MALAWI: Tier 2

Malawi is a source country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking and, to a lesser extent, a destination country for men, women, and children from neighboring countries subjected to labor and sex trafficking, and a transit country for people from some of these countries subjected to labor and sex trafficking in South Africa. Most Malawian trafficking victims are exploited within the country, with victims generally transported from the southern part of the country to the central and northern regions. Children are subjected to forced labor in the agricultural sector (predominantly in the tobacco industry, but also on tea, coffee, and sugar plantations), goat and cattle herding, and brickmaking. Frequently, traffickers entice families to part with their children with the promise of work as farm laborers, subsequently subjecting the children to forced labor or sexual exploitation. Children are also subjected to forced labor in begging, small businesses, and potentially in the fishing industry. Some are coerced to commit crimes. Reports indicate one-third of Malawian children are involved in labor activities; most cases of child labor outside the family involve fraudulent recruitment and physical or sexual abuse, conditions indicative of forced labor. Adult tenant farmers are vulnerable to exploitation, as they incur debts to landowners and may not receive payment in times of poor harvest. Brothel owners or other facilitators lure girls – including primary school children – from rural areas with promises of clothing and lodging, for which they are charged high fees, resulting in prostitution coerced through debts in Malawi or neighboring countries. Malawian victims of sex and labor trafficking have been identified in Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia, Tanzania, and Europe. Malawian girls are subjected to domestic servitude in eastern Zambia. Recent years have seen reports of young girls being drugged, gang-raped, and placed in the sex trade. Some girls recruited for domestic service are instead forced to marry and subsequently subjected to prostitution by their "husbands." Migrants from the Great Lakes region and the Horn of Africa may become labor trafficking victims in Malawi or transit through Malawi and subsequently become labor trafficking victims in South Africa.

The Government of Malawi does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. In February 2015, the government passed anti-trafficking legislation, establishing a comprehensive legal framework to address trafficking in persons. It reported investigating 27 trafficking cases involving 47 offenders and convicted 25 traffickers. The government identified 242 trafficking victims, an increase from 119 the previous year. The government continued to lack effective procedures to systematically identify victims and provide them adequate protection. The government relied on international organizations and NGOs to fund and implement most anti-trafficking programs.


Vigorously prosecute both sex and labor trafficking offenses under the anti-trafficking law; expand training and increase funding for judges, prosecutors, labor inspectors, and police to identify, investigate, and prosecute trafficking offenses; improve and expand the collection of national prosecution and protection data; increase awareness and monitoring of trafficking crimes, as well as efforts to identify traffickers and victims at border crossings and internal police checkpoints; develop formal guidelines to identify trafficking victims, especially among vulnerable populations, and to refer them to available services; increase the availability of shelters and protection services for victims, including through financial or material support to NGOs for expansion of direct service provision; sentence convicted traffickers to sufficiently stringent punishments, including the increased imposition of prison sentences; adopt a national strategy to combat trafficking that focuses on improving national-level coordination of anti-trafficking efforts across all districts; and continue to launch anti-trafficking public awareness campaigns.


The Government of Malawi demonstrated progress in anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. In February 2015, the government passed anti-trafficking legislation establishing a comprehensive legal framework to address trafficking in persons. Malawi's anti-trafficking law prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes punishments of 14 years' to life imprisonment, with no option of fines. Additionally, the Employment Act and Articles 135 through 147 and 257 through 269 of the penal code criminalize forced labor and forced prostitution, although the law does not define child sex trafficking in accordance with international law, which provides that the exploitation of the prostitution of children is trafficking regardless of whether force, fraud, or coercion is used. The penalties prescribed under these various statutes range from small fines to 14 years' imprisonment; the maximum penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with punishments prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The Child Care, Protection, and Justice Act of 2010 prohibits child trafficking and prescribes sufficiently stringent penalties of up to life imprisonment for convicted traffickers.

In 2014, the Malawi Police Service (MPS) reported anti-trafficking data covering only five of Malawi's 34 district-level police stations; police provided information for seven districts in 2013. Poor record management and a lack of government direction contributed to shortcomings in adequately tracking investigation, prosecution, and conviction statistics nationwide. Police reported investigating 27 trafficking cases involving 47 suspects and 25 traffickers convicted, compared with 15 the previous reporting period. Information on prosecutions was unknown. Police from one of the reporting districts provided supplemental investigation, prosecution, and conviction data – some of which was included in the national report. Phalombe police reported 13 trafficking cases involving 31 traffickers. One case was dismissed, one was dropped, and the remaining 11 cases were prosecuted and resulted in convictions under the Child Care, Protection and Justice Act. A majority of the convicted traffickers received prison sentences of 15-36 months, a significant increase from the previous reporting period in that district, when convictions resulted in fines and suspended sentences. In September 2014, media reported a 12-year-old girl from Zomba district was forced to work as a bartender and exploited in child prostitution, which led to the rescue of a similarly exploited 13-year-old girl. In February 2015, the owner of the establishment was convicted of child trafficking under the Child Care, Protection and Justice Act, yet was only ordered to pay 160,000 kwacha ($300) in fines. The government reported that the 2013 case of two men detained at the Karonga border crossing for transporting 25 girls and four boys, possibly for early marriage and forced labor, remained unresolved at the end of the reporting period.

The Ministry of Home Affairs, which includes the MPS and immigration officials, had primary responsibility for the prosecution of trafficking crimes and enforcement of trafficking laws. MPS prosecutors were responsible for prosecuting the vast majority of identified trafficking cases in Malawi. The MPS included anti-trafficking training in its curriculum for the Limbe Police Training School, Mtakata Police Training School, and Police College. During the reporting period, members of Malawi's National Assembly and representatives of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Gender, Home Affairs and State House received training funded by foreign governments on trafficking issues and provisions of the anti-trafficking bill. The Malawi Human Rights Commission, an independent government agency, conducted outreach on draft anti-trafficking legislation to members of parliament. The Immigration Department continued to train an unspecified number of immigration officers on international anti-trafficking legal frameworks, how to identify human traffickers, and how to assist trafficking victims. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses.


The government increased the number of victims identified, but sustained inadequate efforts to protect victims. It relied largely on NGOs to identify victims and provide long-term care. The national government lacked comprehensive data on the number of victims it identified, referred, or assisted during the reporting period; however, case information provided by the MPS indicated the government identified at least 242 trafficking victims, a notable increase in comparison to the 119 victims identified the previous reporting period. Additional information on the profile of the 242 victims was unavailable. The government ran one social rehabilitation center in Lilongwe for orphans, child trafficking victims, and vulnerable children, providing counseling and rehabilitation services. The government reported referring 100 victims to the center in 2014, which had capacity for only 50 residents at one time due to a lack of resources. Reports from individuals acquainted with the facility described the center as chronically underfunded and unsuitable for trafficking victims, especially children – so dire that children exploited in child prostitution returned to the brothels from which they had been removed. The government continued to lack systematic procedures for the proactive identification of victims and their referral to care.

A 2011 NGO baseline survey of six districts reported 73 percent of victims did not receive any services after their rescue. The lack of adequate and longer-term assistance left victims vulnerable to re-trafficking. More than 300 police stations at the sub-district level housed victim support units (VSUs) to respond to gender-based violence and trafficking crimes; however, the VSUs lacked capacity to respond adequately, providing only limited counseling and, in some districts, temporary shelter to victims. Some foreign victims likely avoided these centers due to fear of deportation. The government did not provide material or financial support for most NGO services, including the only dedicated shelter for trafficking victims in the country, which was operated by an international NGO. The government did not have a policy of providing foreign victims with temporary residency or other legal alternatives to their removal to their countries of origin; in practice, foreign victims faced deportation unless they challenged their immigration status in court. The new anti-trafficking law includes provisions for the protection of victims and witnesses during trial. There were no specific reports of trafficking victims penalized for crimes as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking; however, in recent years, abuse of sex trafficking victims by police has been reported. Law enforcement has treated persons in prostitution – including children – as criminals, rather than assessing them for indicators of trafficking.


The government sustained efforts to prevent trafficking, with multiple government agencies involved in anti-trafficking efforts. The Malawi Network Against Child Trafficking, comprising government officials, NGOs, and religious leaders, held six regional trafficking awareness meetings and met twice at the national level. The anti-trafficking board established by the new anti-trafficking bill is designed to provide national-level guidance on combating trafficking. Malawi continued to lack a national action plan to address trafficking in persons. The majority of public awareness campaigns were coordinated at the district level with NGO partners. The government conducted 215 child labor inspections from June-December 2014; however, it did not report on the total number of inspections conducted. As of January 2015, the Ministry of Labor employed 29 district labor officers and 120 labor inspectors. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor, and it made no efforts to address child sex tourism. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel. In partnership with a foreign donor, the government provided Malawian troops with anti-trafficking training prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.


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