MASERU — Two women aged 23 and 25 years are in police custody for allegedly recruiting and trafficking young girls as sex workers.
Police spokesperson Masupha Masupha said the police had sought a court order to detain the women for longer than the prescribed 48 hours because investigations were still ongoing.
The women, one of whom is only known as Senate, were nabbed last Sunday after the girls that they were allegedly using as sex workers spilled the beans.
The girls had disappeared from their homes.
Three girls, who could not be named because they are minors, were allegedly recruited to become sex workers and were kept at a house in Ha-Tsolo, south of Maseru.
Some were kept in different safe houses around Maseru, police said.
The recruitment place was in Motimposo, about four kilometres north of Maseru city centre.
Once recruited the girls were allegedly used to provide sexual services to cross-border truck drivers, the police said.
They were also taken to a local hotel from where they were parcelled out to clients.
Their parents who spoke on Lesotho TV on Tuesday night alleged that two minibuses had already smuggled other girls to South Africa where it is suspected that they were to be used as sex slaves.
The two women’s dark secrets were uncovered after three girls were found after a search party which was conducted by the police with the help of their parents.
One of the parents who were interviewed by the national broadcaster said her daughter used to disappear from home for days.
“I had used all kinds of reprimands without success,” she said.
“I ended up just watching not knowing what to do about her.”
She said all along she was not aware that her daughter was a sex worker.
The distraught mother said on Christmas Eve her daughter requested to go to a church retreat at night but did not return home until December 27.
She came back with other girls whom she called her friends but the mother said she sensed that something was wrong.
In the morning she called her neighbour, Senate, to talk to her daughter about her bad behaviour.
She was unaware that Senate was the one allegedly recruiting girls into prostitution.
On that night her daughter disappeared again.
Another mother said her 17-year-old daughter had disappeared for three weeks but she was not worried because she thought she was at a friend’s place.
After three weeks passed without seeing her daughter she began to worry, she said.
She said when she got to her friend’s place she discovered that her daughter’s friend was missing from home as well.
That was when the search party began.
Their search led them to a backyard shack in Motimposo where they found the girls.
And to their surprise, they also discovered that the room had been rented by Senate.
In the dirty room they found used condoms, razor blades and substances they suspected were drugs.
The search also led them to Senate’s house in Ha-Tsolo.
Senate and her alleged accomplice were immediately arrested.
Masupha said the two women face charges of recruiting minors to have sex with adults and failing to report sex between minors and adults.
“It is a criminal offence for an adult not to report to the police when he or she knows that a minor is having sex with an adult,” Masupha told the Lesotho Times.
“Inviting or coaching minors to have sex is also a criminal offence according to the Sexual Offences Act,” Masupha said.
Assistant Home Affairs Minister, Lineo Molise-Mabusela, said during the television interview that the suspects faced serious charges under the Anti-Human Trafficking Act, which she said had been recently passed by parliament.
“If found guilty, a person trafficking in humans will be fined M2 million or 15 years in prison or both,” Molise-Mabusela said.
“If he or she was trafficking in children, he or she will be fined M2 million or imprisoned for life or both,” she said.
She also said people who contributed to the crime by providing the culprits with transport or passport officials who helped them cross the border by producing false documents would face similar punishment.