Last Updated: Thursday, 14 December 2017, 13:52 GMT

2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Brazil

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 27 June 2011
Cite as United States Department of State, 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Brazil, 27 June 2011, available at: [accessed 14 December 2017]
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, and children subjected to sex trafficking within the country and abroad, as well as a source country for men and children in forced labor within the country. To a more limited extent, Brazil is a destination and transit country for men and women in forced labor and forced prostitution. According to the UNODC, sex trafficking of Brazilian women and girls occurs in all 26 Brazilian states and the federal district, and the federal police continued to estimate that upwards of 250,000 children were involved in prostitution. A large number of Brazilian women and children are found in sex trafficking abroad, often in European countries, including Spain, Italy, Portugal, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Switzerland, France, Germany, Norway, and Luxembourg, as well as in the United States, and as far away as Japan. Brazilian women and children also are subjected to sex trafficking in neighboring countries such as Suriname, French Guiana, Guyana, and Venezuela. To a lesser extent, women from neighboring countries have been identified in sexual servitude in Brazil. During the year, some Brazilian transsexuals were forced into prostitution within the country, and some Brazilian men and transsexuals were forced into prostitution in Spain and Italy.

Under Brazilian law, the term trabalho escravo, or slave labor, can signify forced labor or labor performed during exhausting work days or in degrading working conditions. More than 25,000 Brazilian men are subjected to trabalho escravo within the country, typically on cattle ranches, logging and mining camps, sugar-cane plantations, and large farms producing corn, cotton, soy, and charcoal, as well as in construction and deforestation. Some children have been identified as slave laborers in cattle ranching, mining, and agriculture. Forced labor victims are commonly lured with promises of good pay by local recruiters – known as gatos – in rural northeastern states to interior locations where many victims are subjected to debt bondage. Many of these internally trafficked laborers originated from the states of Maranhao, Piaui, Tocantins, and Bahia, while Para and Mato Grosso states received the higher number of slave laborers from within the country. Children in domestic servitude, particularly involving teenage girls, also constitute a problem in the country. To a lesser extent, Brazil is a destination for the trafficking of men, women, and children from Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru, and China for forced labor in garment factories and textile sweatshops in metropolitan centers, particularly 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.

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. Human trafficking investigations and prosecutions increased during the year, and authorities convicted seven police officers of trafficking-related complicity. Few convicted trafficking offenders served jail time, however, and there were no reported convictions for internal sex trafficking offenses. Authorities continued mobile labor inspection operations to identify trabalho escravo victims and maintained anti-trafficking offices in eight states to assist trafficking victims and raise awareness. Government-provided shelter services and protections for trafficking victims remained inadequate, including those for male victims of forced labor and sex trafficking. Authorities continued to partner with civil society and international organizations to raise awareness about sex trafficking and to punish companies that profited from trabalho escravo. Despite continued prevention efforts on child sex tourism, there were no reported prosecutions or convictions of child sex tourists.

Recommendations for Brazil: Significantly increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and sentence trafficking offenders, including those involved in internal cases of sex trafficking; vigorously investigate and prosecute those who engage in the prostitution of children; amend legislation to apply more stringent sentences for trafficking offenders so that sentences are not commuted to community service; consider increasing penalties for fraudulent recruiting crimes to target and punish unscrupulous recruiters of forced labor more effectively; increase efforts to prosecute and convict child sex tourists; strengthen the interagency mechanisms at the federal, state, and local level and enhance collaboration between government entities involved in combating forced labor and forced prostitution; increase designated funding for specialized assistance, shelters, and protection for trafficking victims, especially for victims of trabalho escravo who are vulnerable to being re-trafficked; supplement victim services by dedicating resources for male and transsexual victims of sex trafficking; continue to increase training for local level law enforcement officers, judicial officials, and social workers; pass a second national plan to combat trafficking with designated funding for victim services and for law enforcement efforts; and expand partnerships between the government and the business sector to encourage voluntary efforts made by companies to eliminate forced labor.


The Brazilian government maintained law enforcement efforts to confront internal forced labor and transnational forced prostitution during the past year. Few convicted trafficking offenders served jail time, however, and authorities did not vigorously investigate or prosecute internal sex trafficking crimes, including the prostitution of children. In some forced labor and forced prostitution convictions achieved during the year, judges commuted sentences of less than four years' imprisonment to community service, which in rare cases are partially satisfied through making food donations to the victims, thus undercutting in practice the otherwise stringent penalties set forth in the relevant anti-trafficking statutes.

Brazilian laws prohibit most forms of trafficking in persons. Law 12.015, which entered into effect in August 2009, amended Sections 231 and 231-A of the Brazilian Penal Code to strengthen penalties against potential sex trafficking offenders. Sections 231 and 231-A prohibit some forms of sex trafficking – the promoting or facilitating movement to, from, or within the country for the purposes of prostitution or other forms of sexual exploitation, with violence, threats, or fraud as aggravating elements, as opposed to necessary elements of the offense. These articles prescribe penalties of three to eight years' imprisonment; sentences may be increased up to 12 years' imprisonment when violence, threats, or fraud are used, or if the victim is a child. The above penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. These statutes encompass activity that does not constitute trafficking, however, such as movement for the purpose of prostitution, whether across international or state borders. They only prohibit forced prostitution that involves movement. The offenses of forced prostitution without an element of movement is covered under other statutes, including Section 228, which prohibits inducing, attracting, and facilitating the prostitution or sexual exploitation of another person, or impeding or making leaving prostitution or sexual exploitation difficult for another person; penalties range from two to eight years' imprisonment.

Labor trafficking is criminalized pursuant to Section 149 of the penal code, which prohibits trabalho escravo, or reducing a person to a condition analogous to slavery. Section 149, however, goes beyond cases in which people are held in service through forced, fraud, and coercion and includes cases in which persons were subjected to exhausting work days or degrading working conditions. This statute, therefore, prohibits treatment that is considered human trafficking, such as forced labor, as well as other treatment, such as poor labor conditions that are not considered human trafficking. The statutory penalty of two to eight years' imprisonment is sufficiently stringent. In practice, however, few convicted labor trafficking offenders have ever served jail time in Brazil. Brazilian law does not appear to 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 continue to work. A bill first proposed in 2001 that would allow the government to confiscate and redistribute property on which forced labor has been employed remained pending, due to opposition from rural landowners in Congress.

During the reporting period, the federal police reported investigating 74 transnational sex trafficking cases, an increase from 43 investigations during the previous year, and 45 separate criminal suits were filed for sex trafficking in 2010. Authorities prosecuted 31 sex trafficking offenders and achieved four convictions under Article 231. Of the four traffickers convicted under Article 231, two received sentences of three years' imprisonment that were then commuted to community service, a decision being appealed by the prosecutor. The other two received sentences of eight years and 10 months' and eight years and 11 months' imprisonment. In addition, four trafficking offenders were convicted under charges of forming a gang, and received sentences that ranged from fines and community service to 11 years' imprisonment. In comparison, five transnational trafficking offenders were convicted under Article 231 during the previous year. There were no reports of prosecutions or convictions for internal sex trafficking under Article 231-A in 2010, nor were there any convictions for this crime in 2009. Brazilian authorities collaborated with foreign government counterparts in a number of transnational sex trafficking cases involving victims trafficked to Italy, Spain, Portugal, Canada, Switzerland, Mexico, Argentina, Serbia, and the United States.

To investigate potential cases of trabalho escravo, the Ministry of Labor conducted 141 operations targeting 305 properties in 2010, compared with 156 operations involving 350 properties in 2009. The federal police reported investigating 323 potential cases of forced labor in 2010, a significant increase from the 2009, when they reported investigating 142 cases. In most cases, these investigations were in tandem with Ministry of Labor operations. In 2010, authorities filed 177 trabalho escravo civil and criminal suits in federal and labor courts. The largest numbers of cases were filed in the states of Mato Grosso and Para. During the reporting period, federal and labor courts prosecuted two cases involving eight defendants and handed down eight convictions under the trabalho escravo law. Seven convicted offenders were given fines, and one trafficking offender was given a sentence of 3.5 years' imprisonment plus fines, a sentence that was then commuted to community service. In comparison, authorities reported 15 convictions for trabalho escravo during the previous year. During the year, a court upheld a previous fine of $3 million, the largest amount awarded for a trabalho escravo case. Despite a federal ruling in 2006 establishing that trabalho escravo cases fall under federal and not state jurisdiction, NGOs reported that there was occasionally still confusion about which authorities were responsible for these cases, causing delays in prosecutions.

The Ministry of Labor's anti- trabalho escravo mobile units, created in 1995, continued to free victims and require those responsible to pay fines. Fines varied significantly in amount. Over $4.5 million in fines were levied during the year, but there is no public information on how many of these fines were paid. In some cases, mobile unit inspectors did not seize physical evidence or attempt to interview witnesses with the goal of developing a criminal investigation or prosecution; labor inspectors and labor prosecutors can only apply civil penalties, and their efforts were not always coordinated with public ministry prosecutors, who initiate criminal cases in federal court, though federal prosecutors can use labor inspectors' reports as valid evidence in indictments. Local political pressure and the remoteness of areas in which rural trabalho escravo was practiced have been cited as impediments in the investigation of these cases. During the reporting period, local landowners threatened some members of mobile inspection teams in the state of Santa Catarina. Since the murder of three labor inspectors in 2004, mobile inspection teams should be accompanied by federal police for physical protection, though this did not always occur. In urban areas, particularly Sao Paulo, the shortage of labor inspectors, as well as difficulties in prosecuting companies who subcontracted with sweatshops using forced labor, were cited as impediments to criminal prosecution of trafficking offenders, and in most cases inspectors only levied administrative fines.

Credible NGO reporting indicated instances of serious official complicity in trafficking crimes at the local level, alleging that police continued to turn a blind eye to child prostitution and potential human trafficking activity in commercial sex sites. One NGO providing services to sex trafficking victims in Sao Paulo noted that several victims reported receiving threats from certain local police officers. In 2010, authorities sentenced seven police officers for falsifying documents and passports used to facilitate crimes of smuggling and forced prostitution of Brazilian citizens abroad, in the culmination of an investigation launched in 2003. Sentences ranged from 11 years and 4 months' imprisonment to 12 years and four months' imprisonment, plus fines; all were free awaiting appeal at the end of the reporting period. Officials launched an online anti-trafficking training publication during the year, and reported that 8,000 social workers were trained during the reporting period. In 2010, 4,577 federal and state police officials, as well as other law enforcement officials completed online training on human trafficking. The Ministry of Foreign Relations launched a guide for Brazilians returning from abroad intended for Brazilian victims and consular officials and NGOs assisting these victims. An integrated trafficking database that will collect information from law enforcement, the judiciary branch, and anti-trafficking centers around the country will not be launched until 2011, despite plans to do so in 2010.


The Brazilian government made sustained efforts to provide trafficking victims with specialized services during the year; although authorities continued to operate regional offices to assist sex trafficking victims in eight states, funding for victim services was limited, and there were few specialized services or shelters for trafficking victims, particularly for male victims and forced labor victims. Authorities continued to use mobile inspection teams to identify forced laborers, but did not report formal procedures for identifying trafficking victims among other vulnerable populations, such as people in prostitution. The federal government did not fund specialized shelters for trafficking victims. The Ministry of Social Development provides generalized shelter, counseling, and medical aid to women through its network of 400 centers for victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse, although it is unclear how many trafficking victims received services at these centers. These centers do not receive additional funding and some do not receive training to handle trafficking cases. Brazilian police continued to refer child sex trafficking victims to the government-run specialized social service centers for care, where they could be referred to legal and health services and offered temporary shelter for 24 hours, after which the children were referred to families or to an alternate shelter. The only government-funded shelter specifically for trafficking victims opened during the year in Bahia: it was limited only to girls and was funded by the state government with civil society support. Due to a lack of victim identification, the local government decided to open the shelter to girls subjected to other forms of abuse. NGOs noted that some government-run centers were not prepared or willing to handle trafficking cases and were underfunded. NGOs provided additional victim services, and authorities referred victims to NGOs during the reporting period for specialized care. A few NGOs received limited funding from local governments, but most provided these services without this support. Long-term shelter options for sex trafficking victims were generally unavailable.

The Brazilian government, with assistance from UNODC, continued to fund regional anti-trafficking offices in conjunction with state governments in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Goias, Pernambuco, Ceara, Pará, Acre, and Bahia, and launched two additional offices in Acre during the reporting period. These offices are responsible for providing victim assistance, in addition to preventing and combating human trafficking, although NGOs report that quality of service varies, and that some centers focus on public awareness as opposed to victim care. The Pernambuco office reported assisting 398 female trafficking victims during the year, 236 of whom filed formal complaints with the police. Authorities continued to fund assistance posts to aid repatriated citizens who might be trafficking victims at airports in Sao Paulo and Belem and inaugurated posts in Rio de Janeiro and Fortaleza in 2010 and 2011, respectively. The post in Belem only functioned for limited hours and days. During 2010, the Sao Paulo airport post assisted 219 individuals, 13 of which were identified as trafficking victims. Previous plans to open a similar post in Salvador during the year were unrealized.

In 2010, the Ministry of Labor's mobile units identified and freed 2,617 victims of trabalho escravo. In comparison, authorities identified and freed 3,769 victims in 156 operations targeting 350 properties in 2009. The government did not generally encourage victims of trabalho escravo to participate in criminal investigations or prosecutions. Forced labor victims were not eligible for government-provided shelter assistance, though victims who were Brazilian citizens were provided with three months' salary at minimum wage, as well as job training and assistance when available. Although the Ministry of Labor reported awarding forced labor victims a portion of funds that were derived from fines levied against employers identified during operations, forced labor victims in some isolated cases have waited up to 10 years before receiving such compensation. The state of Mato Grosso was one of the only states that funded a program to provide vocational training and other services to freed slave laborers; however, this program is beginning to be replicated by other states. According to NGOs, a significant percentage of rescued slave laborers have been re-trafficked, due to a lack of effective prosecutions of recruiters of trabalho escravo, few alternate forms of employment for the rescued workers, and a lack of legal aid to help them pursue their own complaints against exploitative employers. Authorities, however, reported placing more freed forced labor victims in the Bolsa Familia social welfare program due to improved cooperation between the Ministry of Labor and Employment and the Ministry of Social Development.

The government encouraged sex trafficking victims to participate in investigations and prosecutions of trafficking, and five did so during the reporting period. Some victims were reluctant to testify due to fear of reprisals from traffickers and corrupt law enforcement officials. NGOs allege that police often dismissed cases involving sex trafficking victims, and some victims reported discrimination or prejudicial treatment due to the fact that they had engaged in prostitution prior to being subjected to coercive conditions; in some cases, evidence of initial consent to engage in prostitution prevented the identification of a woman in prostitution as a trafficking victim. Victims of sex trafficking could be offered short-term protection under a protection program for witnesses active in some states, but this program was generally regarded as lacking sufficient resources. The government did not generally detain, fine, or otherwise penalize identified victims of trafficking for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. Some officials and NGOs noted, however, that undocumented victims of forced labor were sometimes threatened with deportation or were deported. In December 2010, the national immigration council issued a decree granting permanent visa status to foreigners considered victims of trafficking. Information on the number of foreign victims receiving this status during the period of January to March 2011, however, was not yet available. Brazilian consular officers received guidance on how to report trafficking cases and assist trafficking victims.


The Brazilian government maintained strong efforts to prevent human trafficking last year. Federal authorities generally maintained good cooperation with international organizations and NGOs on anti-trafficking activities. The first national anti-trafficking action plan ended in January 2010, and authorities published an in-depth analysis of the plan's implementation during the reporting period. In November 2010, the Ministry of Justice convened the first national meeting of the Network to Combat Trafficking to analyze the first plan; authorities reported spending $200,000 to bring over 200 representatives from NGOs, international organizations, and government agencies at the federal, state, and local level to participate. Officials used feedback from this event to begin drafting a second national plan for 2011-2013 during the year and to seek public commentary, although it was not published at the time of this writing. There was no permanent interagency committee to address sex trafficking, though there was an assessment group to oversee the implementation of the first national plan, which met irregularly. Some states or municipalities had local-level anti-trafficking coalitions or committees, and the state of Sao Paulo established 11 regional committees during the year. The national Commission to Eradicate Slave Labor, a permanent council composed of government agencies, civil society organizations and international organizations, continued to coordinate efforts against forced labor, and six states had local commissions displaying varying degrees of activity. Civil society organizations, religious officials, and various federal, state, and municipal agencies collaborated on anti-trafficking initiatives. Authorities maintained partnerships with foreign governments to cooperate on anti-trafficking efforts.

The Ministry of Labor's "dirty list," which publicly identifies individuals and corporate entities the government has determined to have been responsible for crimes under the trabalho escravo law, continued to impose civil penalties on those engaged in this serious crime. According to NGOs and the Ministry of Labor, the "dirty list" is the most effective tool against trabalho escravo, although a study released in 2010 found that only half of the companies on the list between 2004 and 2007 have been subject to criminal prosecution. The most recent version, released in December 2010, cited 220 employers, some of whom were denied access to credit by public and private financial institutions because of this designation. During the year, however, a large company that had previously sued to remove its name from the list reportedly negotiated a temporary injunction with the Federal Solicitor General's office to keep its name off the list, a move protested by NGOs and other government officials as undermining the dirty list's effectiveness. The agreement is not yet finalized.

A national hotline for reporting incidents of child sexual abuse and exploitation received approximately 12,000 calls on sexual exploitation of children, including a total of 38 reported calls on children moved for the purposes of prostitution. Authorities partnered with civil society and the business sector to provide vocational training to adolescents who were vulnerable to sexual exploitation. The government took public measures to reduce demand for commercial sexual exploitation of children by conducting a multi-media campaign during the 2011 Carnival holiday period targeting the 12 cities that will host the 2014 World Cup, as well as three other cities. Authorities continued to reduce demand for commercial sex acts involving children along Brazil's highways and published a report mapping vulnerable points of child prostitution along federal highways. There were no reported efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sexual activity involving adults. Despite the significant number of child sex tourists visiting Brazil, there were no reports of prosecutions or convictions for child sex tourism during the reporting period. Authorities, however, cooperated with U.S. officials on one child sex tourism case pursued in U.S. courts and reported working with European countries' law enforcement and judicial officials to combat child sex tourism. The Brazilian military used the UN Peacekeeping Office's anti-trafficking and forced labor training modules to train its troops prior to their deployment abroad as part of international peacekeeping missions.

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