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 subjected to 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 may subsequently encounter situations of domestic servitude or forced prostitution. 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. Evidence exists that Basotho residents in South Africa returned to Lesotho as labor recruiters for farms in South Africa. Basotho nationals 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. Chinese and Nigerian organized crime rings reportedly acquire some Basotho victims while transporting foreign victims through Lesotho to Johannesburg. During the reporting period, new trafficking trends emerged, including the forced prostitution of Chinese women in Lesotho by Chinese men, as well as the trafficking of Ethiopian nationals by Ethiopian traffickers for domestic servitude in Lesotho.
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 convicted its first trafficking offender under its 2011 anti-trafficking act, although this conviction was reversed on appeal. It also began an additional five trafficking prosecutions. Although the government made efforts to prosecute offenders and protect victims, systematic weaknesses remain, as it has not begun drafting implementing regulations for the 2011 anti-trafficking act or developing formal identification and referral procedures. The greatest weakness in the government's efforts remains the provision of protective services, as it relies on NGOs without providing support via funding or in-kind assistance.
Recommendations for Lesotho: Complete implementing regulations for the 2011 anti-trafficking act; finalize and implement the national anti-trafficking action plan; continue to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses under the 2011 act, including both internal and transnational cases; provide care to victims of trafficking via government centers or in partnership 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; forge a partnership with South African police to investigate reports of Basotho citizens 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 made progress in its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the year. The Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, which came into effect in January 2011, prohibits and punishes all forms of trafficking in persons. It prescribes penalties of 25 years' imprisonment or a fine the equivalent of $125,000 under Section 5(1) for the trafficking of adults and life imprisonment or a fine the equivalent of $250,000 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 those who hold them in servitude. The government has yet to begin drafting implementing regulations necessary to enforce the legislation in full. The Child Protection and Welfare Act, enacted in March 2011, provides penalties of life imprisonment or a fine the equivalent of $125,000 for child trafficking. In October 2011, the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) created an anti-trafficking unit within its Child and Gender Protection Unit (CGPU). In January 2012, the magistrate court convicted and sentenced a Chinese national to 15 years' imprisonment under the 2011 anti-trafficking act for the sex and labor trafficking of a Chinese woman in Lesotho. In May 2012, following the Chinese offender's successful appeal of his conviction, authorities released him from jail; the director of public prosecutions is currently appealing that decision. Two additional suspects in this case, whom authorities believe to have been the principal orchestrators of the crime, have fled the country. An additional five cases remained pending prosecution, including a domestic servitude case involving two Ethiopians charged with the labor trafficking of one Ethiopian national. The government increased regional cooperative efforts through the drafting of a memorandum of understanding with Mozambique to jointly investigate transnational crimes and share best practices. The LMPS initiated joint investigations with the South African Police Service (SAPS) into 21 potential trafficking cases, an increase over seven joint investigations in 2010; the LMPS and SAPS continued their periodic meetings to discuss cross-border crimes, which started in the previous reporting period. 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 2011, the LMPS began inclusion of a trafficking-specific module in its basic training courses for new recruits, with 210 recruits trained during the year.
The government made modest efforts to protect victims during the reporting period. The CGPU identified 24 trafficking victims in 2011, but was unable to provide details on all of these cases, which included 15 Basotho nationals between the ages of 16 and 27 brought into South Africa for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labor. However, the government has not yet established care centers for trafficking victims, as set forth in the 2011 act. The government referred all identified victims to NGO-run care centers for assistance, but it did not provide funding or in-kind support to these centers. Although the government has not yet developed a formal process to refer victims to care, NGOs involved in the current ad hoc referral process indicated that it works well in practice. Medical services were provided to victims free of charge at government hospitals and clinics and the CGPU provided limited counseling to victims before referring them to NGOs for more comprehensive care. The Department of Health and Social Welfare entered into an agreement with a trafficking-specific victim shelter in November 2011, allowing for official referral of victims to the shelter; however, the government did not provide financial or in-kind support to the shelter for the services it provided to victims during the year. The government continued its operation of a one-stop drop-in center in Maseru for the protection of victims of gender-based violence that includes specialized – though limited – services for both male and female victims of trafficking; the center's staff are primarily funded by private sector entities, but include some government social workers.
The 2011 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. The CGPU provided security for two victims who assisted in the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers during the year. There is no evidence that victims were penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked.
The Government of Lesotho maintained its efforts to prevent trafficking. Its multi-sectoral committee on trafficking met monthly during the year. In 2011, the committee hired a consultant to assist in the drafting of a national plan of action; however, due to an apparent conflict with the consultant, the government has yet to receive a copy of the finalized plan. Although the government did not budget funding specifically for anti-trafficking efforts, it dedicated the equivalent of approximately $125,000 to anti-trafficking trainings, sensitization efforts, and the printing of awareness materials. The government sponsored a number of anti-trafficking awareness campaigns during the reporting period. The Ministry of Home Affairs held public awareness campaigns that targeted women's groups, principal and ward chiefs, 720 herd boys nationwide, and 36 trainers; for example, the Thaba Tseka campus of the Lesotho College of Education trained 54 teachers on how to recognize and prevent trafficking among their students and within their communities. The LMPS, SAPS, and NGOs partnered to raise awareness through three campaigns along the Lesotho-South Africa border, involving radio broadcasts and community events during the reporting period. The Ministry of Labor and Employment conducted 1,000 labor inspections during the year, but did not report the identification of any child labor violations. The government did not take action to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts.