The government maintained 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 Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act prescribed penalties of up to 20 years’ imprisonment, a fine of up to 100,000 emalangeni ($6,820), 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 initiated three trafficking investigations and two prosecutions, compared to initiating five investigations and prosecutions in the previous reporting period. Of the two cases that went to prosecution each involved one defendant. One case involved suspected internal trafficking and the other was transnational. The government concluded both prosecutions. In the first case, the court convicted and sentenced one trafficker, the Director of the Children’s Unit in the Deputy Prime Minister’s office, to 55 years in prison for kidnapping and sex trafficking a girl from 2017 through 2019. In the second case, allegedly transnational trafficking, the government awaited the court’s verdict at the close of the reporting period. This is comparable to conviction of one trafficker in the previous reporting period. The third case remained in the investigation phase. One additional prosecution initiated in a previous reporting period was delayed because the pandemic prevented the participation of foreign witnesses. The government did not report updates on three other prosecutions it had initiated in the previous reporting period. There were reports of trafficking-related government corruption, including immigration officials seeking bribes to issue government documents such as visas.
Systemic judicial issues, including weak data and evidence collection, a shortage of judges and courtrooms, and defense attorneys’ tactics to create protracted trials, contributed to delays in all cases, including trafficking. Rural woman often faced substantial obstacles obtaining relief for various crimes because communities pursued family intervention first and then traditional courts, which viewed female victims of crime as “unruly” and “disobedient.” Due to poor performance by leadership at the anti-trafficking secretariat that impeded anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during most of the reporting period, the cabinet maintained temporary policies to remove the secretariat’s obstacles to such efforts and enhance communication. Due to the pandemic, the government postponed most planned trainings, compared to training police, prosecutors, immigration officers, and social workers on trafficking in the previous reporting period. The government continued to provide anti-trafficking training at the police college for all in-service and pre-service officers. The government continued to cooperate with authorities in Taiwan to support and repatriate Swati victims of exploitation in Taiwan.