The government increased law enforcement efforts. However, the government did not report anti-trafficking data consistently from year to year, making it difficult to assess its law enforcement efforts. Existing laws criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Articles 499-504 of the Penal Code criminalized all forms of labor trafficking and some forms of sex trafficking and prescribed penalties of 10 to 20 years’ imprisonment; these penalties were sufficiently stringent, and with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with other grave crimes, such as rape. The 2006 Act Relating to the Transportation of Minors and the Suppression of Child Trafficking (Act 2006-04) criminalized all forms of child sex trafficking as well as labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of 10 to 20 years’ imprisonment. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape.
The government reported initiating investigations into 176 individuals, including 101 for sex trafficking, three for forced labor, and 72 for unspecified forms of trafficking; this compared with not reporting initiation of any investigations during the previous reporting period. The government also reported continuing investigations into 312 individuals, including 157 for sex trafficking, 51 for forced labor, and 104 for unspecified forms of trafficking. The government reported prosecuting 176 individuals for trafficking, including 101 for sex trafficking, three for forced labor, and 72 for unspecified forms of trafficking, compared with prosecuting four cases of child trafficking during the previous reporting period. The government reported continuing prosecutions of 312 individuals. The government reported convicting 94 traffickers, including 92 for sex trafficking and two for labor trafficking, compared with 11 convictions in the previous reporting period. The government also reported convicting an additional 90 individuals for trafficking-related crimes under non-trafficking laws. The government did not report sentencing data for the convictions; in previous reporting periods, courts reportedly sentenced the majority of convicted traffickers to prison terms substantially shorter than the 10-20 years’ imprisonment required by Benin’s Penal Code for trafficking. Some judicial officials asserted more stringent prison terms may exacerbate the vulnerability of some child victims since the perpetrators were relatives. In a previous reporting period, officials reported police and prosecutors often did not understand or uniformly interpret the trafficking law, which resulted in traffickers being charged with other crimes.
The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) noted the lack of an effective data collection system resulted in the need for officials to contact individual courts to obtain case details. Many police stations lacked the technology and capacity necessary to maintain electronic databases; judicial personnel and most courts continued to record cases on paper, creating challenges in compiling and sharing law enforcement statistics. The government did not report prosecuting or convicting government officials complicit in human trafficking crimes, although some civil servants may have exploited children through the traditional practice of vidomegon, which involves sending children to wealthier families for educational or vocational opportunities. The government partnered with an international organization to train judges, police officers, and social workers on technical and legal frameworks and tools for detecting, investigating, and prosecuting cases. Child trafficking was addressed in the National Police Academy’s curriculum for new police officers, though the government assessed supplemental training was needed. The government cooperated with the governments of Gabon, Togo, Nigeria, and the Republic of the Congo on investigations and repatriations of trafficking victims and participated in a joint anti-trafficking operation with Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo, and an international organization. The government did not report what actions it took under the 2011 bilateral anti-trafficking agreement with the Republic of the Congo or the multilateral agreement with Burkina Faso and Togo.