Sex Abuse: Brazil Needs Change in Attitude

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.
by: Luciana
Vasconcelos

Brazzil
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.

Qualification

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.

Research

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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