Papua New Guinea

2013 Trafficking in Persons Report
Tier 3

Papua New Guinea is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Women and children are subjected to sex trafficking and domestic servitude, and men are subjected to forced labor in logging and mining camps. Child labor is outlawed in Papua New Guinea, but it is estimated that 19 percent of the labor market is composed of child workers. Teenagers, particularly underage girls, are employed in night clubs as hostesses, dancers, and bartenders. The vulnerability to human trafficking of “Mosko Girls”—young girls who are employed in bars to provide companionship to male patrons and sell an alcoholic drink called mosko—emerged as a new trend around major cities in Papua New Guinea in 2012. There are reports of internal trafficking involving children, including girls from tribal areas as young as five, being subjected to commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor by members of their immediate family or tribe. Tribal leaders sometimes trade with each other the exploitative labor and service of girls and women for guns and political advantage. Traditional customs in Papua New Guinea permit parents to sell their daughters into forced marriages—often to wealthy men and politicians—to settle debts, leaving them vulnerable to forced domestic service. Polygamy in Papua New Guinea is also a serious concern, as it affirms patriarchal attitudes that men own women and perpetuates discrimination against women and girls. Young girls sold into polygamous marriages are often forced into domestic service for their husbands’ extended families. In more urban areas, some children from poorer families are prostituted by their parents or sold to brothels. Young boys, as young as 12, are exploited by “market taxis” in urban areas, carrying extremely heavy loads for low pay.

Asian crime rings, foreign logging companies, and foreign businesspeople arrange for some foreign women to voluntarily enter Papua New Guinea with fraudulently issued tourist or business visas. Subsequent to their arrival, many of the women, from countries including Malaysia, Thailand, China, and the Philippines, are turned over to traffickers who transport them to logging and mining camps, fisheries, and entertainment sites, and then exploit them in forced prostitution and domestic servitude. Chinese and local men are exploited for labor at commercial mines and logging camps, where some receive little pay and are compelled to continue working for the company indefinitely through debt bondage schemes. Employers exacerbate workers’ indebtedness by paying substandard wages and charging artificially inflated prices at the company store; in such circumstances, an employee’s only option is to buy food and other necessities on usurious terms of credit.

The Government of Papua New Guinea does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. Despite an overall low level of awareness of trafficking among many government officials, the government acknowledged that human trafficking was a problem in the country and expressed its commitment to increasing law enforcement’s capacity to address it. However, it has not yet enacted draft legislation that would criminalize all forms of trafficking, nor has it investigated or prosecuted suspected trafficking offenders under existing laws, or identified or assisted any trafficking victims during the year. The government appeared to take no action against trafficking-related corruption. Government officials continued to facilitate trafficking by accepting bribes to allow illegal migrants to enter the country or to ignore victims forced into prostitution or labor, and by trading female trafficking victims in return for political favors or votes.

Recommendations for Papua New Guinea: Enact the draft legislation that prohibits and punishes all forms of trafficking; investigate, prosecute, and punish trafficking offenders, including officials who facilitate or directly benefit from trafficking; develop and institute a formal procedure to identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable groups, such as individuals in prostitution and foreign women arriving for work in Papua New Guinea; train law enforcement officers to proactively identify victims and refer them to protective services; ensure that victims of trafficking are not arrested, deported, or otherwise punished for acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked; work with NGOs and international organizations to increase protective services to victims of trafficking; increase collaboration with civil society, religious, and tribal leaders to raise awareness of and reduce demand for forced labor and commercial sex acts; and accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.


The Government of Papua New Guinea did not demonstrate significant progress in its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the year. The government’s draft legislation, which would amend the country’s criminal code by prohibiting human trafficking, was resubmitted to the National Executive Council in early 2012 for signature under a newly elected administration. However, despite the expressed support and recognized importance of the bill from government leaders, it remains pending at the end of the reporting cycle. Papua New Guinea’s existing criminal code prohibits some forms of human trafficking, such as the trafficking of children for commercial sexual exploitation and slavery and the forced labor and slavery of adults. Its definition of forced labor, however, appears to exclude victims who initially consented to a particular job, but were subsequently maintained in that labor or service through force or coercion. Therefore, Papua New Guinea’s laws do not prohibit all forms of trafficking. Penalties prescribed for the crime of child trafficking are up to life imprisonment and are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The criminal code prescribes various penalties under different definitions of forced prostitution of women. These offenses, including holding a woman in a brothel against her will, prescribe fines or sentences of up to two years’ imprisonment, which are not sufficiently stringent. Prescribed penalties of up to seven years’ imprisonment for perpetrators who use fraud, violence, threats, abuse of authority, or drugs to procure a person for purpose of forced prostitution are sufficiently stringent. However, the government did not report investigating, arresting, or prosecuting any trafficking offenders under these statutes. Instead of handling trafficking-related crimes in criminal courts and assigning trafficking offenders criminal penalties, these cases were often referred to village courts, which administered customary law and adjudicated cases resulted in restitution paid by the trafficking offender to the victim. Some victims of internal trafficking (or their parents) who received customary compensation payments from the offender were reluctant to notify police or bring additional criminal charges against traffickers.

Department of Justice and Attorney General (DJAG), with the assistance of foreign funding, trained a total of 78 law enforcement and non-law enforcement government officers and 82 NGO representatives on human trafficking. Wealthy businesspeople, politicians, and police officials who benefitted financially from the operation of commercial sex establishments were not prosecuted. Law enforcement agencies were underfunded, and most government offices remained weak as the result of corruption, cronyism, a lack of accountability, and a promotion system based on patronage. The government did not investigate or prosecute any government officials for complicity in trafficking-related crimes during the year, despite NGO claims that government ministers, police, and other officials may be complicit in commercial sexual exploitation.


The Government of Papua New Guinea did not make any discernible efforts to proactively identify or assist victims of trafficking among vulnerable populations during the reporting period. The government does not operate any victim care facilities for trafficking victims, nor did it refer victims to NGO service providers. Shelters run by NGOs may be available to trafficking victims, but none of these organizations reported identifying or assisting any victims of trafficking during the year. The government did not fund any international organizations or NGOs to assist trafficking victims. Due to poor victim identification by authorities, potential victims who came to the attention of police may have been punished for crimes committed as a direct result of being trafficked. This was especially true for victims of sex trafficking, who may have been prosecuted for violation of the country’s prostitution laws. While laws are in place to protect sex trafficking victims from being penalized for unlawful acts they might have committed as a direct consequence of their being trafficked, there are no such provisions to protect victims of forced labor. The government did not offer legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims of trafficking to countries where they may face hardship or retribution.


During the past year, the Government of Papua New Guinea initiated modest efforts to prevent human trafficking. DJAG, in partnership with an international organization and with funding from a foreign donor, conducted research in four provinces, which identified Papua New Guineans vulnerable to labor and sexual exploitation. This research resulted in organizing various activities. For example, in partnership with an international organization, DJAG conducted several two-hour community-level awareness sessions in various villages and communities during May and June 2012. They also hosted the “One Day Against Human Trafficking” events in which films, presentations, and interactive panel discussions were utilized to increase awareness on human trafficking. Radio campaigns surrounding these awareness events were also delivered nationally, in addition to a special one-day workshop in June at one of the four provinces featured in the report. The National Human Trafficking Committee, chaired by the DJAG, provided informational and logistical support for an anti-trafficking seminar in February 2013, which invited 35 people from seven government agencies to discuss adult and child sex trafficking. The government took no discernible actions, however, to decrease the demand for forced labor or commercial sex acts, and it did not provide anti-trafficking training to Papua New Guinean troops prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions. Papua New Guinea is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.