Human Trafficking in BeninWedged between Togo and Nigeria, Benin is a West African nation home to over 10 million people, most known as the origin place of voodoo. The national poverty rate of Benin was 38.5% in 2021, and the proportion of people living under $1.90 a day was 19.2% in 2019. Like any other country, human trafficking impacts vulnerable population groups in Benin.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act

According to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), human trafficking is the act of forced sexual exploitation or the subjection of labor through involuntary servitude. The TVPA outlines the minimum standards a country must meet to eliminate trafficking. This is to ensure that countries label human trafficking as a punishable crime and make serious efforts toward change.

The TVPA ranks countries by tiers regarding the government’s efforts towards ending human trafficking, with Tier 1 indicating countries that meet the minimum standards of effort and Tier 3 being countries that do not meet the standards and are not making moves to do so. Benin falls under Tier 2, as the country does not fully meet the standards but is attempting to do so. The government is taking steps to convict more traffickers, expand awareness and victim identification, identify traffickers and increase training for law enforcement. Unfortunately, Benin authorities have failed to sentence convicted traffickers.

Human Trafficking in Benin

Benin’s trafficking portfolio explains that most trafficking in the country is internal and involves low-income children and other vulnerable populations. Common tactics of this type of recruitment include the false promises of education and a job. Most traffickers are known community members, like civil servants and farmers. Debt bondage is another way traffickers trap victims. In 2022, the Benin government reported a total of 701 trafficked victims. Overall, 111 children and 40 adults were sexually trafficked and 550 children were reported to be labor trafficking victims.

Beninese children are not just exploited within the country but throughout Western Africa. Within the Republic of Congo, Benin is the largest source of trafficking victims, with nationwide child and forced marriages and domestic servitude. Women from Benin are frequently trafficked for labor and commercial sex internationally.

Strives Toward Change

The Department of State in the U.S. recommends that the country should continue developing training of law enforcement and judicial officials to improve their investigations and prosecutions of traffickers in accordance with its laws. Expanding capacity to provide nonmedical services to victims and finalizing an agreement with Togo and Nigeria that shares information and cooperate on transnational investigations would help too.

The U.N. also suggests the global incorporation of training on human trafficking for medical and behavioral health professionals to aid victims and increase prevention. This includes teaching patients about informed consent, providing trauma-informed care and having resources for victims that support food security and housing.

There are multiple multilateral organizations and agencies that are fighting human trafficking specifically in West Africa. ECPAT works towards ending the sexual exploitation of children and partnered with a network of NGOs called C.L.O.S.E. to reach as many victims as possible. Benin’s International Criminal Police Organization National Central Bureau Cotonou also works to protect national security by investigating trafficking routes, along with being a major player in the organization’s fugitive investigation operations. In 2021, Benin’s National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons rescued more than victims, arresting 75 traffickers and convicting three.

Although much more attention is needed to address human trafficking in Benin, the government’s efforts coupled with victim support from NGOs will help to move the needle on this dire issue.

– Audrey Gaines
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in BeninBenin is a country in sub-Saharan Africa bordered by Togo to the west, Burkina Faso and Niger to the north, Nigeria to the east and the Atlantic Ocean to the south. It has a population of 12.12 million. While in the last 25 years, many intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations have made significant progress in fighting human trafficking, it remains a pressing issue in Benin and around the world. Here are the most important facts to know about human trafficking in Benin.

The Facts

The U.S. State Department ranks the Beninese government as tier 2 in its assessment of its anti-human trafficking efforts. It assigns these rankings based on the country’s level of compliance with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) minimum standards (tier 1 being in compliance, tier 2 out of compliance but making significant efforts to comply, and tier 3 being out of compliance and not demonstrating significant efforts to comply).

Because of insufficient identification and data collection, exact statistics on human trafficking in Benin are unknown. According to the U.S. State Department’s most recent estimate, however, the number of trafficking victims sourced or transported through Benin is 40,000 annually. Additionally, its central location makes it a common transit location in illicit trade routes throughout the region. The U.S. government estimates that criminals traffic 600,000 to 800,000 people annually across borders in West Africa.

Though some human trafficking victims in Benin are not Beninese citizens, the vast majority are. One UNICEF study estimated that 93% of Benin’s trafficking victims are internally sourced. Most trafficking victims in Benin are children. It is common for traffickers to leverage high levels of poverty and illiteracy as a way of coercing parents into sending their children away under the pretense of employment or education opportunities. However, traffickers also often involuntarily detain their victims under threat of violence. Traffickers in West Africa most often use victims for unpaid labor, but it is also common to use victims for sexual exploitation and warfare. UNICEF estimates that 46% of the Beninese youth population work and 86% of trafficking victims are underage girls, indicating a high level of sexual and labor exploitation in Benin.

Solutions and Progress

While human trafficking in Benin is still prevalent, the U.S. State Department reported that the Beninese government is increasing anti-trafficking efforts in the four most recent Trafficking in Persons reports. According to the 2021 report, it increased attempts to identify and protect child trafficking victims and made efforts to prevent trafficking in persons. Additionally, it created a child protection hotline, which provided more than 500 tips regarding child trafficking. Local Beninese people have also been indispensable in combating human trafficking by creating more than 700 “Village Committees” whose “function is to provide ‘social surveillance’ or social control of the activities and movement of the village’s children.”

However, it is crucial to remember the connection between rates of human trafficking and rates of poverty, illiteracy and the absence of adequate parental supervision. Reducing poverty and the amount of crime, and increasing the number of skilled laborers, may improve low-income parents’ abilities to send their children away for school and improve their livelihoods, which could subsequently help eliminate human trafficking. Some NGOs recognize this and are combating human trafficking in Benin by providing education, health care and employment opportunities to Beninese youth.

About Bornefonden

For example, Bornefonden, an NGO that runs Denmark, assists “60,000 children and youth in creating their own future in Togo, Mali, Cape Verde, Burkina Faso and Benin.” Its services include contributing to essential needs in Beninese communities such as constructing schools, facilitating contact between Beninese citizens and health care organizations and constructing wells in villages with water scarcity. Bornefonden’s goal is to provide long-term solutions and operates by “working in a community for a period of 15-20 years, after which all facilities will be handed over to the local authorities and citizens of the local community.” Terres des homes, another NGO operating in Benin, provided just under 1,000 children with vital health care operations in Benin in 2021, including psychological consultation.

Efforts like these, though not explicitly dealing with the issue, are instrumental in decreasing the rate of human trafficking in Benin.

– Xander Heiple
Photo: Flickr