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Iran-women, and children trafficked for sexual exploitation and involuntary servitude. Print E-mail

Iran is a source, transit, and destination for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation and involuntary servitude. Iranian women are trafficked internally for the purpose of forced prostitution and forced marriages. Iranian and Afghan children living in Iran are trafficked internally for the purpose of forced marriages, commercial sexual exploitation and involuntary servitude as beggars or laborers to pay debts, provide income or support drug addiction of their families. Iranian women and girls are also trafficked to Pakistan, Turkey, Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom for commercial sexual exploitation. There are reports of women and girls being sold for marriage to men in Pakistan for the purpose of sexual servitude. Men and women from Pakistan migrate voluntarily or are smuggled to Iran, or through Iran, to other Gulf states, Greece, and Turkey seeking employment. Some find themselves in situations of involuntary servitude or debt bondage, including restriction movements, non-payment of wages, and physical or sexual abuse. There are reports that women from Azerbaijan and Tajikistan travel to Iran to find employment and fall victim to forced prostitution. Press reports indicate that criminal organizations play a significant role in human trafficking to and from Iran, particularly across the borders with Afghanistan and Pakistan in connection with smuggling of migrants, drugs, and arms among large flows of people. There are nearly one million Afghans living in Iran -- some as refugees, others as economic migrants -- who are vulnerable to conditions of human trafficking.

The Government of Iran does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, and is not making significant efforts to do so. Lack of access to Iran by U.S. Government officials impedes the collection of information on the country’s human trafficking problem and the government’s efforts to curb it. The government did not share information on its anti-trafficking efforts with the international community during the reporting period. For example, Iran was not among the 155 countries covered by the UN’s Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, published in February 2009. Publicly available information from NGOs, the press, international organizations, and governments nonetheless support two fundamental conclusions. First, trafficking within, to, and from Iran is extensive; and second, the authorities’ response is not sufficient to penalize offenders, protect victims, and eliminate trafficking. Indeed, some aspects of Iranian law and policy hinder efforts to combat trafficking. These include punishment of victims and legal obstacles to punishing offenders.

Recommendations for Iran: Share with the international community efforts made to investigate trafficking offenses and prosecute and punish trafficking offenders; institute a victim identification procedure to systematically identify and protect victims of trafficking, particularly from among groups such as women arrested for prostitution; and cease the punishment of victims of trafficking.

No reliable information was available on human trafficking investigations, prosecutions, convictions or punishments for trafficking during the past year. Iranian press reports over the year quoted a law enforcement official as stating that 7,172 people were arrested for “trafficking” from January to July 2008, although it was not clear whether this group included human smugglers, those sponsoring prostitution, victims of trafficking, or a mix of these. A 2004 law prohibits trafficking in persons by means of the threat or use of force, coercion, abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability of the victim for purposes of prostitution, removal of organs, slavery or forced marriage. Reports indicate, however, that the law has not been enforced. The Constitution or Labor Code or both prohibit forced labor and debt bondage; the prescribed penalty of a fine and up to one year imprisonment is not sufficient to deter these crimes and does not commensurate with prescribed penalties for grave crimes, such as rape. In addition, the Labor Code does not apply to work in households. The law permits temporary marriage for a fixed term (“sigheh”), after which the marriage is terminated. Some persons abuse this institution in order to coerce women into sexual exploitation; there are reports of Iranian women sold into fixed term marriages to men from Pakistan and Gulf states into forced prostitution. It was extremely difficult for women forced into sexual exploitation to obtain justice, first, because the testimony of two women is equal to that of one man, and second, because women who are victims of sexual abuse are vulnerable to being executed for adultery, defined as sexual relations outside of marriage.

There were no reported efforts by the Government of Iran to improve its protection of trafficking victims this year. The government reportedly punishes victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked, for example, adultery and prostitution. There were reports that the government arrested, prosecuted, and punished several trafficking victims on charges of prostitution or adultery. It is unknown how many victims may have been subjected to punishment during the reporting period for such acts committed as a result of their trafficking experience. Foreign victims of trafficking do not have a legal alternative to removal to countries in which they may face hardship or retribution. According to a March 2009 report citing UNICEF and provincial authorities in Herat, Afghanistan, more than 1,000 Afghan children deported from Iran in 2008 faced poverty and were at risk of abuses, including human trafficking; there were no known efforts to identify trafficking victims among this group. Previous reports indicate that the government does not encourage victims to assist law enforcement authorities as they investigate and prosecute their trafficking cases.

There were no reports of efforts by the Government of Iran to prevent trafficking during the past year, such as campaigns to raise public awareness of trafficking, to reduce demand for commercial sex acts, or to reduce demand for child sex tourism by Iranians traveling abroad. In March 2008, the Iranian government reportedly hosted and co-sponsored with an NGO, a workshop with regional participation on irregular migration, which included discussion of strategies to prevent human trafficking, protect victims, and prosecute traffickers. Iran has not ratified the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.
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