Last Updated: Monday, 19 February 2018, 14:34 GMT

2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Afghanistan

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Afghanistan, 19 June 2012, available at: [accessed 20 February 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

AFGHANISTAN (Tier 2 Watch List)

Afghanistan is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Trafficking within Afghanistan is more prevalent than transnational trafficking. The majority of victims are children, and during the year, IOM reported that younger boys and girls were increasingly subjected to forced labor in carpet-making factories and domestic servitude, and in commercial sexual exploitation, forced begging, and transnational drug smuggling within Afghanistan and in Pakistan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. Some families knowingly sell their children for forced prostitution, including for bacha baazi – where wealthy men use groups of young boys for social and sexual entertainment. Other families send their children with brokers for employment but the children end up in forced labor. Opium-farming families sell their children – especially girls – to settle debts with opium traffickers. According to the government and the UN, insurgent groups forcibly use children between 12 to 16 years old as suicide bombers. Some Afghan families, including children, are trapped in debt bondage in the brick-making industry in eastern Afghanistan. Some Afghan women and girls are subjected to forced prostitution and domestic servitude in Pakistan, Iran, and India. There were reports of women and girls from the Philippines, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Iran, Tajikistan, and China being forced into prostitution in Afghanistan. Under the pretense of high-paying employment opportunities, labor recruiting agencies lure foreign workers, including those from Sri Lanka, Nepal, India, Iran, Pakistan, and Tajikistan, to Afghanistan, and traffickers lure Afghan villagers to Afghan cities or to India or Pakistan, and then sometimes subject them to forced labor or forced prostitution after their arrival. Afghan men are subjected to forced labor and debt bondage in the agriculture and construction sectors in Iran, Pakistan, Greece, the Gulf states, and possibly southeast Asian countries. During 2011, one Azerbaijani victim was identified in Afghanistan and two Afghan victims were identified in Serbia.

The Government of Afghanistan does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in persons. The government has not shown evidence of increasing efforts to address human trafficking compared to the previous year; therefore, Afghanistan is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a third consecutive year. Afghanistan was granted a waiver from an otherwise required downgrade to Tier 3 because its government has a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, and would devote sufficient resources to implement that plan. The Afghan government did not prosecute or convict trafficking offenders under its 2008 law, and it reportedly punished trafficking victims for offenses they committed as a direct result of being trafficked. The level of understanding of human trafficking among Afghan government officials and the government's institutional capacity to combat human trafficking remained very low. Civil society groups reported, nonetheless, that the government showed evidence of increased political will in combating trafficking.

Recommendations for Afghanistan: Work toward eliminating police and court penalization of trafficking victims for offenses committed as a direct result of being trafficked, such as prostitution or adultery; increase use by law enforcement of the 2008 anti-trafficking law, including prosecuting suspected traffickers and convicting and imprisoning traffickers for acts of sex trafficking and forced labor; collaborate with NGOs to ensure that all children, including boys over the age of 11 victimized by sex and labor trafficking, receive protective services; continue regular meetings of the High Commission for Combating Crimes of Abduction and Human Trafficking/Smuggling and implement the terms of reference; educate government officials on the differences between the crimes of kidnapping, human trafficking, and human smuggling; strengthen the capacity of the interior ministry's anti-trafficking/smuggling unit, including by increasing the number of officials in the unit and differentiating between smuggling and trafficking; undertake initiatives to prevent trafficking, such as running a public awareness campaign to warn at-risk populations of the dangers of trafficking and directing mullahs to incorporate anti-trafficking messaging in religious teachings; and accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.


The Government of Afghanistan made no discernible anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts over the reporting period. Afghanistan's Law Countering Abduction and Human Trafficking/Smuggling (2008), along with Article 516 of the Penal Code, prescribes between eight and 15 years' imprisonment for labor trafficking. The law also prescribes penalties of life imprisonment for sex trafficking. This life sentence, however, is superseded by the Elimination of Violence Against Women law (2009) which decreased maximum sentences for forced prostitution of females to 15 years' imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate to those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Local NGOs continued to report that Afghan government personnel persisted in confusing trafficking with smuggling, abductions, abuse, and other crimes, and the government did not take steps to curb this conflation. In Dari – the most widely spoken language in Afghanistan – the same word denotes both human trafficking and human smuggling, compounding the confusion. A government official reported some investigations of human trafficking offenses, but the case lacked details of human trafficking, thereby calling into question whether these investigations were for trafficking or for smuggling. The government did not report any prosecutions, or convictions for human trafficking offenses or offenders in the reporting period.

Government employees' complicity in human trafficking remained a problem. One government official noted that traffickers bribe Afghan officials to ensure their release from prison. Both the UN and local NGOs have cited isolated reports of the sexual abuse of boys – including bacha baazi – by members of the Afghan National Security Forces. Living conditions in government-run orphanages are extremely poor and some corrupt officials may have sexually abused children and forced them into prostitution. There were reports that national and border police facilitated trafficking and raped sex trafficking victims. The government did not investigate, arrest, or prosecute government officials facilitating trafficking offenses. International organizations and NGOs provided training to police, prosecutors, and other government officials on identifying and investigating trafficking cases. Training noted in the 2011 and 2010 TIP Reports did not appear to increase or improve law enforcement efforts.


The Government of Afghanistan did not make discernible progress in protecting victims of trafficking. Afghanistan did not develop or employ systematic procedures to identify victims of trafficking or refer them to protective services. The government refers some women victimized by violence – including trafficking victims – to care facilities. The government reported that in 2011 it identified eight Pakistani victims of trafficking. Four of the victims, who were women, were referred to a shelter, but the other victims, who were men, were arrested and imprisoned. The government lacked resources to provide victims with protective services directly or fund the provision of services by others; IOM and partner NGOs operated the country's three short-term trafficking shelters and provided the vast majority of victim assistance, but funding gaps impeded more effective protection efforts. Some victims faced hardships due to threats from the local community. IOM reported that it assisted 199 victims during 2011, the majority of whom were boys. Although there were specific protective services in Afghanistan for male trafficking victims ages 11 and under, no such services are available for boys above the age of 11. There is no evidence that the government encouraged victims to assist in investigations of their traffickers during the reporting period.

Government officials have punished victims of trafficking for acts they may have committed as a direct result of being trafficked. In some cases, trafficking victims were jailed pending resolution of their legal cases, despite their recognized victim status. Female trafficking victims continued to be arrested and imprisoned or otherwise punished for prostitution or adultery, for escaping from their husbands who forced them into prostitution, or for being unchaperoned as they fled abuse in their homes, even if the destination was a shelter. Victimized women who could not find place in a shelter often ended up in prison. Authorities arrested several would-be child suicide attackers after they were reportedly psychologically coerced, trained, and equipped in Pakistan by armed opposition groups. There were reports of police raping female trafficking victims and would-be child suicide attackers prior to incarceration. Some trafficked boys were placed in government-run orphanages or a facility for juvenile criminals while their cases were being investigated, and trafficked adult men were arrested and incarcerated.


During the reporting period, the Government of Afghanistan made no discernible progress in preventing human trafficking, but did launch an anti-trafficking structure. In January 2012, the High Commission for Combating Crimes of Abduction and Human Trafficking/Smuggling envisioned under the 2008 law was finally inaugurated by the Minister of Justice, and it subsequently met several times, and approved Terms of Reference for its operations. The Ministry of Interior's anti-trafficking/smuggling unit continued to be understaffed. Coordination among government ministries on trafficking issues improved during the reporting period. The quasi-governmental Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission issued a report in July 2011 about the causes and modalities of the trafficking of women and children that included recommendations for addressing them. The government did not undertake initiatives to prevent trafficking, such as public awareness campaigns to warn at-risk populations of the danger of trafficking. There was no progress reported toward fulfilling the goals of the action plan signed in January 2011 to combat the usage of bacha baazi by Afghan National Security Forces. Less than 10 percent of the population have birth certificates, and the government did not undertake any campaigns to document unregistered populations. The government did not take steps to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. Afghanistan is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

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