2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Benin
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||27 June 2011|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Benin, 27 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e12ee9368.html [accessed 24 November 2014]|
Benin (Tier 2)
Benin is a country of origin and transit for children, and possibly men and women, subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. The majority of victims are girls subjected to forced domestic service or sex trafficking in Cotonou, the administrative capital. Children are also forced to labor on farms or construction sites, to produce handicrafts, or hawk items on the street. The majority of child trafficking victims are from the northern regions of Benin. Reports indicate that children may be exploited in the sex trade near Pendjari National Park in northwest Benin to meet the demand of foreign tourists. Children are recruited and transported to Nigeria and Gabon, and to a lesser extent Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Togo, Cameroon, and Niger, where they are forced to labor in mines, quarries, restaurants, street vending, and on cocoa farms.
The Government of Benin does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government acknowledges that child trafficking is a problem in Benin, and during the year authorities continued to proactively identify child victims and coordinate efforts to provide for their short and long-term protection. The government identified 241 victims during the year and prosecuted an unknown number of trafficking offenders. However, the government does not recognize the trafficking of adults, and despite reports of children held in commercial sexual exploitation, it neither investigated nor apprehended any suspected sex traffickers during the year.
Recommendations for Benin: Increase efforts to convict and punish trafficking offenders, including using existing statutes to successfully prosecute trafficking crimes committed against adults; develop and enact legislation to criminalize all forms of trafficking of adults; improve efforts to collect law enforcement data on trafficking offenses, including cases involving the trafficking of adults, prosecuted under separate statues in the penal code or legal code, and make this data available to the public; train law enforcement officials to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as women in prostitution and children laboring in the informal sector, and refer them to protective services; and employ active measures to monitor and raid brothels to remove children from the sex trade and bring their traffickers to justice.
The government continued its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the last year. Benin does not prohibit all forms of trafficking. The 2006 Act Relating to the Transportation of Minors and the Suppression of Child Trafficking criminalizes all forms of child trafficking and prescribes penalties of 10 to 20 years' imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and exceed those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The trafficking of adults for forced labor and forced prostitution is not adequately prohibited by Beninese law. Some cases of trafficking of adults could be prosecuted under other criminal statutes, but these articles were not used to prosecute trafficking cases. The country's penal code outlaws pimping and the facilitation of prostitution, and prescribes a sentence of six months' to two years' imprisonment, while the labor code prohibits forced labor and prescribes a penalty of two months' to one year imprisonment or a fine. These punishments are neither sufficiently stringent nor commensurate with those prescribed for rape. The government provided data on its law enforcement efforts from six of its nine courts related to a variety of crimes against children, including child trafficking; it reported prosecuting 93 such cases and obtaining 84 convictions. It is unknown how many of these cases constituted trafficking offenses. During the year, the Minors' Protection Brigade (BPM) arrested and referred 14 individuals for trafficking and related offenses, including the illegal movement of children and child labor, to the court of Cotonou; an additional 35 identified cases did not result in any arrests. The government neither specified which of these cases involved child trafficking nor provided information on the outcome of these prosecutions. Gendarmes arrested an unreported number of individuals in Prekete for attempting to transport 16 children to Cotonou for domestic servitude; the suspected traffickers were prosecuted in Natitingou, but the outcome of this case is unknown.
The government did not report efforts to investigate, prosecute, convict, or sentence government employees complicit in human trafficking, and there were no reports that such complicity occurred. Some government officials may be tolerant of trafficking, but observers report this tolerance is decreasing. The government did not provide specialized training to law enforcement officials to identify, investigate, or prosecute trafficking offenses.
The Government of Benin sustained its modest efforts to protect child victims during the year, but did not protect any adult victims of trafficking. Four government ministries collaborated to provide services to victims and refer them to NGOs to receive additional care. The BPM took proactive measures to identify child trafficking victims by interviewing the children it took into custody. During the year, the BPM identified 241 child victims and provided them with temporary shelter, as well as legal, medical, and psychological services in a transit center staffed by NGO personnel – located on police premises in Cotonou – before referring them to long-term NGO shelters. In December 2010, the Ministry of Family and the BPM repatriated 19 Beninese child victims from Nigeria, and referred them to NGO shelters for care; an additional 40 children were repatriated from Gabon and other countries in the region during the year. The Ministry of Family and National Solidarity reunited 193 victims with their families, but only after determining the child's reintegration prospects were good, based on prospective services such as education or vocational training. In 2010, the Ministry of Family and Children built seven new Social Promotion Centers and restored eight of its 77 existing centers which provide social services at the community level. An unknown number of trafficking victims may have received services from these centers. The BPM did not encourage child victims to take part in an investigation or trial unless a judge required it, preferring not to expose them to the potential for additional trauma. Parents were reluctant to bring charges against traffickers, though the government prosecuted some cases without relying on the support of the victims or their parents. There were no reports that victims were detained, fined, or jailed for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked; however, the government did not make adequate efforts to identify trafficking victims, which may have led to some victims being treated as law violators.
The government took some steps to prevent trafficking in persons during the year. In April and May 2010, the Ministry of Justice conducted trainings in three cities in northern Benin for 120 government officials and civil society members on the legal protections available for children. The ministry distributed 6,000 brochures detailing the country's child trafficking laws, printed with the assistance of international organization partners, to law enforcement agents in four cities. The National Child Protection Coordination and Monitoring Working Group, which includes a committee on trafficking and exploitation, continued to meet quarterly and issue a newsletter. The Beninese government hosted several anti-trafficking meetings with other governments and multilateral institutions during the year, though it did not report taking any additional actions as a result of this engagement. Both the BPM and the Family and Child Monitoring Office at the Ministry of Family and National Solidarity maintained databases on child trafficking; in September 2010, the ministry used the data to create a Social Scoreboard to make child protection data available to the public. The government took no steps to reduce the demand for commercial sex or forced labor during the reporting period, and no arrests were made for the sex trafficking of children. The government did not provide Beninese troops with anti-trafficking training prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions, though such training was provided by a foreign donor.