In the past, many social welfare programs were organized on the local level or by missions. But the need for concerted action to alleviate hardships brought about by the severe droughts led to the creation in 1965 of a Social Welfare Department under the Ministry of Health (later the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare). Community development teams stimulate local initiative by conducting courses and forming voluntary community development committees. The Homemakers' Association, an organization long active in social welfare, has given family-management courses in remote areas under a grant from the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief (Oxfam).
The roles of women are limited by law and by tradition. Married women are considered legal minors under customary law. They are unable to sign any contract and have no legal standing in a court of law. Domestic violence is also a widespread problem although it is considered unacceptable behavior. The government has pledged to improve the rights of women.
Some human rights violations were reported, including excessive use of force by police, long pretrial delays, and poor prison conditions. Crime is a serious problem in Lesotho.