BRAZIL: Tier 2

Brazil is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Brazilian women and children are exploited in sex trafficking within the country, and federal police report higher child prostitution rates in the north and northeast regions. Brazilian women are found in sex trafficking abroad, often in Western Europe. Women and girls from other South American countries, including Paraguay, are exploited in sex trafficking in Brazil. Transgender Brazilians are forced into prostitution in Brazil. Brazilian men and transgender Brazilians have been exploited in sex trafficking in Spain and Italy. Child sex tourism remains a problem, particularly in resort and coastal areas; many child sex tourists are from Europe. Brazilian law defines trabalho escravo, or slave labor, as forced labor or labor performed during exhausting work days or in degrading work conditions. While not all individuals in trabalho escravo are forced labor victims, many are. Some Brazilian men, and to lesser extent women and children, are subjected to trabalho escravo and debt bondage in rural areas, including in ranching, agriculture, charcoal production, logging, and mining. Exploitation of workers is sometimes linked to environmental damage and deforestation, particularly in the Amazon region. Brazilians are also found in trabalho escravo in urban areas in construction, factories, and the restaurant and hospitality industries. Labor inspectors have identified trabalho escravo used by sub-contractors constructing subsidized housing for a government program. Brazil is a destination for men, women, and children from other countries – including Bolivia, Paraguay, Haiti, and China – exploited in forced labor and debt bondage in many sectors, including construction; the textile industry, particularly in Sao Paulo; and small businesses. Brazilian women and children – 250,000 children are employed as domestic workers in Brazil – as well as girls from other countries in the region are exploited in domestic servitude. Some Brazilian trafficking victims are forced to engage in criminal activity in Brazil and neighboring countries, including drug trafficking. Brazilian forced labor victims have been identified in other countries, including in Europe. NGOs and officials report some police officers tolerate child prostitution, patronize brothels, and rob and assault women in prostitution, impeding proactive identification of sex trafficking victims. Government officials and former officials have been investigated and prosecuted for trabalho escravo.

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. The government improved data collection on victim identification, strengthened penalties for child sex traffickers, and continued awareness-raising efforts. Brazilian statutes prohibiting trafficking do not align with international law, making it difficult to accurately assess government efforts. Most cases took many years to progress to final convictions, and the number of reported convictions was low given the scale of the trafficking problem. Government funding and provision of specialized services for victims was inadequate; authorities confirmed providing services to only a small portion of potential victims identified.


Increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and sentence traffickers, including those engaged in internal sex trafficking not involving movement, and complicit officials; in partnership with civil society, increase funding for specialized services and shelters for victims of sex trafficking and forced labor; vigorously investigate, prosecute, and sentence those who engage in the prostitution of children, including in child sex tourism; amend legislation to harmonize the definition of trafficking with the 2000 UN TIP Protocol and establish sufficiently stringent sentences for traffickers; verify through ongoing oversight that victims of both sex and labor trafficking are referred to comprehensive services and that officials working at social service centers have funding and training to provide specialized care, such as employment assistance; increase oversight of local guardianship councils so child trafficking victims receive specialized services and case management; enhance timely data collection on prosecutions, convictions, and victim identification and care; increase staff dedicated to proactively identifying victims of sex trafficking and domestic servitude; fund the replication of the Mato Grosso job training program for freed laborers in other states; and increase collaboration between government entities involved in combating different forms of trafficking.


Brazilian authorities maintained law enforcement efforts against trafficking, although the lack of a unified anti-trafficking law and comprehensive data made efforts difficult to evaluate. Brazilian laws prohibit most forms of trafficking in persons. Articles 231 and 231-A of the penal code respectively prohibit international and domestic sex trafficking but only if it involves movement, with violence, threats, or fraud as aggravating elements as opposed to necessary elements of the offense. These articles prescribe penalties of two to eight years' imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent but not commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The laws are inconsistent with international law as the crime of trafficking includes movement as a necessary element and also prohibits moving a person for the purposes of prostitution. Officials investigated and prosecuted cases of sex trafficking not involving movement under other statutes, such as those related to pimping or sexual exploitation. Authorities increased penalties for commercial sexual exploitation of children in 2014. Article 149 of the penal code prohibits trabalho escravo, or reducing a person to a condition analogous to slavery, prescribing penalties of two to eight years' imprisonment. Article 149 goes beyond situations in which people are held in service through force, fraud, or coercion to criminalize other treatment, including subjecting workers to exhausting work days or degrading working conditions. Article 149 does not adequately criminalize non-physical coercion, such as threatening foreign victims with deportation unless they continue work. Draft legislation to harmonize the definition of trafficking with the 2000 UN TIP Protocol was before Congress.

Since Brazilian laws related to trafficking also criminalize non-trafficking crimes, and other laws may have been used to prosecute and convict trafficking offenders, the total number of trafficking investigations, prosecutions, and convictions was unknown. In 2014, authorities reported police investigations of 75 cases and five new prosecutions under Article 231; nine investigations and two new prosecutions under Article 231-A; and 290 new or existing investigations under Article 149, but did not report the number of prosecutions initiated under Article 149. In comparison, in 2013 authorities reported police investigations of 77 cases and 16 prosecutions under Article 231; 12 investigations and eight prosecutions under Article 231-A; and 185 investigations and 101 prosecutions under Article 149. Most sex and labor traffickers convicted by lower courts appealed their convictions while out of jail. These judicial processes lasted years and delays made holding traffickers accountable difficult. Sentences issued under trafficking statutes were leniently implemented. Based on incomplete data, in 2014 federal appeals courts upheld the convictions of nine international sex traffickers in two cases and four labor traffickers, compared with seven sex traffickers and five labor traffickers in 2013. Officials reported no final convictions for cases involving child victims. Sex traffickers convicted in 2014 had sentences ranging from one year to eight years and 10 months' imprisonment; however, most convicted traffickers served these sentences under house arrest or by spending only nights in prison while being free during the day. Imposed sentences for convicted labor traffickers were not reported. Research in Sao Paulo state found only three trabalho escravo lower court convictions and none for sex trafficking out of 171 trafficking-related cases registered with criminal prosecutors as of September 2014. In 87 percent of cases, criminal charges were dropped.

Anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts were disjointed due to different laws and government entities involved. Law enforcement units required more funding, expertise, and staff to investigate trafficking, and awareness of trafficking among law enforcement was low. Officials reported bureaucratic hurdles, such as the inability to investigate businesses for sex trafficking without official complaints. Authorities established national and state judicial committees to improve the judiciary's trafficking response. Training for law enforcement remained uneven, especially for state police, though officials reported launching mandatory anti-trafficking training for new federal police. The Ministry of Labor (MOL)'s anti-trabalho escravo mobile units freed workers and required those responsible for their exploitation to pay fines. Labor inspectors and prosecutors could only apply civil penalties, and many trabalho escravo cases were not criminally prosecuted. Local political pressure, threats from landowners, a shortage of labor inspectors or police, and the remoteness of properties hampered some investigations. Officials found domestic servitude particularly difficult to identify and investigate.

Authorities did not report any new investigations of complicit officials in 2014. An ex-mayor from Amazonas state was convicted by a lower court of promoting child prostitution and incarcerated as he appealed his conviction. Authorities did not report taking action against judges who intentionally delayed investigating this ex-mayor in 2013. The government did not report progress on 2013 cases involving a judge in Bahia state allegedly involved in sex trafficking and police officers in Rio de Janeiro allegedly involved in operating a brothel. A supreme labor court found one congressman guilty of trabalho escravo and fined him for collective damages but absolved another congressman of the same crime. The federal supreme court dropped criminal trabalho escravo investigations of several Congress members after they were not re-elected.


The government made uneven progress in victim protection efforts. A government publication provided guidance on how to identify and assist potential trafficking victims, but many officials did not have or did not implement this guidance and lacked guidelines for screening vulnerable populations for trafficking indicators. Government entities used different definitions for trafficking, making it difficult to assess victim identification and assistance efforts. State governments operated 16 state-level anti-trafficking offices, which varied in effectiveness. These offices improved data collection efforts, though unreliable data remained a problem. The anti-trafficking offices and three offices helping migrants at airports reported a total of 85 potential sex trafficking and 844 potential labor trafficking victims in the first half of 2014, and 81 potential sex trafficking and 1,185 potential labor trafficking victims in the latter half; in some cases the same victims were counted twice. Many of the potential labor trafficking victims were identified by MOL mobile inspection units, which identified and freed 1,509 laborers in situations of trabalho escravo in 2014. Officials did not report the total number of victims of domestic servitude or commercial sexual exploitation of children identified in 2014.

The federal government did not fund specialized shelters or services for trafficking victims. General victim services and shelters varied in quality from state to state and generally remained underfunded and inadequate. Anti-trafficking offices were responsible for referring victims to services, but authorities did not report how many victims these offices referred to services. The government operated specialized social service centers across the country where psychologists and social workers provided assistance to vulnerable people. Only 557 centers, or 23 percent, were certified to assist trafficking victims, and many centers were underfunded. Officials generally did not refer individuals in trabalho escravo to these centers. In 2013, the last year for which statistics were available, these centers reported assisting 292 trafficking victims; authorities did not report the age or gender of 228 of these victims, but reported assisting 12 girls, 10 women, 10 boys, and 32 men. There were no specialized services for male and transgender sex trafficking victims. The government did not fund long-term shelter for trafficking victims. Sao Paulo state opened a temporary shelter for refugees and trafficking victims in October 2014 but did not report how many victims stayed at the shelter. Authorities did not report how many child victims were referred to social service centers in 2014, and specialized shelters for child sex trafficking victims were lacking. NGOs and officials reported local guardianship councils often did not have the expertise or resources to correctly identify child victims and refer them to services.

The government provided individuals removed from trabalho escravo with unpaid wages plus three months' minimum wage salary and transportation home, a benefit sex trafficking victims did not receive. While labor prosecutors awarded some workers compensation from fines levied against employers, in some cases officials did not file for these indemnities, and in other cases victims did not receive them due to nonpayment by employers. Authorities did not report the amount of back-pay owed to rescued workers in 2014. Mato Grosso was the only state to provide funds to a program offering vocational training to freed slave laborers. Most rescued slave laborers remained vulnerable to re-trafficking due to few employment alternates and lack of adequate assistance. Some victims were reluctant to testify due to fear of reprisals from traffickers. Sex trafficking victims were eligible for short-term protection under a program for witnesses, but authorities did not report how many victims received protection in 2014. There were no reports victims were penalized for unlawful acts committed as a result of being subjected to human trafficking, though in past years police officers deported foreign citizens in trabalho escravo. The government ombudsman recommended foreign victims should be offered refugee status, although authorities did not report how many victims, if any, received this status in 2014.


The government continued prevention efforts, but coordination among initiatives focused on different forms of trafficking was uneven. The national committee on trafficking included selected NGOs, and officials maintained a separate commission to eradicate trabalho escravo. Authorities issued two reports in 2014 on efforts to implement the 2013-2016 plan for movement-based trafficking. Most federal ministries reported reduced budgets limited their ability to implement the plan. State anti-trafficking offices often lacked adequate human resources and budgets, and interagency coordination was weak in several states. Federal, state, and municipal entities undertook anti-trafficking initiatives and awareness efforts. The MOL published a public list identifying individuals and businesses responsible for trabalho escravo; some companies sued to be removed from the list. The July 2014 list cited 609 employers who were denied access to credit by public and private financial institutions because of this designation. The federal supreme court issued a preliminary ruling to ban the publication of the list in December 2014, and reports indicated in early 2015 major banks and other institutions that would previously not extend credit to companies on this list began to do so. Sao Paulo state law penalized companies using trabalho escravo in their supply chain. Authorities continued awareness campaigns in an effort to reduce the demand for commercial sexual exploitation of children. Officials did not report any new investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of child sex tourists in 2014. There was no reported progress on an ongoing prosecution of a case initially investigated in 2007 involving a fishing tour company that brought U.S. citizens to engage in child sex tourism with indigenous girls in Amazonas state. Brazilian military troops received anti-trafficking training prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions. The government provided anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel.


This 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.