The US State Department has once again included Botswana in its ‘Tier 2′ list of countries the US accuses of not fully meeting the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking.
However, according to the report released on 30 September, Botswana is making significant efforts to do so.
“The government demonstrated increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, Botswana remained on Tier 2. The government demonstrated increasing efforts by investigating and prosecuting more trafficking cases than in the previous reporting period and obtaining its first trafficking conviction under the 2014 Anti-Human Trafficking Act,” the report states.
It says the government also identified more victims of trafficking, established a specialized anti-trafficking unit, and appointed two officials, trained on human trafficking, to monitor the investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases.
However, the report says, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas.
“The government did not amend the 2009 Children’s Act to include in the definition of child trafficking, the commercial sexual exploitation of children without requiring the means of force, coercion, or movement,” the report says.
The government’s efforts to protect victims were uneven. “In the government’s first trafficking conviction, the trafficker served only eight months of an 18-month sentence in prison, although the government’s appeal of that sentence was pending at the end of the reporting period,” the report says.
The report recommended that Botswana should formalize the system to refer victims to social services and ensure all victims receive protective services. The country should also amend the anti-trafficking laws to ensure penalties are sufficiently stringent by eliminating fines in lieu of prison time and disallow suspended sentences when sentencing convicted traffickers. The US also urged Botswana to increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers; continue to encourage victims to participate in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers through formal procedures.
The government investigated 12 trafficking cases and prosecuted 18 defendants under the 2014 Act, compared with five investigations and seven prosecutions in the previous reporting period.
“The government secured its first ever trafficking conviction, which was under the Anti-Human Trafficking Act. The High Court sentenced the trafficker, a South African woman, to 18-months imprisonment, nine of which were suspended. The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) appealed the sentence to seek a more stringent penalty; the appeal was pending at the close of the reporting period,” the report states.
The government maintained uneven efforts to identify and protect trafficking victims. The government identified 27 victims during the reporting periodÔÇöfour child sex trafficking victims, three child victims of forced labor, and 20 adult victims of forced laborÔÇöan increase from six victims identified during the previous year.
“However, the government’s referrals of victims for assistance were limited. It referred four girls to an NGO-run shelter to receive protective services. The government did not provide formal written procedures to guide social service, law enforcement, or immigration officials in proactively identifying victims of trafficking among vulnerable populations,” the report says.
The NGO-run shelter used its own assessment process for victim eligibility for admission to the shelter and access to care services. “The government had not fully operationalized the victim referral measures detailed in the 2014 Act. The government paid for legal expenses and repatriation of a Motswana child trafficking victim exploited in Canada during the reporting period,” the report says.
The government was not known to have penalized trafficking victims for crimes committed in relation to being subjected to trafficking. The government encouraged victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers by providing housing and food throughout the period of investigation.
“All trafficking victims voluntarily provided written testimony as evidence. However, due to a slow judicial process, one foreign child victim had to remain in Botswana for a prolonged period of time to testify during the lengthy trial process,” the report says.
The report further states that “As reported over the past five years, the reportBotswana is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking.”
It says residents of Botswana most vulnerable to trafficking are unemployed women, the rural poor, agricultural workers, and children. Some parents in poor rural communities send their children to work for wealthier families as domestic servants in cities or in agriculture and cattle farming in remote areas, increasing their vulnerability to forced labor. Young Batswana serving as domestic workers for extended family may be denied access to education and basic necessities or subjected to confinement or verbal, physical, or sexual abuseÔÇöconditions indicative of forced labor.
Batswana girls and women are possibly exploited in prostitution within the country, including in bars and by truck drivers along major highways. Some women may be subjected to trafficking internally or transported from neighboring countries and subjected to sexual exploitation. Officials confirmed adults and children of the San ethnic minority group are subjected to labor conditions on private farms and cattle posts in Botswana’s rural west that might rise to the level of forced labor.
“Undocumented migrant Zimbabwean children might be vulnerable to trafficking in Botswana. There has been no comprehensive international or domestic study of trafficking trends within the country,” the report says.