Papua New Guinea

Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Tier 3

Papua New Guinea is a source and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Foreign and Papua New Guinean women and children are subjected to sex trafficking and domestic servitude, and foreign and Papua New Guinean men are subjected to forced labor in logging and mining camps. An estimated 19 percent of Papua New Guinea’s labor market is comprised of child workers—some of whom are subjected to forced labor or child prostitution. “Mosko Girls”—young girls employed in bars to provide companionship to male patrons and sell an alcoholic drink called mosko—are vulnerable to human trafficking, especially around major cities in Papua New Guinea. NGO sources indicate that children in prostitution increased by 30 percent in 2013. Boys as young as 12 are exploited as “market taxis” in urban areas and required to carry extremely heavy loads for low pay; some may be victims of forced labor. Reports continue to allege that high-ranking public officials condone, are engaged in, or benefit from sex trafficking in Papua New Guinea.

Children, including girls from tribal areas as young as five, are reportedly subjected to commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor by members of their immediate family or tribe. Tribal leaders reportedly trade with each other the exploitative labor and service of girls and women for guns and to forge political alliances. Traditional customs in Papua New Guinea permit parents to sell or give away their daughters for forced marriages—often to wealthy men and politicians—to settle debts or as peace offerings, leaving the girls vulnerable to domestic servitude. Polygamy in Papua New Guinea can affirm patriarchal attitudes that men own women and perpetuate discrimination against women and girls. Young girls sold into polygamous marriages may be forced into domestic service for their husbands’ extended families. In urban areas, parents reportedly prostitute their children directly or in brothels as a mean to support their families or to pay for school fees.

Malaysian and Chinese 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 Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, China, and the Philippines—are turned over to traffickers who transport them to logging and mining camps, fisheries, and entertainment sites, and exploit them in forced prostitution and domestic servitude. Chinese, Malaysian, and local men are reportedly subjected to forced 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 low wages; in such circumstances, an employee’s only option is to buy food and other necessities at 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. In 2013, the government conducted two labor trafficking investigations and initiated one prosecution against an alleged trafficking offender. The government continued to lack a formal victim identification procedure or referral mechanism. The government did not investigate police officers and other government officials allegedly involved in human trafficking, despite reports of trafficking-related corruption at the highest levels of government. Government officials continued to facilitate trafficking by accepting bribes to allow illegal migrants to enter the country or ignore trafficking situations, and may have traded female trafficking victims in return for political favors or votes.

Recommendations for Papua New Guinea:

Investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses under the recently enacted anti-trafficking law; punish trafficking offenders, including officials who facilitate or directly benefit from trafficking, using the recently enacted legislation; develop a national plan of action that outlines Papua New Guinea’s commitment to combat trafficking under the recently enacted legislation; develop and institute a formal procedure to identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable groups, such as women and children subjected to prostitution and foreign women and men arriving for work in Papua New Guinea; train law enforcement officers to proactively identify victims and refer them to protective services; develop and implement procedures to 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, private sector, 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 increased its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. In July 2013, the parliament passed the Criminal Code Amendment Bill of 2012, which prohibits all forms of trafficking, but the bill had not entered into force during the reporting period. The law prescribes penalties for adult sex and labor trafficking of up to 20 years’ imprisonment; it prescribes penalties for child sex and labor trafficking of up to 25 years’ imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.

In 2013, the government initiated two labor trafficking investigations and one prosecution of alleged labor trafficking offenses. Customs and Border Management (CBM) initiated an investigation of an Australian citizen who allegedly recruited and abused six crewmembers from Croatia, Jamaica, and Fiji onboard a tugboat. CBM determined that the crewmembers were trafficking victims, but the government did not file criminal charges against the alleged trafficker because he fled the country. In 2013, the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (National Police) arrested a Filipino national and charged her with “deprivation of liberty” for confining her Papua New Guinean national maid. The defendant was let out on bail and the court deferred the trial. Government officials often did not prosecute trafficking-related crimes in criminal courts; rather, trafficking-related cases were often referred to village courts, which administered customary law. Cases adjudicated in these courts resulted in restitution paid by the trafficking offender to the victim but do not order imprisonment of offenders. Some victims of internal trafficking, or their parents, who received compensation from offenders were reluctant to notify police or bring criminal charges against traffickers.

The Department of Justice and Attorney General (DJAG), with foreign funding, trained a total of 70 law enforcement and 60 social service providers and representatives of the Department for Community Development in three provinces on human trafficking. The government continued to underfund law enforcement agencies, 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 official for complicity in trafficking-related crimes during the year, despite allegations 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 trafficking victims, but minimally assisted trafficking victims. In 2013, the government identified seven labor trafficking victims. The government continued to lack a formal victim identification procedure or referral mechanism. The government did not operate any victim care facilities for trafficking victims, but referred the six foreign labor trafficking victims to a shelter for care before they were repatriated. None of the shelters run by NGOs or international organizations received financial or in-kind assistance from the government. Due to inadequate victim identification efforts by authorities, the government may have punished potential victims 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. The government did not offer legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims of trafficking to countries where they may face hardship or retribution.


The government made minimal efforts to prevent human trafficking. The government continued efforts to create a National Human Trafficking Committee chaired by DJAG; however, this committee did not meet regularly during the reporting year. The government does not have a national plan of action to address human trafficking. The government took no discernible actions to decrease the demand for forced labor or commercial sex acts. Papua New Guinea is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.