In its annual report on human trafficking, the State Department called Iran a “presumed source, transit, and destination country for men, women and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor.” The number of teenage girls in prostitution has reportedly risen significantly in Tehran. Between 35,000 and 50,000 children are forced by their parents or other adults to beg in the capital’s streets or work in sweatshops. The Islamic Republic has earned the lowest possible ranking on handling human trafficking every year since 2006. The following is an excerpt from the 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report.
Iran is a presumed source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Iranian and Afghan boys and girls residing in Iran are allegedly forced into prostitution within the country. In Tehran, there has reportedly been a recent significant increase in the number of teenage girls in prostitution. Iranian women, boys, and girls are purportedly subjected to sex trafficking in Iran, as well as in Pakistan, the Persian Gulf, and Europe. Azerbaijani women and children are also believed to be subjected to sex trafficking in Iran. According to some estimates, there are 35,000-50,000 children forced by their parents or other adults to beg in the streets of Tehran or to work in sweatshops; some of these children are also reportedly forced into prostitution in Iran and abroad.
Afghan migrants and refugees are reportedly subjected to forced labor in Iran. Pakistani men and women migrate voluntarily to Iran for low-skilled employment such as domestic work and construction. Some are suspected of being subsequently subjected to conditions of forced labor, including debt bondage, and experience restriction of movement, nonpayment of wages, and physical or sexual abuse. NGO reports indicate criminal organizations, sometimes politically connected, play a significant role in human trafficking in Iran. Unconfirmed reports indicate that some religious leaders and immigration officials are involved in human trafficking.
The Government of Iran does not comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. The government did not share information on its anti-trafficking efforts with the international community during the reporting period; this impedes the collection of information on the country’s human trafficking problem and the government’s efforts to curb it. Publicly available information from NGOs, the press, international organizations, and other governments indicate that the Iranian government is not taking sufficient steps to address its extensive trafficking challenges.
Recommendations for Iran
Share anti-trafficking data with the UN and develop partnerships with international organizations; institute victim identification procedures to proactively identify victims of trafficking, particularly among vulnerable populations such as persons in prostitution, children in begging rings, and undocumented migrants; offer specialized protection services to victims of trafficking, including shelter and medical, psychological, and legal assistance; take measures to ensure sex and labor trafficking victims are not punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to sex trafficking or forced labor; increase transparency in government anti-trafficking policies and activities through public reporting; and accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.
The Government of Iran made no discernible law enforcement efforts against human trafficking during the reporting period. A 2004 law prohibits trafficking in persons by means of threat or use of force, coercion, abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability of the victim for purposes of prostitution, slavery, or forced marriage. The prescribed penalty under this law reportedly is up to 10 years’ imprisonment, which is sufficiently stringent, but not commensurate with penalties prescribed under Iranian law for other serious crimes, such as rape. The Constitution and labor code both prohibit forced labor and debt bondage; the prescribed penalty of a fine and up to one years’ imprisonment is not sufficient to deter these serious crimes. In addition, the labor code does not apply to work in households. NGOs reported that these laws remained unenforced due to a lack of political will and widespread corruption. There were no reports of investigations or prosecutions of trafficking cases or convictions of trafficking offenders. It was reportedly extremely difficult for female trafficking victims to obtain justice; Iranian courts accorded legal testimony by women only half the weight accorded to the testimony by men, and women who were victims of sexual abuse were liable to be prosecuted for adultery, which is defined as sexual relations outside of marriage and is punishable by death. The government did not report efforts to investigate or punish government employees complicit in trafficking related offenses. There were reports that government officials were involved in the sex trafficking of women and girls; some officials that operated shelters for runaway girls reportedly forced them into prostitution rings.
The Government of Iran made no discernible efforts to protect victims of trafficking during the reporting period. There is no evidence that the government has a process to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations found in the country. Iran has deported large numbers of undocumented Afghans without attempting to identify trafficking victims among them. The government also has reportedly punished victims of sex trafficking for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking, for example, adultery and prostitution. There were reports that government officials raped individuals held in detention, some of whom may have been trafficking victims. There were no reports that the government referred trafficking victims to protective services. Some welfare organizations unrelated to the government may have helped Iranian trafficking victims.
The government reportedly opened several shelters for street children in Tehran, though it is unclear what type of services were available to children in these shelters or if the shelters served any child victims of trafficking. There is no information to indicate the government provided assistance to repatriated Iranian victims of trafficking. The Iranian government did not provide foreign victims of trafficking with a legal alternative to removal to countries in which they may face hardship or retribution.
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. There was no apparent improvement in the transparency of the government’s reporting on its own anti-trafficking policies or activities and no apparent efforts to forge partnerships with international organizations or NGOs in addressing human trafficking problems. Iran is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.