Human trafficking

The 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda embrace goals and target on trafficking in persons. These goal call for an end to trafficking and violence against children; as well as the need for measures against human trafficking and they strive for the elimination of all forms of violence against and exploitation of women and girls.

Malawi just like many other countries in the world is faced with a complex and dynamic phenomenon of trade in human beings (Trafficking in Persons) since it is a source, transit and destination country. 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 prostitution and others to forced labour in the agricultural sector. At the same time, some children are trafficked for labour from various regions, to tea and tobacco estates across the country. A 2008 Study by the ILO and IPEC established that there is a seasonal element to child trafficking, especially with regard to children trafficked to work in tobacco estates and girls exploited as commercial sex workers and in restaurants and bars, which tend to be busy particularly during the crop marketing season. Children are trafficked for sex tourism along the lakeshore, where they fall prey to travelling child sex offenders.

A 2004 investigative inquiry of the Malawi Human Rights Commission revealed that around August every year, estate owners and agents from Mozambique carry out recruitment campaigns and children as young as seven years of age are trafficked from around Dedza to Mozambique to work as domestic servants or farm labourers. No formalities are followed and due to the porous nature of the borders, they are trafficked to and from Malawi and Mozambique without problems.

As a transit country, traffickers use Malawi as their route – transferring their victims to other destinations and as a destination country, victims are trafficked from Asian and European countries to Malawi.

“According to the US Government (2016) et al quoted in the NPA TIP 2017 studies show that there are at least three broad trafficking scenarios in Malawi; victims trafficked from Asian and European countries to African countries including Malawi; trafficking of persons locally and trafficking of persons to other countries Malawi as a source or transit country. In Malawi, push and pull factors that drive the crime of trafficking in persons include ignorance, exposure to “outside world” and poverty while pull factors include demand for cheap labour and demand for commercial sexual exploitation (AU, 2006). In addition to poverty, unemployment was also identified as a factor that pushes people in Malawi into positions where they become vulnerable to being trafficked (SADC Secretariat, 2016). An International Labour Organisation/ International Programme on Elimination of Child Labour (ILO/IPEC, 2008) study reported that push factors that influence child trafficking in Malawi include poverty (25%) seen as the main contributing factors, lack of parental support (18.8%) and low wages for labour (15.6%). These drivers were also confirmed by a study commissioned by NCA in 2007 which found that the main causes of trafficking in women and children are both demand and supply related. Traffickers target women and children mostly from poor households. The poor victims look for opportunities to meet their basic needs and are, therefore, easier to entice. On demand side, traffickers are driven by lust for quick and easy money they can make from the crime of TIP (NCA, 2007). In terms of unemployment, 21% of Malawi’s total labour force is unemployed, with more unemployed females than males (26% females, 14% males). Youth unemployment in age 15-24 is 28% (NSO, 2013).

ILO/IPEC Child Labour Report 2008 p9. Malawi Law Commission, ‘Human Trafficking in Malawi: Research Paper’ (2005) p20. Also see International Organisation for Migration, Seduction Sale and Slavery: Trafficking in Women and Children for Sexual Exploitation in Southern Africa Pretoria: South Africa (2003) p65. Especially in places like Chipungu, Makhanga, Dambo la Ngondo Villa. Malawi Human Rights Commission, Report on the Investigative Inquiry into Cross Boarder Child Labour in Dedza District (2004) Unpublished.

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