2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Gabon

Selected Statistics and Indicators on Child Labor
Population, children, 5-14 years:
Working children, 5-14 years (%):
Working boys, 5-14 years (%):
Working girls, 5-14 years (%):
Working children by sector, 5-14 years (%):
     – Agriculture
     – Manufacturing
     – Services
     – Other
Minimum age for work:16
Compulsory education age:16
Free public education:Yes
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2004:152.2
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2001:88.0
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%):
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2002:69.3
ILO Convention 138:No
ILO Convention 182:3/28/2001
ILO-IPEC participating country:Yes

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

Children work in agriculture, farming cassava, taro, yams, and, to a lesser extent, coffee and cocoa. Some evidence suggests that these children harvest crops, apply chemicals without protective gear, and clear fields, including through the use of machetes. Children also work in animal husbandry, fishing, and mining.

Gabon is primarily a destination country for children trafficked for forced labor from other African countries. Children are trafficked into the country from Benin, Nigeria, Togo, and Guinea and, to a lesser extent, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, and Cameroon. Past reports indicate that the majority of children working in Gabon are trafficking victims; nearly all trafficked children are employed in the informal sector, with the majority engaging in domestic work.

Girls, including trafficking victims from Togo, Benin, and Nigeria, work in domestic service, sometimes under forced labor conditions. Cases have been reported of girls in domestic service being forced to work for long hours with little food and being subjected to physical abuse. Girls, including trafficking victims from Togo and Nigeria, also engage in market vending and selling goods, sometimes under forced conditions. Girls are also trafficked to Gabon for forced labor in restaurants and commercial sexual exploitation. Boys, including child trafficking victims, are forced to work in small workshops and as street vendors. Children trafficked from Nigeria are found working as mechanics. Gabonese children are trafficked to Equatorial Guinea.

Children trafficked to Gabon from other West African countries are typically from poor families, who believe their children will receive an education, opportunities, and wages for their work.

While some children receive such benefits, many receive only rudimentary room and board, and wages are seldom paid either to them or their families.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The law sets the minimum age for employment at 16 years; however, younger children may be permitted to work with joint consent from the Ministries of Labor, Education, and Public Health. In addition, children between 14 and 16 years may work as apprentices with permission from the Ministry of National Education. The employment of children in jobs that are unsuitable for them because of their age, state, or condition, or that interfere with their education is also prohibited. A labor inspector can require a medical exam for children up to 18 years to confirm that the work does not exceed their capacity. Children under 16 years who have been removed from exploitive labor must be placed in appropriate reception or transit centers. If they are of foreign nationality, the children must be repatriated to their country of origin at the expense of their guardian or employer. Children under 18 years are prohibited from working at night in industrial establishments, unless the establishment is exclusively run by family members. However, children over 16 years are permitted to work in certain industries that, by their nature, must be continued at night, such as sugar refineries and metalworks. The law imposes a fine for violations of minimum age laws and a larger fine, along with a prison term of 2 to 6 months for repeat violators.

Gabonese law prohibits trafficking children for labor, forced labor, procuring a minor for prostitution, and forced prostitution. Gabon's trafficking law outlines measures to protect children under 18 years from trafficking for labor and stipulates 5 to 15 years of imprisonment and a fine for perpetrators. The penalty for imposing forced labor is imprisonment for 1 to 6 months and a fine, and recurring violations are punishable with imprisonment for 2 to 12 months and a heavier fine. Procurement of a minor under 18 years for the purpose of prostitution and forcing someone to engage in prostitution are both punishable by imprisonment for 2 to 5 years and a fine. Rape is punishable by 2 to 10 years of imprisonment and a fine. The minimum age for voluntary recruitment into the military is 20 years, and there is no conscription.

The Ministry of Justice is responsible for the enforcement of child labor laws, while the Ministry of Labor is charged with receiving, investigating, and addressing child labor complaints. Minimum age laws are strictly enforced for the protection of Gabonese children in urban areas, but rarely in rural areas. Gabonese child labor laws also apply to foreign children residing in Gabon, but abuses are rarely reported. According to USDOS, the number of labor inspectors was inadequate, and child labor complaints were not routinely investigated.

According to USDOS, the Government of Gabon's efforts to patrol its coastline and borders to prevent trafficking, investigate and prosecute trafficking cases, and assist trafficking victims were weak and hindered by a lack of resources. While the Government did make some trafficking-related arrests during the reporting period, prosecutions were rare, and no convictions were reported during 2008. According the Ministry of Justice, some trafficking cases have languished because victims were repatriated before the traffickers were brought to trial. The Ministry of Justice continues to coordinate with other Government agencies to ensure that victims can stay in Gabon and receive proper care until cases can be prosecuted.

Gabon was 1 of 24 countries to adopt the Multilateral Cooperation Agreement to Combat Trafficking in Persons and the Joint Plan of Action against Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children in West and Central African Regions. As part of the regional Multilateral Cooperation Agreement to Combat Trafficking in Persons, the Government of Gabon agreed to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenders; to rehabilitate and reintegrate trafficking victims; and to assist fellow signatory countries to implement these measures under the Agreement.

Current Government Efforts to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor

Gabon's UN Development Assistance Framework 2007-2011 includes the goal of bringing national legislation into alignment with the country's bilateral and regional agreements to combat child trafficking, as well as ILO Convention 182 and other international conventions that it has ratified.

The Government's Inter-Ministerial Committee to Combat Trafficking, chaired by the Ministry of Labor, created a set of guidelines to standardize the Government's process for identifying trafficking victims, removing them from exploitive situations, providing them with temporary care, and repatriating them to their home countries. As of early 2009, the Committee was disseminating these guidelines to all relevant Government ministries and agencies throughout the country.

The Government and UNICEF worked closely to increase collaboration between Gabon and several African countries known to be countries of origin for trafficking to Gabon to develop standard procedures for removing foreign trafficking victims. As a result, Gabon and Benin recently finalized a bilateral agreement to repatriate trafficking victims and protect them from being re-trafficked. The Government of Gabon hosted a workshop in October 2008 to develop a strategy for implementing a UNICEF-supported ECOWAS/ECCAS joint action plan to combat child trafficking. The U.S. Government provided assistance to Gabon to increase country capacity to guard its coasts.

The Government continued to operate three reception centers for children, including child trafficking victims; the Government fully funds one center and co-funds the other two. These centers, located in the capital of Libreville and Port Gentil, offer shelter, medical care, repatriation, rehabilitation, and reintegration services to children. The Government conducted campaigns in towns and cities outside Libreville to raise awareness of trafficking. In collaboration with UNICEF, the Government continues to fund and operate a toll-free hotline to assist child trafficking victims.


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