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Human Trafficking in Lesotho

Basotho at risk of being trafficked for sexual exploitation and forced labour

A Rapid Assessment of Trafficking in Persons in Lesotho, supported by UNDP and the Ministry of Home Affairs, Public Safety & Parliamentary Affairs has revealed that people from Lesotho are at a high risk of being trafficked to both the neighbouring Southern African countries and internationally.

The trafficking of persons, which is often referred to as modern day slavery, has been described as one of the world’s most reprehensible crimes and was defined in 2000 by the UN Palermo protocol as “the recruitment, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion”.

In July 2009 the Ministry of Home Affairs, as a result of anecdotal evidence and limited quantitative data, identified the trafficking of persons as a threat to the people of Lesotho. The Ministry subsequently formed a multi-sectoral Task Team to collaborate with other partners to design and implement strategies to curb this crime. Due to the hidden nature of the crime and lack of official systems for recording, the scale of the problem was very unclear. As a result of this inadequate evidence a joint initiative was undertaken between the Ministry of Home Affairs, Public Safety & Parliamentary Affairs and the UNDP who jointly engaged Health and Development Africa and local consultants from Women in Law in Southern Africa (WLSA) to carry out a rapid research to understand and be able to respond to the magnitude of trafficking in persons in Lesotho.

The report, finalised in June, exposes that the trafficking of persons is a real threat to Lesotho and reveals a number of specific cases of the crime, amongst which  most cases of trafficking are related to sexual exploitation.  However it further revealed that, contrary to other African countries where women are the most vulnerable, Lesotho men are at a higher  risk, and have been trafficked for forced labour in the mines.

Having established the existence of trafficking, the report identifies a number of areas that make Lesotho a target for this type of crime, which include; Socio-economic factors including its relative position in Southern Africa and the country’s porous borders. In particular the report highlights Lesotho’s history of migration arguing that due to high unemployment rates and poverty, people are easily lured to move / migrate that they do not question a false offer of transportation or employment in another community or country.

An example of the porous borders which exist between Lesotho and South Africa

Following the report’s validation by national stakeholders, the Ministry of Home Affairs with other development partners facilitated the development of Lesotho’s first ever legislation on Trafficking in Persons, which has been reviewed by stakeholders and awaiting Parliamentary approval. This is a great milestone for the country and from UNDP for having been able to support efforts to overcome the lack of concrete data on the trafficking of persons in Lesotho in order for evidence-informed policy-making and programming.

Fiona Coyle, HIV & AIDS Officer, UNDP Lesotho

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