Namibia is predominantly a country of origin and destination for children and, to a lesser extent, women subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Some victims are offered legitimate work for adequate wages, but eventually may be forced to work long hours and carry out hazardous tasks in urban centers and on commercial farms. Traffickers in Namibia exploit Namibian children in forced labor in agriculture, cattle herding, and domestic service. Children from Angola, Zambia, and Zimbabwe are subjected to prostitution in Namibia. Some Angolan boys may be brought to Namibia for forced labor in cattle herding; however, no such cases were reported during the year. Foreign nationals or persons resident in Namibia from southern Africa and Europe are among the clientele of children in prostitution in Namibia. Children are also coerced to conduct criminal activity, including drug smuggling and robbery. Namibians commonly house and care for children of distant relatives in order to provide expanded educational opportunities; however, in some instances, such children are exploited by their relatives in sex trafficking or forced labor. Among Namibia’s ethnic groups, San girls are particularly vulnerable to forced labor on farms or in homes, and to a lesser extent, are exploited in prostitution.
The Government of Namibia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these measures, including its prosecution of two suspected sex traffickers, the government did not demonstrate evidence of overall increasing efforts to address human trafficking during the previous reporting period; therefore, Namibia is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a second consecutive year. Although the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare (MGECW) launched a National Plan of Action on Gender-Based Violence in 2012, which includes actions to address human trafficking, the government did not undertake systematic anti-trafficking efforts to ensure lasting progress, particularly in regard to the prosecution of trafficking crimes. Although the government developed a referral process for victims of gender-based violence, including trafficking, it failed to designate as trafficking victims any victims of crime discovered during the year or ensure its officials were informed of how to determine such status. In addition, it did not complete draft comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation. Furthermore, the government has never convicted a trafficking offender under any of its laws. However, the government discovered at least one trafficking victim and provided counseling to four during the year—a modest increase in its protection efforts in 2011. It also completed its renovation of one additional shelter for victims of gender-based violence, including trafficking.
Recommendations for Namibia: Draft and enact comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation; increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and to convict and punish trafficking offenders under existing law, including the Prevention of Organized Crime Act (POCA); continue to train law enforcement and judicial sector officials on the anti-trafficking provisions of the POCA and other relevant laws; in the implementation of the law, ensure consistent use of a broad definition of human trafficking that does not rely on evidence of movement, but rather focuses on exploitation, consistent with the 2000 UN TIP Protocol; continue to distribute and use standard guidelines for all government stakeholders for use in the identification of victims by law enforcement, immigration, labor, and social welfare officials; continue to dedicate adequate time and resources to complete ongoing shelter and safe house renovations; continue to strengthen coordination of anti-trafficking efforts among government ministries, including at the working level; and continue to collect, analyze, and disseminate data on trafficking cases.
The Government of Namibia continued its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the year, initiating the prosecution of two suspects for the alleged sex trafficking of three girls. The government, however, did not convict any trafficking offenders or complete comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation during the year. In May 2009, the government enacted the POCA, which criminalizes all forms of trafficking. Under the POCA, persons who participate in trafficking offenses or aid and abet trafficking offenders may be imprisoned for up to 50 years and fined up to the equivalent of approximately $133,000, penalties which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with punishments prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. During the year, the government began its first sex trafficking prosecution under the POCA; however, it has never convicted a trafficking offender under this statute. In January 2013, the government, in partnership with UNODC, held an inter-ministerial workshop to reaffirm its plans to develop comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation to include specific protections for trafficking victims, prevention measures, and harsher punishments for child trafficking offenses. The pending Child Care and Protection Bill, drafted in 2009 and approved by the cabinet in March 2012, includes a provision criminalizing child trafficking; the bill remained pending parliamentary debate and passage.
In October 2012, the Swakopmund Magistrate’s Court commenced the government’s first known sex trafficking prosecution, charging two suspects for their alleged role in procuring three girls (aged 13, 14, and 18) for sexual exploitation by a South African miner for the approximate equivalent of $1,175. The trial was ongoing at the close of the reporting period. In August 2012, nine immigration officials participated in an IOM train the trainer course and, by the close of 2012, these officials had trained 124 of their colleagues using IOM’s curriculum. Furthermore, in partnership with UNICEF, MGECW developed a police curriculum on gender-based violence, including trafficking.
The government increased its efforts to protect trafficking victims, identifying at least one victim and providing counseling to four child victims during the year. In addition, in March 2013, the government developed a formal process for the referral to assistance of victims of gender-based violence, including trafficking. However, although officials were trained on trafficking victim identification, the government remained without a process for officials to screen populations to determine victimization or provide official designation of trafficking victim status. Upon discovery of a woman or child victim of crime, including trafficking, police transfer them to the Women and Child Protection Unit (WACPU), which has responsibility for referring victims of all crimes to temporary shelter and medical assistance provided by NGOs or other entities. During the year, MGECW, in partnership with UNICEF, formalized these referral procedures through the development of a national protection referral network for crime victims. In 2012, WACPU’s facilities provided initial psycho-social, legal, and medical support to trafficking victims, in cooperation with the Namibian Police, MGECW, the Ministry of Health, and NGOs. For example, the MGECW provided social workers to assist WACPU police in counseling victims of violent crimes, including human trafficking; during the year, at least four trafficking victims received such counseling, some of which involved several sessions and longer-term consultation. The MGECW trained gender-liaison officers in all 13 regions on trafficking and case management, who, in turn, trained police and all 60 of its social workers on these topics during the previous reporting period.
The government continued its renovation of buildings to be used for long-term accommodations for women and child victims of gender-based violence and human trafficking; five facilities continued operation, while one additional renovation was completed and a seventh renovation began during the reporting period. Five of the six renovated facilities are under the management of MGECW; in addition, MGECW provided a social worker and partial coverage of operational costs to an NGO managing one facility. These facilities offered overnight accommodation, medical examinations, and space for social workers to provide counseling and psycho-social support. In 2012, police caught a 14-year old San boy stealing cattle on behalf of his uncle, who had kidnapped the boy; authorities did not penalize the boy for this crime, but instead took him to WACPU for counseling and reintegration. The government actively encouraged victims to voluntarily assist in the prosecution of alleged trafficking offenders during the year. Though no foreign victims were identified in Namibia in 2012, the government remained without the ability to provide temporary or permanent residency to foreign victims.
The Namibian government continued its efforts to prevent human trafficking during the reporting period. Under the leadership of MGECW, the National Advisory Committee on Gender-Based Violence—which included trafficking within its mandate—launched its “National Plan of Action on Gender-Based Violence 2012-2016,” completed with donor funding and in partnership with UNDP, UNICEF, and local stakeholders. In November 2012, the government concluded its three-year “Zero Tolerance Against Gender-Based Violence and Trafficking in Persons” media campaign that included TV and radio broadcasts on human trafficking and the placement of billboards; the campaign was jointly funded by the MGECW and donors. In addition, the police, in partnership with several NGOs and international donors, continued an anti-trafficking and prostitution demand reduction campaign. In 2012, the MGECW began seeking proposals and bids that would enable the completion of a study to assess the extent of trafficking in the country and the effect of current counter-trafficking efforts. During the year, several officials, including the first lady, addressed community leaders, traditional leaders, and parents on child prostitution and child labor, advocating for them to increase children’s awareness about these topics and facilitate their attendance in school.