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.
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
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
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
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."
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 email@example.com.
from the Portuguese by David Silberstein.