2013 Trafficking in Persons Report
Tier 2

Malawi is a source country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. To a lesser extent, Malawi is also a destination country for men, women, and children from Zambia, Mozambique, and Tanzania and a transit point for people from these same countries who are subjected to sex and labor trafficking in South Africa. Most Malawian trafficking victims are exploited within the country, though Malawian victims of sex and labor trafficking have also been identified in South Africa, Zambia, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Europe. Within the country, children are subjected to forced labor in domestic service, goat and cattle herding, agriculture (tobacco, tea, coffee, and sugar plantations), begging, small businesses, and are coerced to commit crimes, including home robberies. One-third of Malawian children are involved in labor activities; the majority of cases of child labor outside of the family involve fraudulent recruitment and physical or sexual abuse, conditions indicative of forced labor. Adult tenant farmers are vulnerable to exploitation, as they incur debts to landowners and may not receive payment in times of poor harvest. Brothel owners or other facilitators lure girls—including primary school children—from rural areas with promises of clothing and lodging, for which they are later charged high fees, resulting in prostitution coerced through debts in Malawi or neighboring countries. In other instances, young girls are drugged, gang-raped, and placed in the sex trade. Some girls recruited for domestic service are forced to marry and subsequently forced into prostitution by their “husbands;” in 2012, two girls from Mangochi were promised employment in South Africa, but upon arrival were forced to marry a Zimbabwean man who then forced them into prostitution in a brothel. Nigerian and Tanzanian women force Malawian women and girls into prostitution in Malawi, and Nigerian syndicates are also involved in the sex trafficking of Malawians to South Africa, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Thailand, and Brazil. Anecdotal reports indicate South Asian adults and children are forced to work in hotels, shops, bakeries, and in the construction sector in Malawi or transit Malawi en route to potential exploitation in South Africa. Migrants from the Great Lakes region and the Horn of Africa may become labor trafficking victims in Malawi or in South Africa.

The Government of Malawi does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the year, the Malawi Police Service (MPS) provided its first formal report of law enforcement data, from eight districts, which highlighted the government’s conviction of 13 trafficking offenders, the majority of whom were sentenced to significant terms of imprisonment. In addition, the government, often in partnership with NGOs, identified at least 135 trafficking victims. However, the government failed to make systematic efforts to combat trafficking, especially in its protection of victims. It also failed to finalize and pass anti-trafficking legislation drafted in 2009 or to train independently law enforcement officials during the year. The government continued to rely on international organizations and NGOs to fund and implement most anti-trafficking programs, and district-level staff active on trafficking received little supervision or guidance from national coordinating bodies.

Recommendations for Malawi: Prosecute vigorously both sex and labor trafficking offenses; ensure adequate sentencing of convicted trafficking offenders, including the increased imposition of prison sentences rather than fines; investigate and prosecute complicit officials; expand training programs for judges, prosecutors, labor inspectors, and police on identification, investigation, and prosecution of trafficking offenses under existing laws; improve the collection of national prosecution and protection data; develop a formal system to identify trafficking victims, especially among vulnerable populations, and to refer them to available services; increase the availability of accommodations and protection services for victims through financial or material support to NGOs for expansion of direct service provision; improve national-level coordination of anti-trafficking efforts across all districts; and launch anti-trafficking public awareness campaigns.


The Government of Malawi increased its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the year, with 10 of 13 convicted trafficking offenders receiving jail terms—an improvement from three out of four convicted offenders receiving fines in 2011. However, these 10 convictions occurred in only two districts—Dedza and Phalombe—signaling the need to increase law enforcement efforts and training of police and magistrates country-wide. In addition, in 2012, the MPS provided its first-ever formal report of anti-trafficking case data, including data collected from eight of 28 districts. Malawi prohibits all forms of trafficking through various laws, including the Employment Act and Articles 135 through 147 and 257 through 269 of the penal code, which criminalizes forced labor and forced prostitution, although it does not define child sex trafficking in accordance with international law. The penalties prescribed under these various statutes range from small fines to 14 years’ imprisonment; these penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with punishments prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. In 2012, the government began development of implementation guidelines for the Child Care, Protection, and Justice Act of 2010, which prohibits child trafficking, although fails to define it, and prescribes more than sufficiently stringent penalties of up to life imprisonment. Efforts to complete comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation continued with drafts circulating between the Cabinet and Ministry of Justice for technical edits.

The majority of trafficking offenders convicted during the year—eight of 13—were charged under the child trafficking provision of the Child Care, Protection, and Justice Act; however, the government sentenced seven of these convicted offenders to 18 months’ imprisonment, well below the provision’s prescribed maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Three other offenders were charged and convicted of kidnapping under article 257 of the penal code; in these cases, magistrates applied stiffer penalties of two to five years’ imprisonment. Of the remaining cases, two offenders received paltry fines, and one received a suspended sentence, serving no time in jail. Reports indicated that labor trafficking offenders were not prosecuted for a first offense. Poor record management, however, made it difficult to track habitual offenders. In addition, the government made little effort to investigate or prosecute potential sex trafficking offenses during the year. The government partnered with Zambian and Mozambican authorities in several forced labor investigations; in one case, a convicted Mozambican offender was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment after attempting to bring three Malawian children into Mozambique for work on tobacco farms.

In January 2013, the Immigration Department began training 317 new immigration officers; its institutionalized curriculum was revised during the year to include international trafficking frameworks, identification of traffickers, and assistance to victims. Although the MPS and the Ministry of Labor acknowledged the need for increased training of their staffs, especially on existing laws, the government failed to systematically train or institutionalize trafficking-specific trainings during the year. However, 1,200 police recruits received some basic training on child trafficking as part of broader trainings on child protection. In October 2012, Malawian officials hosted donor-funded anti-trafficking trainings at government facilities, reaching 115 magistrates, judges, prosecutors, and police in Lilongwe and 25 officials in Mchinji. The government did not investigate or prosecute government employees who were allegedly complicit in trafficking or trafficking-related crimes, including low-level police and immigration officials who facilitated illegal border crossings.


The Government of Malawi sustained minimal efforts to provide protection to trafficking victims during the year. It relied largely on NGOs to identify victims and provide long-term care. In addition, the government failed to develop or employ systematic procedures for the proactive identification of victims and their referral to care. The government funded one drop-in center (the social rehabilitation center in Lilongwe) that offered counseling and assistance for victims of trafficking and gender-based violence; it is unknown whether the center provided such services to trafficking victims during the year. More than 300 police stations at the sub-district level housed victim support units (VSUs) to respond to gender-based violence and trafficking crimes; however, the VSUs lacked capacity to respond adequately, providing only limited counseling and, in some districts, temporary shelter to victims. As a result of the minimal capacity of the VSUs, some district staff used their personal funds or opened their offices to temporarily shelter victims or acquired donor payment for hotel stays. Government-run hospitals provided limited access to medical and psychological services; however, there is no evidence trafficking victims received such care in 2012. District social welfare and child protection officers referred an unknown number of victims to NGO-run facilities that served vulnerable children and youth; however, the government did not provide material or financial support for these NGO services.

The national government did not provide data on the number of victims it identified, referred, or assisted during the reporting period; however, detailed case information provided by the MPS and district-level officials indicates that the government, often in partnership with NGOs, identified at least 135 trafficking victims. Police, district-level social welfare officers, and child protection officers cooperated with local NGOs that coordinated and funded the rescue and care of trafficking victims; for example, in Mchinji, an NGO shelter accommodated and assisted in the return of 101 child trafficking victims to their home communities during the year, some of which were identified in partnership with or referred by district-level staff. The district social welfare office in Lilongwe—through the aforementioned social rehabilitation center—provided office space to an NGO that provided counseling to child sex trafficking victims and coordinated awareness campaigns. Despite these efforts in some districts, a 2011 NGO baseline survey of six districts reported that 73 percent of victims did not receive any services after their rescue. The lack of adequate and longer-term assistance leaves victims vulnerable to re-trafficking; at least one such case was documented during the year. The government did not provide foreign victims with temporary residency or other legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they would face hardship or retribution. The government reportedly encouraged victims’ participation in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking crimes, though there is no evidence this occurred in 2012. Law enforcement, however, generally treated persons in prostitution—including children—as criminals, rather than the pimps or clients, making sex trafficking victims vulnerable to arrest; subsequent to their arrest, some police coerced them into sex acts by threatening them with charges. As it failed to screen vulnerable populations, including illegal migrants and children involved in crime, in order to identify trafficking victims, the government was unable to ensure victims were not arrested and penalized for crimes committed as a result of their trafficking.


The government made minimal efforts to prevent human trafficking during the year. The majority of public awareness campaigns were coordinated at the district level with NGOs partners; national-level coordinating bodies played a negligible role, failing to organize awareness activities or finalize the national plan of action drafted in 2010. The newly reorganized Child Protection Technical Working Group included combating trafficking within its broader work of coordinating efforts on child protection, but failed to make any specific anti-trafficking efforts during the year. The Malawi Network Against Child Trafficking, which is comprised of government representatives, NGOs, and religious leaders, met only once in 2012, a decrease from quarterly meetings in 2011. Government officials participated in NGO-sponsored panel discussions on human trafficking, which were broadcast on national radio. In 2012, the government conducted 1,750 labor inspections; however, details on child labor violations or children removed from worksites were not made available. State-owned radio continued weekly broadcasts on child labor and human trafficking led by an NGO. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts during the year, and made no efforts to address child sex tourism. In partnership with a foreign donor, it provided Malawian troops with anti-trafficking training prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.