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Brazzil - Children - May 2004

Brazil Too Lenient on Child Sex Predators

A Brazilian Congress Commission will propose changes in Brazil's
Penal Code to impose more rigorous punishment for sexual
crimes against children and adolescents. Today, these crimes
are considered "offenses against public morals" and not sexual
crimes. And rape is a violation only when the victims are females.

Benedito Mendonça


Picture A Manifesto Against Child Sex Abuse and Exploitation got underway, May 6, along the main stretches of highways in Brazil. The objective is to alert truck drivers and transport company owners to the seriousness of the problem.

Signatures are being gathered to support the campaign and will accompany a document to be delivered to President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on May 18, National Day to Combat the Abuse and Exploitation of Children and Adolescents.

On this date the President is expected to sign the National Convention for the Eradication of Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents, proposed by the National Congress's Joint Parliamentary Investigating Commission (CPMI) responsible for probing this type of crime.

The commission, which was installed last June, received around 800 denunciations from all over the country, visited 15 states, conducted outside inquiries, and will request the Federal Prosecutors Office (MPU) to indict approximately 100 people, among procurers and perpetrators of abuse.

Arley Arseno, who is a trucker from the state of Paraná, in the South of Brazil, and has spent 12 years transporting cargo on the country's highways, confirms the monstrous increase in the number of children and adolescents who work as roadside prostitutes.

According to him, one commonly sees many children in the 12-18 age bracket in this condition along highways throughout the country. The trucker blames the problem on the economic difficulties faced by low-income segments of the population.

The roadblocks set up at the points where truck traffic is heaviest are under the command of representatives of units from the Social Service of Transportation (Sest) and the National Transportation Apprenticeship Service (Senat), with support from the National Childrens' Rights Agency (Andi). They are also in charge of gathering signatures from the truck drivers.

According to the director of the Sesf and the Senat, Antônio Cardoso, the purpose of the barriers is to gather signatures from all over Brazil for the president of the National Transport Confederation (CNT), Clésio Andrade, to show President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva what is being done in this area. According to Cardoso, the drivers are starting to become aware that this is a crime, and they can serve as another channel of communication to help the Confederation attack the problem.

Sites of Child Prostitution

The CPMI on Sexual Exploitation received a survey from Federal Highway Police inspector Junie Pena of the principal locations where child prostitution is practiced along Brazilian highways.

Pena informed that there are two new routes for trafficking children out of the country. They are transported by truck from the North of Brazil to Surinam and from the South, to Argentina and Uruguay.

Deputy Maria do Rosário from Rio Grande do Sul's Workers'Party (PT), rapporteur of the CPMI, said that some truckers facilitate the trafficking and exploitation of children and adolescents by transporting them from one state to another and even beyond the country's borders.

According to her, the CPMI will work to raise the consciousness of truckers and seek partnerships with the class to diminish the trafficking and exploitation of children and adolescents.

The representative of the CNT, Maria Tereza Pantoja, observed that truckers, instead of being stigmatized, should be transformed into agents to help combat this crime. According to her, "the general issue is the poverty in Brazil, where 42 percent of the population doesn't earn enough to sustain itself."

Penal Code

On June 8, the CPIM on Sexual Exploitation will present a set of changes that can be made in the Penal Code to impose more rigorous punishment for sexual crimes against children and adolescents. One of the main proposals is to convert these crimes from the Penal Code's present category of "offenses against public morals" to "sexual crimes." Another important point is the broader interpretation of such crimes.

According to the Penal Code, for example, rape is a violation only when the victims are females. Experts propose that the crime be classified as sexual violence against people, thus making it possible to punish attacks on boys with greater severity.

The suggestions also include making it a crime to traffic people for sexual ends within Brazilian territory. Current legislation only considers international trafficking a crime. Another change that is proposed is the institution of public criminal charges for all sexual crimes.

At present, it is only possible to begin an investigation when a private complaint is filed. The problem is that the overwhelming majority of incidents of sexual violence are committed by someone in the child's own family and are thus hushed up.

Benedito Mendonça works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press agency of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at lia@radiobras.gov.br.
Translated from the Portuguese by David Silberstein.

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