- Despite being a signatory to the United Nations Protocol against trafficking in persons, Lesotho is still seen as a fertile ground for human traffickers, migration bodies hold.
All the countries in the southern Africa region except Angola, Swaziland and Zimbabwe, had ratified the protocol. .
The southern African kingdom is described by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) as “the origin for trafficking in women and children, mainly to South Africa.”
The 20-km route from Maseru, Lesotho’s capital, to South Africa’s Ladybrand, “may constitute the world’s shortest international trafficking route.” Bridges of Maseru and Ficksburg are considered as the two most popular border crossing points for human traffickers.
Southern Africa region still remains a fertile ground for traffickers who take advantage of the vulnerabilities created by war, endemic poverty, minimal education, unemployment, HIV/AIDS and a general lack of opportunity of children and women. The much public awareness in the region does not seem to be averting the illegal trade of humans either.
With 29% of its population living with the scourge of the global pandemic, an estimated 100,000 children of Lesotho have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS. Without parents to take care of them, these children mostly found themselves on the streets where they become vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking. These children are easily attracted to earning a good living, which are mostly found in big cities and towns.
Grappling with survival in the face of food crisis, most young girls easily give themselves up as sex slaves without knowing.
Concerns over several cases of unreported and unnoticed trafficking of women and children in Lesotho have been raised by feminist’s organisations.
But in its June 2006 report on trafficking in persons, the United States department for human trafficking said it could not substantiate the menace in Lesotho.
Lesotho officials might be unaware of what constitutes trafficking in person, but they said the crime could likely be a problem in the country. Besides, trafficking in person has no place in the country’s traditional governing structure. Trafficking is not even recognised as a crime because there is no law to that effect.
Activists hold that migration can offer many enterprising opportunities, but getting the right information and ensuring safety is paramount. While migrants are advised to take caution, government and organisations have been tasked to raise awareness and enact laws to ensure that perpetrators of the heinous crime are brought to book.
IOM advised migrants to ensure that before leaving home their “job offer is genuine, obtain the correct working permit, sign a contract, have contacts for people/organisations that can provide assistance, and know your rights as an employee. Once you arrive at your destination you should not give your passport away to anyone, and contact your local embassy and inform them that you are in the country.”
An article published by Gender Link paints uncovered how young girls and women have been hoodwinked into what it calls Glamorous false job offers that lure girls and young women abroad.”
The article explained how Likeleli Maseko was promised the job of baby sitter/nanny abroad by a former teacher’s friend.
She became overenthusiastic and convinced to the extent that she discontinued her secondary school education, and told her parents that she was going to realise her dreams abroad.
Unfortunately, she found herself in Nigeria where she was forced into being a sex slave for three years. Maseko’s experience is among several unreported and undocumented stories emerging from Lesotho.
Gender Link writer, Teboho Senthebane holds that in the absence of “appropriate language skills, a supportive social network, money, or laws and customs that they understand, the trafficked persons feel isolated and disoriented.”
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