Last Updated: Monday, 19 February 2018, 14:34 GMT

2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Brazil

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Brazil, 19 June 2012, available at: [accessed 20 February 2018]
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 large 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, women, and children in forced labor and sex trafficking. A significant number of Brazilian women and children are exploited in sex trafficking within the country, and federal police report higher rates of child prostitution in the Northeast. A large number of Brazilian women are found in sex trafficking abroad, often in European countries, including Spain, Italy, Portugal, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Switzerland, France, and Germany, as well as in the United States, and as far away as Japan. Some 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, some women from neighboring countries have been exploited in sex trafficking in Brazil. Some transgender Brazilians are forced into prostitution within the country, and Brazilian men and transgender Brazilians have been exploited in sex trafficking in Spain and Italy. 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.

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. It is unclear how many individuals identified in trabalho escravo are trafficking victims: however, a study published during the year noted that 60 percent of workers interviewed in rural trabalho escravo had experienced key indicators of forced labor. Thousands of Brazilian men are subjected to trabalho escravo within the country, often 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 in trabalho escravo in cattle ranching, deforestation, mining, and agriculture. Civil society organizations identified a strong link between environmental degradation and deforestation, particularly of the Amazon, and incidence of trabalho escravo. Forced labor victims are commonly lured with promises of good pay by local recruiters – known as gatos – in northeastern states, such as Maranhao, Piaui, Tocantins, to other locations, particularly Para, Mato Grosso, Goias, and Sao Paulo, where many victims are subjected to debt bondage. While many of these victims were migratory workers, in one case victims were subjected to a system of debt bondage in brick making for more than 30 years. Domestic servitude, particularly of teenage girls, also remains a problem in the country. To a lesser extent, Brazil is a destination for men, women, and children from Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru, and China in situations of trabalho escravo in garment factories and textile sweatshops in metropolitan centers, particularly Sao Paulo. Some of these sweatshops are sub-contractors for large companies, a number of which are international.

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. Authorities continued efforts to investigate sex and labor trafficking crimes, but data collection on trafficking prosecutions and convictions continued to be a challenge. There were nine reported human trafficking convictions during the reporting period, while over 2,800 potential trafficking victims were identified in 2011 through continued mobile labor inspection operations to identify trabalho escravo and by anti-trafficking offices in 14 states. Government-provided specialized shelter and services for victims of all forms of trafficking victims remained inadequate. Authorities continued to partner with civil society and international organizations to raise awareness about sex trafficking and trabalho escravo. Despite continued prevention efforts on child sex tourism and investigations of commercial sexual exploitation of children, there were no reported prosecutions or convictions of child sex tourists.

Recommendations for Brazil: Increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and sentence trafficking offenders, including those involved in internal cases of sex trafficking; increase dedicated funding for specialized assistance, shelters, and protection for victims of sex trafficking and of forced labor, in partnership with civil society; vigorously investigate and prosecute those who engage in the prostitution of children, including through child sex tourism; amend legislation to apply more stringent sentences for trafficking offenders; strengthen the interagency mechanisms at the federal, state, and local level and enhance collaboration between government entities involved in combating trabalho escravo, sex trafficking, and child prostitution, in order to ensure coordinated efforts against all forms of human trafficking; continue to increase training for local-level law enforcement officers, judicial officials and labor officials, and social workers; pass and implement a second national plan to combat trafficking; and strengthen 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. There was limited public information on government efforts to prosecute and convict internal sex trafficking offenders, including those involved in the prostitution of children. In some trabalho escravo convictions achieved during the year, federal judges commuted sentences of less than four years' imprisonment to community service, 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. Articles 231 and 231-A of the penal code 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 12 years' imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. These statutes prohibit movement of a person for the purpose of prostitution, which is not a trafficking crime as defined in the 2000 UN TIP Protocol. Other statutes prohibit sex trafficking that does not involve moving the victim.

Some labor trafficking offenses are criminalized pursuant to article 149 of the penal code, which prohibits trabalho escravo, or reducing a person to a condition analogous to slavery. Article 149, however, goes beyond situations in which people are held in service through force, fraud or coercion and includes situations in which persons were subjected to exhausting work days or degrading working conditions. This statute, therefore, prohibits some activities that are considered human trafficking, such as forced labor, as well as other conditions, such as poor labor conditions, that are not considered human trafficking. In practice few convicted labor trafficking offenders have served jail time in Brazil. Brazilian law does not appear to adequately criminalize non-physical coercion or fraud used to subject workers to forced labor, such as threatening foreign victims with deportation unless they continue to work. Article 207 of the penal code does, however, prohibit fraudulent recruitment of workers, with sentences of one to three years' imprisonment.

During the year, legislators presented several draft federal trafficking laws, as well as new draft trabalho escravo laws, and legislators called for higher sentences for trafficking crimes. Some Ministry of Justice officials echoed the need for increased penalties, noting that under current statutes many convicted traffickers can serve their sentences under house arrest. During the reporting period, both houses of Congress established official committees to investigate sex trafficking in Brazil. Officials noted that delays in the justice system made it difficult to hold traffickers accountable for their crimes. The federal judiciary partnered with the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Labor, the Federal Prosecutor's office, state representatives and several diplomatic missions to launch a working group on developing a judicial strategy against trafficking.

In 2011, there were no reports of prosecutions or convictions for internal sex trafficking under Article 231-A, nor were there any reported convictions for this crime in 2010 or 2009. The federal police reported investigating 67 transnational sex trafficking cases, compared with 74 such investigations during the previous year. Authorities reported prosecuting five transnational sex trafficking cases and two convictions under Article 231, with sentences of five years' imprisonment; the traffickers were free to appeal their convictions while out on bail. In comparison, four transnational trafficking offenders were convicted under Article 231 during the previous year. In January 2012, Brazilian authorities worked with Mexican officials to extradite a German citizen previously convicted of transnational sex trafficking in Brazil in 2010.

To investigate potential cases of trabalho escravo, the Ministry of Labor conducted 164 operations targeting 331 properties in 2011, compared with 142 operations involving 310 properties in 2010. The federal police reported investigating 63 potential cases of trabalho escravo in 2011, in comparison with 142 cases in 2010. In most cases, these investigations were in tandem with Ministry of Labor operations. Many investigations were the result of complaints filed by civil society organizations or by labor authorities; the NGO that filed the most of these complaints noted that only half of the cases they referred to authorities were investigated. There was no information available regarding the total number of trabalho escravo civil and criminal suits filed in federal and labor courts in 2011; 177 cases were filed in 2010. There were no comprehensive data on how many labor traffickers federal and labor courts prosecuted during the reporting period; however, media reports indicated that authorities convicted seven possible labor trafficking offenders, including one former congressman, under the trabalho escravo statute. Sentences for these seven convicted offenders ranged from four to seven years and ten months' imprisonment. Three of these sentences were commuted to community service, which in one case was fulfilled by the payment of one month's minimum wage salary to a health center; other labor traffickers convicted in 2011 were eligible to appeal their convictions while out on bail or to serve sentences in a half-way home. In comparison, authorities reported eight convictions for trabalho escravo during the previous year. One NGO noted that only ten percent of trabalho escravo cases were criminally prosecuted. Civil society actors reported that there continued to be occasional confusion about which authorities were responsible for prosecuting trabalho escravo cases, which resulted in delays in prosecutions. Furthermore, NGOs identified several cases of individuals and companies with multiple accusations and investigations involving trabalho escravo against them, indicating the difficulty in preventing recurrence of this crime.

The Ministry of Labor's anti-trabalho escravo mobile units, created in 1995, continued to free laborers and require those responsible to pay fines. Fines varied significantly in amount, and some were invested in anti-trafficking infrastructure. It was unclear how many fines were levied in 2011 and there is no public information on how many 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 prevalent have been cited as impediments in the investigation of these cases. Since the murder of three labor inspectors in 2004, a case in which the accused have yet to be tried, mobile inspection teams were to be accompanied by federal police for physical protection. This did not always occur, and in some cases state labor prosecutors reported being unable to investigate cases due to a lack of federal police officers to accompany them. The Ministry of Labor released a manual on fighting trabalho escravo for inspectors. In urban areas, particularly Sao Paulo, the shortage of labor inspectors, as well as difficulties in prosecuting companies who subcontracted with sweatshops using trabalho escravo, were cited as impediments to criminal prosecution of trafficking offenders, and in most cases inspectors only levied administrative fines.

Credible NGOs continued to report 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. There were no reports of investigations, prosecutions, or convictions for official complicity involving sex trafficking during the year. Some elected officials were reported to own property where trabalho escravo occurred, and the Supreme Court accepted cases against two congressmen under Article 149 during the reporting period. Authorities trained law enforcement officials and labor inspectors on how to identify trafficking cases and assist victims, often in collaboration with civil society organizations or foreign governments. Authorities reported launching an integrated national database that has been in development for three years, but implementation was uneven. This database collects information on sex trafficking and trabalho escravo, as well as other federal-level crimes, from law enforcement, the judicial branch, and anti-trafficking offices around the country.


The Brazilian government maintained limited efforts to ensure that trafficking victims had access to specialized services during the year; although authorities operated regional anti-trafficking offices in 14 states, funding for victim services was limited, and there were few specialized services or shelters for victims of sex trafficking or forced labor. Authorities continued to use mobile inspection teams to identify forced laborers, but did not report systematic procedures for identifying sex trafficking victims among other vulnerable populations, such as people in prostitution. There were no comprehensive statistics regarding the number of sex trafficking victims identified and assisted during the year. The federal government did not fund specialized shelters for trafficking victims. The Ministry of Social Development provided generalized shelter, counseling, and medical aid to women through its nationwide network of 187 centers and 72 shelters for victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse, though 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, and many services were limited due to lack of funding. 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 is in Salvador; it cared for female minors and was funded by the state government with civil society support. NGOs noted some government-run centers were not prepared or willing to handle trafficking cases and were underfunded. NGOs and international organizations 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. Services for male and transgender sex trafficking victims were lacking. Long-term shelter options for sex trafficking victims were generally unavailable.

The federal government, with assistance from an international organization, continued to fund regional anti-trafficking offices in partnership with state governments in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Goias, Pernambuco, Ceara, Para, Acre, and Bahia, and opened offices in Algoas, Amapa, the Federal District, Minas Gerais, Parana, Rio Grande do Sul, and a second office in Sao Paulo during the reporting period. These offices are responsible preventing and combating human trafficking, as well as coordinating victim assistance. NGOs reported that the quality of services varied, and that some centers focused on public awareness as opposed to victim care. During 2011, the Sao Paulo office reported assisting 179 victims, 114 of which were transgender Brazilians. The office in Fortaleza reported assisting 241 victims during the year. Authorities continued to fund assistance posts at airports in Sao Paulo, Belem, Rio de Janeiro and Fortaleza, to aid repatriated citizens who might be trafficking victims. It also opened posts in Acre and Amazonas during the year; some of these posts functioned with limited schedules.

In 2011, the Ministry of Labor's mobile units conducted 164 operations that identified and freed 2,428 laborers in situations of trabalho escravo: it is unclear how many of these laborers were victims of forced labor. In comparison, authorities identified and freed 2,628 workers in 2010 with 142 operations. A study published during the year reported that only 13 percent of workers that had experienced strong indicators of forced labor were rescued by mobile units during their exploitative experience, suggesting that many exploited workers and forced labor victims remain unidentified. 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 unpaid wages plus three months' salary at minimum wage, as well as job training and assistance when available. Although the Ministry of Labor reported awarding some victims monetary compensation from fines levied against employers, in some cases authorities did not file for these indemnities, and in other cases the victims did not receive them due to non-payment by traffickers. However, authorities reported that rescued workers received approximately $3.4 million in back-pay and damages in 2011. The state of Mato Grosso continued to fund a program to provide vocational training in construction skills and other services to freed slave laborers, and was one of the only states to do so. In partnership with a university and an NGO, the press reported that over 25 workers received jobs building stadiums for the upcoming large events through this program. According to NGOs and international organizations, a significant percentage of rescued slave laborers have been re-trafficked, due to few alternate forms of employment and a lack of substantive assistance and services. An NGO working with forced labor victims in Maranhao noted that none of the 70 rescued victims it assisted between 2009 and 2011 received any government assistance with job training, lodging, or education.

The government encouraged sex trafficking victims to participate in investigations and prosecutions of trafficking, although it did not report if any did so in 2011. 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 prejudicial treatment due to the fact that they had engaged in prostitution prior to being subjected to coercive conditions. In some states, victims of sex trafficking were eligible for short-term protection under a program for witnesses, but this program was generally regarded as lacking sufficient resources. The government generally did not detain, fine, or otherwise penalize identified victims of trafficking for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. Foreign victims of trafficking were eligible for permanent visa status; however, authorities did not report if any victims received this status in 2011. Brazilian consular officers received guidance on how to report trafficking cases and assist trafficking victims; however, a report released during the year noted that Brazilian victims exploited in Europe were afraid to seek the assistance of consulate officials and, when they did so, were sometimes disappointed in the assistance they received.


The Brazilian government maintained efforts to prevent human trafficking last year in partnership with state governments, international organizations and NGOs. Authorities gathered extensive civil society and federal, state, and local government input to draft a second national plan for 2012-2016, as the first national plan ended in January 2010. As of April 2012, the plan awaited the President's signature. There was no permanent interagency committee to address trafficking, but the National Secretary of Justice was responsible for coordinating anti-trafficking activities, including coordinating the interagency group developing the second national plan. Some states or municipalities had local-level anti-trafficking coalitions or committees. The national Commission to Eradicate Slave Labor, a permanent council composed of government agencies, NGOs and international organizations, continued to coordinate efforts against trabalho escravo, and eight states had local commissions displaying varying degrees of activity. Civil society organizations, religious officials, foreign governments and various federal, state, and municipal agencies collaborated on anti-trafficking initiatives. The federal police provided training to law enforcement officials in other Lusophone countries.

The Ministry of Labor publishes a "dirty list," which publicly identifies individuals and corporate entities the government has determined to have been responsible for trabalho escravo and are subject to civil penalties. While some NGOs, an international organization, and the Ministry of Labor cite the "dirty list" as an effective tool against trabalho escravo, a study has found that many companies on the list were not subjected to criminal prosecutions. The most recent version of the list, released in December 2011, added 52 new entries for a total of 294 total employers, some of whom were denied access to credit by public and private financial institutions because of this designation. Only two companies were taken off the list; the others were not deemed to have addressed irregularities, paid fines, and or avoided reoccurrence of trabalho escravo during a two-year monitoring period.

A hotline for victims of gender-based violence was expanded to receive toll-free calls from Italy, Spain, and Portugal; the vast majority of calls received by the hotline in 2011 related to domestic violence. Authorities continued partnerships 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 2012 Carnival holiday period. 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. The Brazilian government provided anti-trafficking training to its military troops prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.

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