The Government of Lesotho does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore Lesotho remained on Tier 2. The government demonstrated increasing efforts by identifying and referring significantly more potential trafficking victims to care, initiating an increased number of prosecutions, providing in-kind and financial resources for an NGO partner, and conducting public awareness activities. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. For the second consecutive year, the government did not convict any traffickers or make efforts to address the severe backlog of trafficking cases spanning over five years. Despite ongoing concerns of official complicity in trafficking crimes, the government did not investigate such allegations. The government did not address issues in its legal framework for human trafficking, which did not criminalize all forms of forced labor and sex trafficking and included penalties that were not sufficiently stringent to deter the crime.


Increase efforts to secure convictions for perpetrators of trafficking crimes; increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking crimes, including those involving complicit officials; allocate funds for the Victims of Trafficking Trust Fund and implement procedures for administering the funds; finalize and implement guidelines for proactive victim identification and standard operating procedures (SOPs) for referring identified victims to care, in line with the anti-trafficking act regulations; allocate funding to support operation of the multi-agency anti-trafficking task force; expand efforts to provide trafficking-specific training to police investigators, prosecutors, judges, and social service personnel; amend the anti-trafficking and child welfare laws so that force, fraud, or coercion are not required for cases involving children younger than age 18 to be considered trafficking crimes; fix jurisdictional issues that prevent magistrate courts from issuing the maximum penalty for trafficking crimes; amend the anti-trafficking law to remove sentencing provisions that allow fines in lieu of imprisonment; provide anti-trafficking training to diplomatic personnel; increase efforts to systematically collect and analyze anti-trafficking law enforcement and victim protection data; and increase oversight of labor recruitment agencies licensed in Lesotho.


The government made uneven anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts and the human trafficking law remained inconsistent with the international definition. The 2011 Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act criminalized all forms of labor trafficking and some forms of sex trafficking. Inconsistent with international law, the law required a demonstration of force, fraud, or coercion to constitute a child sex trafficking offense, and therefore did not criminalize all forms of child sex trafficking. The law prescribed penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment or a fine of 1 million maloti ($81,200) under section 5(1) for the trafficking of adults and up to life imprisonment or a fine of 2 million maloti ($162,390) under section 5(2) for the trafficking of children. These penalties were sufficiently stringent. However, with respect to sex trafficking, by allowing for a fine in lieu of imprisonment, these penalties were not commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Section 77 of the Children's Protection and Welfare Act criminalized child sex trafficking offenses without requiring the use of force, fraud, or coercion, but prescribed penalties of a fine not to exceed 30,000 maloti ($2,440) or 30 months imprisonment, or both; these penalties were not sufficiently stringent nor, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with other grave crimes, such as rape.

During the reporting period, the government investigated one case of sex and labor trafficking involving 10 victims and initiated 10 prosecutions, which included four sex trafficking cases, two of which were tried under the anti-trafficking act, and six labor trafficking cases, which were all tried under the anti-trafficking act. This was compared with five investigations and six prosecutions (two sex trafficking and four labor trafficking) during the previous reporting period. For the second consecutive year, the government did not convict any traffickers or address the significant backlog of cases, some of which have been pending for more than five years. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials for complicity in human trafficking offenses; however, official complicity in trafficking crimes remained a significant concern, inhibiting law enforcement action during the year. Many law enforcement officials reportedly had limited understanding of trafficking and how to protect victims from potential intimidation. For the third consecutive year, the government did not address a jurisdictional issue impeding efforts to hold traffickers accountable: The magistrate courts, which are the court of first instance for trafficking cases, lacked authority to impose the maximum penalties allowed in trafficking crimes. The government appointed a new magistrate responsible for hearing trafficking cases at the high court as the previous magistrate was moved to another district; however, it did not provide adequate training to magistrates on the anti-trafficking law.


The government increased efforts to protect victims. The government identified and referred a greater number of potential trafficking victims to care, coordinated with a foreign government to repatriate victims exploited abroad, and referred all potential victims to care. The Child and Gender Protection Unit (CGPU) within the Lesotho Mounted Police Service identified 12 trafficking victims, compared with nine the previous reporting period; the CGPU referred all 12 victims to an NGO that provided counseling and assistance. These efforts represent an increase compared with one referral during the previous period. In a change from previous years, the government provided in-kind and financial support for utilities at an NGO-run shelter throughout the reporting period. However, it did not allocate funding for the Victims of Trafficking Trust Fund for the seventh consecutive year, which was established to ensure consistent provision of protective services and to provide restitution for victims. After a two-year drafting period, the Multi-Sectoral Committee on Combating Trafficking in Persons (MSC) consolidated recommendations and amendments by various directorates for approval by the national referral mechanism and SOPs in spring 2017; however, they were not finalized during the reporting period. According to the chair of the MSC, a draft is with the principal secretary of home affairs for concurrence before going to print. The anti-trafficking act and its implementing regulations prohibited the prosecution of victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking, afforded foreign victims permanent residency as a legal alternative to their removal, and encouraged victims to assist in the investigation of traffickers; however, it was unclear whether the government implemented these provisions. Courts allowed testimony via video conferences and one trafficking victim testified in a trial during the reporting period.


The government maintained its efforts to prevent trafficking through public awareness activities and measures to protect Basotho workers in South Africa. The multi-sectoral committee met two times, and its member ministries conducted public awareness activities, including two radio spots, one television spot, 12 community outreach events, and posting and distribution of printed material in public areas. During the reporting period, the Ministry of Labor and Employment conducted approximately 1,060 inspections of formal sector work sites; however, it did not inspect informal work settings, where forced labor was more prevalent. The number of labor inspectors increased by two over the previous reporting period, from 32 to 34; labor inspectors did not identify any child labor violations in 2017. The government continued to participate in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional data collection tool by uploading trafficking cases, victim and trafficker profiles, and sharing information with countries in the region. Through its participation in the data tool, UNODC and SADC launched the first annual draft analysis report for the region. In 2016, the government implemented an agreement signed during the previous reporting period with the Government of South Africa that increased protections for Basotho workers, including domestic workers, employed in South Africa, by authorizing the issuance of long-term work permits, requiring signed employment contracts, and allowing Basotho to register for unemployment insurance in South Africa. The government made no efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex or forced labor. The regulations for the anti-trafficking act directed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to provide anti-trafficking training to diplomatic personnel, but it did not conduct such training during the reporting period.


As reported over the past five years, Lesotho is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking, and for men subjected to forced labor. In Lesotho, Basotho children are subjected to domestic servitude and forced labor in animal herding; children, especially orphans who migrate to urban areas, increasingly are subjected to sex trafficking. Basotho women and girls seeking work in domestic service voluntarily migrate to South Africa, where some are detained in prison-like conditions or exploited in sex trafficking. Some Basotho men who migrate voluntarily, although illegally and often without identity documents, to South Africa for work in agriculture and mining become victims of forced labor; many work for weeks or months before their employers turn them over to South African authorities for deportation on immigration violations to avoid paying them. Basotho are also coerced into committing crimes in South Africa, including theft, drug trafficking, and smuggling under threat of violence or through forced drug use. Foreign nationals, including Chinese, subject their compatriots to sex trafficking in Lesotho.


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