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ESWATINI: Tier 2

The Government of Eswatini, previously known as Swaziland, does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore Eswatini was upgraded to Tier 2. These efforts included enacting the Sexual Offenses and Domestic Violence Act (SODVA), which abolished the cautionary rule that previously required additional corroborating evidence to substantiate testimony from witnesses deemed less reliable (such as children and victims of gender-based violence), and established new penalties for perpetrators of sex trafficking and new legal protections for victims of exploitation, including sex trafficking. The government convicted a trafficker for the first time in six years and sentenced him to 18 years’ imprisonment. It increased training for front-line responders on victim identification and referral and trained prosecutors and magistrates on the SODVA. In addition, the government finalized a new, five-year national action plan and conducted an increased number of awareness raising activities throughout the country, including incorporating chiefdoms and traditional systems of governance for the first time. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. For example, it did not have shelter policies or guidelines to ensure quality of care for trafficking victims.

PRIORITIZED RECOMMENDATIONS

Address leadership issues at the anti-trafficking secretariat and enable task force to fulfill its statutory responsibilities. • Increase efforts to identify, investigate and prosecute more trafficking crimes, including internal trafficking cases. • Convict more traffickers and sentence them to significant prison terms. • Implement the national anti-trafficking action plan. • Ensure all victims of trafficking are provided with appropriate and comprehensive care, including by developing shelter policies or guidelines to ensure quality of care. • Identify key NGO partnerships for provision of protective services and strengthen coordination with such NGOs. • Continue training law enforcement officials, social workers, and others to identify trafficking victims proactively among vulnerable populations. • Improve trafficking data collection and analysis, utilizing the SADC data collection system for collecting trafficking case data at the national and regional level. • Conduct anti-trafficking public awareness campaigns.

PROSECUTION

The government increased anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The 2009 People Trafficking and People Smuggling (Prohibition) Act criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of up to 20 years’ imprisonment for offenses involving an adult victim, and up to 25 years’ imprisonment for those involving a child victim. These penalties were sufficiently stringent, and with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government shelved a long-pending draft bill to amend the 2009 People Trafficking and People Smuggling (Prohibition) Act, as it determined the bill would have done little to enhance prosecutorial capability or improve victim protection, as intended at the outset, and instead would have created expensive new bureaucratic structures and remuneration provisions for the benefit of the trafficking secretariat. Poor performance by leadership personnel at the anti-trafficking secretariat remained the principal obstacle to progress on trafficking during much of the reporting period. After the government recognized the shortcomings within the secretariat leadership, a new cabinet instituted policies to address or remove obstacles that had long-hindered trafficking prosecutions and internal and external communication in relation to trafficking issues. The government enacted the SODVA in August 2018, which introduced new legal protections for victims of exploitation, including sex trafficking. The Act prescribed penalties of up to 20 years’ imprisonment, a fine of up to 100,000 emalangeni ($6,970), or both, for the commercial sexual exploitation of an adult and, up to 25 years’ imprisonment with no option of a fine if the offense involved a child.

The government investigated six suspected trafficking cases—two cases of forced labor, four sex trafficking cases—compared with 14 the previous year and initiated prosecutions of three alleged traffickers compared with three during the previous reporting period. The government acquitted one defendant and convicted one trafficker under the anti-trafficking law and sentenced him to 18 years’ imprisonment for sex trafficking, the most stringent sentence handed down since enactment of the anti-trafficking law in 2009. In addition, the government investigated more than 2,000 cases under the SODVA since it became effective in August 2018, although it is unclear how many included potential trafficking crimes. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses. The government trained a wide range of front-line responders during the reporting period. The Royal Eswatini Police Service (REPS) trained new police recruits on proactive victim identification and referral guidelines and the Director of Public Prosecution’s (DPP) office trained more than 100 police officers, police station chiefs, prosecutors, and magistrates. Four senior magistrates trained fellow magistrates on the newly-enacted SODVA. The government continued to provide anti-trafficking training at the police college for all in-service and pre-service officers and trained an unknown number of new police recruits during the reporting period.

PROTECTION

The government maintained victim protection efforts. The government identified five trafficking victims, and referred all victims to care, a decrease from identifying and referring to care 14 victims during the previous reporting period. Of those victims identified, four were sex trafficking victims—three women from Eswatini and one from South Africa—and one man, a victim of forced labor from Pakistan. After providing food, clothing, toiletries, psycho-social support, and medical care for all victims at government facilities, the government reunified the Swati victims with their families and the anti-trafficking secretariat coordinated with the governments of South Africa and Pakistan to safely repatriate the two foreign victims. The government owned one facility that provided short-term care for trafficking victims and partnered with several NGOs to provide long-term, comprehensive care, but it did not have shelter policies or guidelines to ensure quality of care. The government allocated 80,000 emalangeni ($5,570) for the second consecutive year to a victim assistance fund for protective services. The government reported no victims were detained or fined for unlawful acts committed as a result of their being trafficked. The government trained an increased number of front-line responders. The government improved coordination between law enforcement, the judiciary, and victim protection providers. The government encouraged victims to assist in investigations by providing witness protection services, as well as transportation and accommodation, as needed.

The SODVA created new legal protections for victims of exploitation, including sex trafficking victims. Under the new law, the REPS, the DPP, His Majesty’s Correctional Services, the Director of Health Services, and the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office were given new responsibilities to ensure a victim-centered approach. Every law enforcement officer had an affirmative obligation to inform victims of the availability of counseling and other protective services. The act required that medical treatment be provided in such a way as to reasonably minimize the effects of secondary trauma on the victim. The SODVA also established victim and witness protection provisions to facilitate safe communication with officials, such as police and magistrates, required the use of child-friendly courts for child victims, and established several additional protections for child witnesses. The SODVA created protective measures to support children during trial. Notably, the act abolished the common law “cautionary rule” in relation both to children and all victims of sexual offenses, including sex trafficking victims. Formerly, the “cautionary rule” dictated that the testimony of certain witnesses, like women and minor children, needed to be independently corroborated based on perceptions of their comparatively diminished reliability and competency. The government trained an increased number of front-line responders, which improved its implementation of the victim identification guidelines and national referral mechanism, which were established in 2015. The government employed a victim-centered approach throughout the referral process and improved coordination between law enforcement, the judiciary, and victim protection providers. The government encouraged victims to assist in investigations by providing witness protection services, as well as transportation and accommodation, as needed.

PREVENTION

The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. In collaboration with an international organization, the government finalized a new, five-year national action plan. The task force for the Prevention of People Trafficking and People Smuggling was reestablished in January 2017 after a four-month lapse and met regularly in 2018 and early 2019. The secretariat conducted public awareness activities at the Eswatini international trade fair, targeting traditional leaders, students, young women, and parents with information on preventing child trafficking and how to report suspected cases. The secretariat conducted sessions on human trafficking at schools with the assistance of teachers and police officers. The secretariat continued its border campaign, placing posters at various land borders and the airport to raise awareness on trafficking. Department of Immigration officials presented messages on television and radio to raise awareness of trafficking. The Ministry of Tinkhundla, which oversees chiefdoms and traditional systems of governance, developed an anti-trafficking awareness program to be shared throughout Eswatini’s four regions and later in the chiefdoms. Swati officials also presented messages targeting young women on television and radio. The government continued to participate in the SADC regional data collection tool by uploading trafficking cases, victim and trafficker profiles, and sharing information with neighboring countries. The government’s anti-trafficking hotline continued to receive tips on potential cases; the government did not report how many tips it received or what action it took. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex or forced labor. The government provided anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Eswatini, and traffickers exploit victims from Eswatini abroad. Swati trafficking victims come primarily from poor communities with high HIV/AIDS prevalence rates. Traffickers exploit Swati girls, particularly orphans, in sex trafficking and domestic servitude, primarily in Eswatini and South Africa. Traffickers force Swati boys and foreign children to labor in agriculture, including cattle herding, and market vending within the country. Mozambican boys migrate to Eswatini for work washing cars, herding livestock, and portering; traffickers exploit some in forced labor. Traffickers use Eswatini as a transit country to transport foreign victims to South Africa for forced labor. Traffickers reportedly force Mozambican women into prostitution in Eswatini, or transport them through Eswatini to South Africa. Some traffickers force Swati into commercial sex in South Africa after voluntarily migrating in search of work. Reports suggest labor brokers fraudulently recruit and charge excessive fees to Swati nationals for work in South African mines—means often used to facilitate trafficking crimes. Swati men in border communities are recruited for forced labor in South Africa’s timber industry.

U.S. Department of State

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