers as well as the potential victim with violation of the Aliens Control Act and the Labor Law; the facts of the case are still being established in Lesotho's courts. Police and immigration authorities screen foreign migrants for indications of potential smuggling, kidnapping, and fraudulent documentation, but have received no training that would allow for the accurate identification of trafficking victims. Monitoring of Lesotho's borders is inadequate; criminal elements often take advantage of the porous borders to carry out illegal activities.

Government officials have a limited understanding of human trafficking and are generally unaware of how to recognize victims; as such, they do not provide specific assistance to them. The Ministry of Home Affairs and the police's Child and Gender Protection Unit cooperate with the local UNICEF and UNESCO offices to address reports of children in prostitution. UNESCO and representatives of several government ministries and local NGOs established an inter-ministerial human trafficking committee in 2006 to conduct research into and create awareness of human trafficking in the country; this committee does not include all relevant stakeholders and has proven ineffective to date. The government's ongoing incremental implementation of tuition-free primary level education is expanding school enrollment and attendance, which reduces the opportunities for child trafficking. The government did not, however, take efforts to address demand for commercial sex acts during the year.


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