Last Updated: Friday, 25 July 2014, 12:52 GMT

Trafficking in Persons Report 2009 - Brazil

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 16 June 2009
Cite as United States Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report 2009 - Brazil, 16 June 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4a4214cb28.html [accessed 26 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

BRAZIL (Tier 2)

Brazil is a source country for men, women, girls, and boys trafficked within the country and transnationally for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation, as well as a source country for men and boys trafficked internally for forced labor. The Brazilian Federal Police estimate that 250,000 to 400,000 children are exploited in domestic prostitution, in resort and tourist areas, along highways, and in Amazonian mining brothels. According to UNODC, sex trafficking of Brazilian women occurs in every Brazilian state and the federal district. A large number of Brazilian women and children, many from the state of Goias, are trafficked abroad for commercial sexual exploitation, typically to Spain, Italy, Portugal, and The Netherlands. Brazilian women and children also are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation to neighboring countries such as Suriname, Guyana, French Guiana, Venezuela, and Paraguay. More than 25,000 Brazilian men are subjected to slave labor within the country, typically on cattle ranches, sugar-cane plantations, logging and mining camps, and large farms producing corn, cotton, soy, and charcoal for pig iron. Some boys have been identified as slave laborers in cattle ranching, mining, and the production of charcoal for pig iron. Slave labor victims are commonly lured with promises of good pay by local recruiters – known as gatos – in rural northeastern states to interior locations. A growing trend documented in an extensive NGO study released in early 2009 shows that approximately half of the more than 5,000 men freed from slave labor last year were found exploited on plantations growing sugar cane for the production of ethanol, electricity, and food. Moreover, slave laborers are increasingly being rescued from sugar-alcohol plantations, cattle ranches, and other sectors in states where agricultural borders are expanding into the Amazon forest and other new areas such as the Cerrado, the Atlantic Forest, and Pantanal. Domestic child servitude, particularly involving teenage girls, also was a problem in the country. To a lesser extent, Brazil is a destination for the trafficking of men, women, and children from Bolivia and Paraguay for forced labor in garment factories and textile sweatshops in metropolitan centers such as Sao Paulo. Child sex tourism remains a serious problem, particularly in resort and coastal areas in Brazil's northeast. Child sex tourists typically arrive from Europe and, to a lesser extent, the United States. In a newer trend, some arranged fishing expeditions to the Amazon were organized for the purpose of child sex tourism for European and American exploiters.

The Government of Brazil does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Last year the government sustained strong efforts to rescue victims of slave labor through mobile inspection operations in the Amazon and other remote locations, and improved coordination of law enforcement efforts to prosecute and punish traffickers for forced labor and sex trafficking crimes. However, government-provided shelter services and protections for some trafficking victims, particularly adult males and undocumented foreign victims, remained inadequate. Brazilian officials recognize human trafficking as a serious problem; the government's response has been strong but insufficient to eradicate the phenomenon, especially in light of the large number of victims present in the country, in addition to the many Brazilians trafficked overseas.

Recommendations for Brazil: Increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and sentence trafficking offenders, including public officials alleged to facilitate trafficking activity; continue to improve coordination on criminal slave labor cases between labor officials and federal prosecutors to hold exploiters accountable; continue to improve victim assistance and protection, especially for victims of slave labor who are vulnerable to being re-trafficked; consider increasing penalties for fraudulent recruiting crimes to more effectively target and punish unscrupulous recruiters of forced labor; and improve data collection.

Prosecution

The Brazilian government improved law enforcement efforts to confront human trafficking crimes during the past year. Brazilian laws prohibit most forms of trafficking in persons. Sections 231 and 231-A of the Brazilian penal code prohibit promoting or facilitating prostitution inside or outside of the country, prescribing penalties of three to eight years' imprisonment; sentences may be increased up to 12 years when violence, threats, or fraud are used. The above penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Labor trafficking is criminalized pursuant to Section 149 of the penal code, which prohibits trabalho escravo ("slave labor") – or reducing a person to a condition analogous to slavery – including by means of debt bondage, prescribing a sufficiently stringent penalty of two to eight years' imprisonment. However, Brazilian law may not adequately criminalize other means of non-physical coercion or fraud used to subject workers to forced labor, such as threatening foreign migrants with deportation unless they continued to work. Articles 206 and 207 prohibit the fraudulent recruitment or enticement of workers, internally or internationally, prescribing penalties of one to three years' imprisonment. A 2006 presidential decree included a stated goal to amend Brazilian anti-trafficking laws to achieve parity between penalties applied to sex trafficking and forced labor crimes; such amendments remain unrealized.

Comprehensive nationwide data on anti-trafficking investigations, prosecutions, convictions, and sentences are difficult to obtain. However, partial-year statistics for 2008 reported by the Federal Police indicate authorities opened 55 international sex trafficking investigations, filed 21 indictments and arrested 50 suspects. An additional two investigations and indictments were filed for internal sex trafficking crimes. Transnational cases investigated last year include trafficking of Brazilian women to Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Switzerland, in addition to trafficking of Paraguayan women to Brazil. Since March 2008, 22 defendants were convicted on sex trafficking charges, with sentences ranging from 14 months' to more than 13 years' imprisonment. Such results represent an increase when compared to seven sex trafficking convictions and two sentences achieved in 2007.

The government improved efforts to prosecute forced labor crimes last year, opening 64 federal investigations under Article 149. In March 2009, a federal judge in Pará state convicted and sentenced 22 defendants on slave labor charges, imposing sentences ranging from three to 10 years' imprisonment, in addition to fines. The court dismissed charges against 19 defendants, acquitted six defendants, and convicted an additional six defendants of lesser crimes. In a separate case in May 2008, a federal court in Maranhao sentenced a defendant to 11 years' imprisonment for reducing victims to slavery-like conditions; the defendant also was ordered to pay substantial amounts in owed wages to workers. These cases appear to be the first applications of a 2006 Supreme Court ruling, which required that all slave-labor complaints be heard in federal courts only, instead of in both federal and state courts as was the case previously. The Ministry of Labor's anti-slave labor mobile units increased the number of rescue operations conducted last year; the unit's labor inspectors continued to free victims, and require those responsible to pay fines and restitution to victims. In the past, mobile unit inspectors did not typically seize physical evidence or attempt to interview witnesses with the goal of developing a criminal investigation or prosecution; labor inspectors and labor prosecutors only have civil jurisdiction, and their anti-trafficking efforts were not coordinated with public ministry prosecutors, who initiate criminal cases in federal court. Federal interagency coordination and information exchange on anti-trafficking cases remained weak last year; achieving effective coordination among differing federal, state, and municipal authorities was considered more challenging.

The Ministry of Labor's "dirty list," which publicly identifies individuals and corporate entities the government has determined to have been responsible for slave labor, continued to provide civil punishment to those engaged in this serious crime, with the amount of monetary fines increasing along with violators being denied access to publicly funded credit sources. During the year, however, a number of individuals and corporate entities were able to avoid opprobrium by suing to remove their names from the "dirty list" or reincorporating under a different name. Although the government opened no formal investigations or prosecutions of trafficking-related complicity during the past year, credible NGO reporting indicated serious official involvement with such activity at the local level, alleging that police turned a blind eye to child prostitution and potential human trafficking activity in commercial sex sites. Past allegations have involved elected officials, as was the case with two aldermen from Pará alleged to be involved with a child prostitution network. Other reporting indicates that state police officials were involved in the killing or intimidation of witnesses involved in testifying against police officials in labor exploitation or forced labor hearings. Killings and intimidation of rural labor activists and labor union organizers continued, some of whom were active in fighting forced labor practices; some of these killings reportedly occurred with the participation or knowledge of state law enforcement officials. In one incident in February 2008, farmers in Mato Grosso, supported by local military police, fired shots on an anti-slave labor mobile inspection team. A few Brazilian legislators have sought to interfere with the operation of the labor inspection teams in the past.

Protection

The Brazilian government sustained efforts to provide trafficking victims with services during the year. The Ministry of Social Development provided generalized shelter, counseling, and medical aid to adult and child victims of sex trafficking, along with other victims of sexual violence and exploitation. The government also provided some funding to NGOs to furnish additional victim services. The federal Ministry of Justice, with assistance from UNODC, funded victim assistance centers in conjunction with state governments in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Goias, and Cearas. In 2008, an assistance center was opened in Belem, capital of Pará state, to provide care and services to victims trafficked to and from Suriname. A national hotline for reporting incidents of child sexual abuse and exploitation, which includes reports of child sex trafficking and commercial sex exploitation, continued to register calls in 2008. Brazilian police continued to refer child sex trafficking victims to government-run shelters for care, though they did not utilize formal procedures to identify trafficking victims among other vulnerable populations, such as prostituted adult women in brothels. Labor inspectors and police officers who were members of the Ministry of Labor's anti-slave labor mobile units employed procedures to identify victims of forced labor. However, slave labor victims, typically adult Brazilian men, were not eligible for government-provided shelter assistance, though unemployment benefits, job training, and travel assistance were available. Short- or long-term government-provided shelter assistance was provided to women and children victims of trafficking, domestic violence, and other crimes, though some NGOs provided such aid to male victims. During the year, the Ministry of Labor's mobile units identified and freed 5,016 victims of slave labor through 154 operations targeting 290 properties. Such results compare with 5,963 victims of forced labor freed through 114 operations targeting 203 properties in 2007. In a continuing and growing trend documented by an extensive NGO study released in January 2009, approximately half of the victims freed in 2008 were found on plantations growing sugar cane for Brazil's expanding production and export of ethanol, a biofuel, in addition to production of sugar cane for food use and electricity. In just 19 operations, mobile labor units rescued 2,553 victims from forced labor on sugar plantations, where workers can be subjected to high daily production and cutting quotas. However, government officials and researchers also found that while sugar cane production involves large numbers of workers, slave labor on Brazilian cattle ranches involves a higher degree of human exploitation, particularly in land- and forest-clearing activities. Last year, mobile inspection teams freed 1,026 slave workers from cattle ranches in 85 operations, marking it as the sector with the second highest number of victims freed from slave labor in Brazil. The Ministry of Labor awarded all slave labor victims a total of $3.6 million in compensation as a result of these 2008 operations, funds which were derived from fines levied against the landowners or employers identified during the operations. However, due to lack of effective prosecutions of recruiters of slave labor, some rescued victims have been re-trafficked, according to NGOs.

The government encouraged sex trafficking victims to participate in investigations and prosecutions of trafficking, though victims often were reluctant to testify due to fear of reprisals from traffickers and corrupt law enforcement officials. The government did not generally encourage victims of forced labor to participate in criminal investigations or prosecutions. Some victims of sex trafficking were offered short-term protection under a witness protection program, which was generally regarded as lacking resources. The government did not detain, fine, or otherwise penalize identified victims of trafficking for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. However, the government does not provide foreign trafficking victims with legal alternatives to removal to countries where they may face hardship or retribution. Law enforcement personnel noted that undocumented foreign victims were often deported before they could assist with prosecutions against their traffickers.

Prevention

The Brazilian government increased efforts to prevent human trafficking last year. A national plan of action on human trafficking, which was released in early 2008, continued to be implemented. In particular, the Ministry of Justice named the first six winners of an annual cash prize for best anti-trafficking essays written by college and graduate students. Federal authorities generally maintained good cooperation with international organizations and NGOs on anti-trafficking activities. The Ministry of Tourism continued its public radio and television campaign of "Quem ama, protege" (he who loves, protects) aimed at addressing child sexual exploitation in the tourism sector, and produced broadcast versions in several languages. The government took measures to reduce demand for commercial sex acts by conducting campaigns against the commercial sexual exploitation of minors along highways and during the 2009 Carnival holiday period. The Brazilian military uses the U.N. Peacekeeping Office's anti-trafficking and forced labor training modules to train its troops for deployment to international peacekeeping missions.

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