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Brazzil - Behavior - May 2004

Sex Abuse: Brazil Needs Change in Attitude

Along the Brazilian highways young people are being sexually
exploited. Between January and March, 33.4 percent of all
the incidents with children reported by Brazil's Highway Police
involved sex. One big problem is that Brazilians do not regard
certain sexual crimes as illegal, immoral, or criminal.

Luciana Vasconcelos


Picture "Youth struggle—for an end to impunity" will be the theme of this year's commemoration of the National Day to Combat the Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children and Adolescents.

The coordinator of the National Committee to Confront Violence against Children and Adolescents, Neide Castanha, considers it possible to eliminate sexual exploitation. But for this to occur, she says, it is necessary to overcome not only impunity but also social inequality and exclusion.

"It is of no avail to call a halt to impunity and continue to produce and reproduce boys and girls in conditions vulnerable to acceptance of the sex trade, that is, to offer their bodies as a condition of their survival," she affirmed.

Brazil's National Congress has just received the file "Araceli Never Again—30 Years of Impunity in Brazil," containing cases of sexual violence against children and adolescents that have gone unpunished since 1973. The publication was produced, with the Committee's support, by the National Association of Child and Adolescent Protection Centers (Anced).

According to the president of the Association, Renato Roseno, it is not a study but, rather, a warning about the existence of impunity, with suggestions on how to combat this type of crime. "Impunity is the rule, not the exception," he asserted.

The title of the file is a reference to an 8-year old girl, Araceli Santos, who was a kidnap, rape, and murder victim 31 years ago, in Vitória, Espírito Santo state.

In 2000, on May 18, the anniversary of her death, the National Day to Combat the Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children and Adolescents was established by law.


One of the Association's suggestions is to update the legislation dealing with sexual crimes. The legislation dates back to the 1930's. "Sexual crimes are currently grouped together as crimes against public morals. This is absurd, because they are crimes against human dignity," Roseno emphasized.

He also suggests that the police and the judicial system be trained to handle crimes that involve sexual violence. "If a person is not well received, he or she will be victimized again," he said. He goes so far as to propose the creation of special courts to treat cases of sexual exploitation and abuse of children and adolescents.

Sexual violence against children and adolescents can take various forms. The most common are sexual abuse within the family itself and sexual exploitation for commercial purposes, such as prostitution, pornography, and trafficking.

When sexual violence against children and adolescents is suspected, it can be reported to police stations, Tutelary Councils, or Courts for Children and Youth. The Tutelary Councils visit the families, notify them, and analyze the background of each case.

If the accusation is confirmed, the Council passes it along to the Public Prosecutor's Office. The Courts for Children and Youth can receive denunciations in municipalities that don't have Tutelary Councils.

Highway Child Sex

Along the Brazilian highways, between one city and another, young people are sexually exploited. A study showed that between January and March, 2004, 33.4 percent of all the incidents reported by the Federal Highway Police (PRF) involving children and adolescents on the highways had sexual connotations.

The study, which was done by PRF inspector Junie Penna, points out that one of the big difficulties in combating sexual violence is the acquiescence of society, which does not regard certain behaviors as illegal, immoral, or criminal.

"We are unable to act, unless organized civil society gets effectively involved, unless society raises demands for government policies, and, clearly, to do this, it must realize the magnitude of the problem," he affirmed. Another difficulty he discovered is arresting those who practice exploitation, because the crime is hard to characterize.


A 2001/2002 study coordinated by the Center of Reference, Studies, and Actions for Children and Adolescents (Cecria) identified 241 overland, sea, and air routes for sexual exploitation in Brazil.

131 of them are international routes. Inside the country, exploitation networks were confirmed to be active in all regions of the country, but the largest concentration of cases is in the North and Northeast.

Most of the victims of trafficking are women and adolescents between 15 and 25—the group most affected includes girls between 15 and 17. The profile of the victims shows that they generally come from families with low levels of income and schooling, reside on the outskirts of urban areas, live with relatives, and, in many instances, have already suffered some kind of sexual violence at home.

A Manifesto against Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children and Youth was handed to President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, on Tuesday. The document is signed by 65 thousand transportation sector professionals and owners who pledge to combat this crime.

The coordinator of the Social Service of Transportation and the National Apprenticeship Service of Transportation (Seste/Senat), Norma Avelar, calls for the "use of the power of this sector to combat the sexual exploitation of children and youth."

Luciana Vasconcelos 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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