BENIN (Tier 2)

Benin is a country of origin, transit, and destination for women and children, and possibly men, subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. The majority of identified victims are girls subjected to domestic servitude or sex trafficking in Cotonou, the administrative capital. Children are forced to labor on farms, in commercial agriculture – particularly in the cotton sector – in artisanal mines, at construction sites, or as street vendors to produce or hawk items. The majority of child trafficking victims are from the northern regions of Benin, and many are recruited and transported to Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, and Gabon, and to a lesser extent Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, and Guinea-Bissau, where they are forced to labor in mines, quarries, restaurants, street vending, and on cocoa farms. Guinean and Nigerian women are trafficked into domestic servitude and forced prostitution in Benin. Beninese adult and child trafficking victims have been identified in neighboring West African countries, as well as in the United Kingdom.

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 labor trafficking is a problem in Benin; however its efforts to address the trafficking of adults remained weak and, despite reports of children held in commercial sexual exploitation, it neither investigated nor prosecuted any suspected sex traffickers during the year. In 2011, the government identified 249 child labor trafficking victims and convicted 25 trafficking offenders for child labor trafficking offenses.

Recommendations for Benin: Finalize and enact draft legislation to criminalize all forms of adult trafficking; increase efforts to convict and punish trafficking offenders, including using existing statutes to successfully prosecute trafficking crimes committed against adults and sex trafficking of children; train law enforcement officials to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as women and children in prostitution and children in the informal labor sector, and refer them to protective services; and improve efforts to collect law enforcement data on trafficking offenses, including cases involving the trafficking of adults prosecuted under separate statutes in the penal or labor code, and make these data available to other government agencies and the public.


The government maintained its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts aimed at combating child labor trafficking during the reporting period; however, it took no discernible prosecutorial action against traffickers engaged in commercial sexual exploitation of women and children. Existing laws do 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 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's imprisonment or a fine. These punishments are not sufficiently stringent.

During the year, the Ministry of the Interior's Office for the Protection of Minors (OCPM) charged nine suspected traffickers with the illegal movement of children and forced child labor. Eight courts in Cotonou convicted 25 individuals of child labor trafficking under Act 2006-04, handing down sentences ranging from a three-month suspended prison term to a five years prison term and fines of $20 to $1,000; some of these sentences were neither sufficiently stringent nor commensurate to the penalty for other serious crimes, such as rape. Seven trafficking prosecutions remained pending at year's end. In January 2012, gendarmes intercepted two boats transporting 85 children en route to Gbadagry, Nigeria for forced labor. They apprehended five suspected traffickers and transferred the suspects to the court of Porto-Novo for prosecution, which remained pending at the close of the reporting period. Through Benin's National Police Academy, the government provided senior police officers with training on counteracting child trafficking. The government did not report other efforts to investigate, prosecute, convict, or sentence government officials complicit in human trafficking; however, there were reports that individuals in the Benin diplomatic corps protected traffickers and sought to hinder the repatriation of child trafficking victims to Benin.


The Government of Benin sustained efforts to protect child labor victims during the year, but did not identify or provide protective services to any adult victims of trafficking and did not disaggregate data to indicate if care was provided to child victims of commercial sexual exploitation. The Ministries of Family, Interior, Justice, and Foreign Affairs collaboratively provided services to 164 victims and referred them to NGOs to receive additional care. The OCPM identified 249 child labor trafficking victims by interviewing the children it took into custody. It provided 164 trafficking victims with temporary shelter, as well as legal, medical, and psychological services in a transit center staffed by government and NGO personnel, but located on police premises in Cotonou, before referring them to long-term NGO shelters. In 2011, the OCPM transferred custody over five trafficking victims to officials from their countries of origin, including Ghana, Togo, and Nigeria. The OCPM 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. 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 efforts to identify adult trafficking victims, nor did it have a mechanism for screening individuals in prostitution, which may have left victims unidentified in the law enforcement system.


The government took moderate steps to prevent trafficking in persons during the year. In October 2011, the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Family conducted outreach programs at quarries in the areas of Lokossa, in southwest Benin in an effort to prevent child labor trafficking. In November 2011, local authorities in the southeast coordinated outreach campaigns aimed at raising awareness of the practice of child sex trafficking. The Ministries of Family and Justice held sessions across the country to publicize child anti-trafficking legislation, including the January 2011 decree on the list of hazardous work prohibited for children. The Joint Nigeria-Benin Committee to Combat Child Trafficking met in February 2012 and continued its coordinating efforts aimed at reducing child labor trafficking from Zakpota, Benin to quarries in Abeokuta, Nigeria. In September 2011, the Beninese government signed a bilateral agreement with the Republic of the Congo to prevent transnational child trafficking. The government took no systematic steps to reduce the demand for commercial sex or forced labor during the reporting period. The government provided Beninese troops with anti-trafficking training prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions, though such training was conducted by a foreign donor.


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