Up to Half a Million Kids Exploited for Prostitution in Brazil

Child prostitution in Brazil Brazil is among the 50 nations that  are part of the second tier of nations where there is human trafficking, according to the just-released US State Department's 8th Annual Trafficking in Persons Report.

The study recognizes, however, that Brazil is taking substantial steps to rescue victims of slave labor in the Amazon and other Brazilian regions.

Joining Brazil in the second tier there are among others: Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, Turkey, Uruguay, Japan, Israel, Romania and Lebanon. According to the report, they don't meet 'totally' the minimum efforts to eradicate human trafficking.

The annual report reviews human trafficking laws in close to 200 countries covering the period from March 2007 to March 2008. It's believed that about 2.5 million people the world over are victims of human trafficking, 80% of them being women, and half of them minors.

The Annual Trafficking In Persons Report, which is mandated by the American Congress, covers 170 countries. 153 are assessed and ranked into Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 2 Watch List, and Tier 3; another 17 countries are considered special cases, because there is no sufficient information to assess the number of trafficking victims.

Ambassador Mark P. Lagon, Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons during a briefing presenting the 8th Annual Trafficking in Persons Report reminded that in Brazil, some charcoal is produced by forced labor and some of that charcoal may be used to produce pig iron.

The ambassador went on to say that Brazil "is doing a good deal proactively to rescue victims of forced labor, even calling them by the name they deserve, slaves, based on commitment by President Lula. But as it says right here in the report, approximately half of the nearly 6,000 men freed from slave labor in 2007 were found exploited on plantations growing sugarcane for the production of ethanol – a growing trend."

The Report on Brazil:

Brazil is a source country for women and children trafficked within the country and transnationally for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation, as well as a source country for men trafficked internally for forced labor.

The Brazilian Federal Police estimate that 250,000 children are exploited for prostitution, although NGOs put the number as high as 500,000. Between 25,000 to 100,000 men are subjected to slave labor within the country.

Approximately half of the nearly 6,000 men freed from slave labor in 2007 were found exploited on plantations growing sugar cane for the production of ethanol, a growing trend. A large number of Brazilian women and girls are trafficked for sexual exploitation to destinations in South America, the Caribbean, Western Europe, Japan, the United States, and the Middle East.

To a lesser extent, Brazil is a destination for the trafficking of men, women, and children from Bolivia, Peru, and the People's Republic of China (P.R.C.) for forced labor into factories in major urban areas of Brazil.

Child sex tourism remains a serious problem, particularly in the resort areas and coastal areas of Brazil's northeast, and mostly involves tourists from Europe and the United States.

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. Over the past year, the government significantly increased efforts to rescue victims of slave labor through mobile inspection operations in the Amazon and remote locations, and also increased efforts to provide greater services for victims.

At the same time, however, the government did not report any criminal investigations, prosecutions, convictions, or punishments of forced labor crimes and only limited investigations of sex trafficking crimes.

A lack of government resources and dedicated personnel impeded Brazil's ability to combat its trafficking problem, although the government committed to allocate more funding to anti-trafficking efforts in its recently instituted national work plan to combat trafficking in persons and forced labor.

Recommendations for Brazil:

Enact federal legislation to criminalize and sufficiently punish all severe forms of trafficking in persons, including forced labor, consistent with the requirements of the 2000 UN TIP Protocol; continue and increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, convict, and sentence trafficking offenders, especially those who exploit victims for slave labor; commence investigations and prosecutions of corrupt officials who are alleged to facilitate or participate in human trafficking activity; increase cooperation with the United States to investigate allegations of forced labor linked to U.S. imports of Brazilian pig iron; improve victim assistance and protection, especially for victims of slave labor who are vulnerable to being re-trafficked; improve data collection for all trafficking crimes; and dedicate more government resources for antitrafficking activities.


The Brazilian government demonstrated modest law enforcement efforts to confront human trafficking crimes during the last year. Brazil does not prohibit all forms of trafficking in persons, although transnational and internal trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation is prohibited under Section 231 of its penal code, which prescribes penalties of three to 10 years' imprisonment – penalties that are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other grave crimes, such as rape.

Some aspects of labor trafficking are criminalized under Brazilian law, including debt bondage, for which a sufficiently stringent penalty of two to eight years' imprisonment is prescribed. Forced labor is prohibited by Section 148 of the penal code – trabalho escravo ("slave labor") – prescribing penalties of one to three years' imprisonment.

Fraudulent recruitment for the purpose of labor exploitation is also prohibited, with penalties of two months, to one year's imprisonment plus fines. The penalties for these labor trafficking offenses are not sufficiently stringent to deter these crimes.

An October 2006 Presidential decree on human trafficking included a stated goal to amend the law so that penalties applied to labor trafficking crimes would be made commensurate with those applied to sex trafficking crimes; such amendments, while unrealized as of this writing, would assist the government's efforts to punish and deter exploiters of slave labor.

Brazil continued to lack a centralized system to collect, analyze, and report data on anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts throughout the country. Therefore, no comprehensive data on trafficking investigations, prosecutions, convictions, and sentences were available.

Nevertheless, the government appeared to sustain its efforts to investigate sex trafficking crimes. The Federal Police in 2007 reported approximately 200 complaints relating to the alleged sex trafficking of Brazilian women to Europe and seven ongoing investigations into cases of alleged transnational sex trafficking. Brazilian press reporting indicated that at least 59 suspected trafficking offenders were arrested by Federal Police during the reporting period.

The Federal Highway Police, which is responsible for a substantial portion of Brazil's anti-trafficking law enforcement activity, continued to conduct training for its officers on detecting trafficking victims and investigating trafficking crimes. Brazilian and other Mercosur law enforcement officials studied the feasibility of exchanging information of crossborder trafficking investigations.

The government did not report any criminal investigations or prosecutions of forced labor crimes, although 751 civil investigations are under way, and 890 cases have been filed for prosecution in civil labor courts. Such actions typically result in back pay and fines levied against landowners and other offenders – penalties that are inadequate.

A Supreme Court ruling of November 2006, which requires that all criminal complaints of "slave labor" be heard by a federal criminal court, appears to remain unimplemented. The Ministry of Labor's anti-slave labor mobile units increased their operations during the year, as the unit's labor inspectors freed victims, forced those responsible for forced labor to pay often substantial amounts in fines and restitution to the victims, and then moved on to others locations to inspect.

Mobile unit inspectors did not, however, seize evidence or attempt to interview witnesses with the goal of developing a criminal investigation or prosecution because inspectors and the labor court prosecutors who accompany them have only civil jurisdiction. Because their exploiters are rarely punished, many of the rescued victims are ultimately re-trafficked.

The Ministry of Labor's "dirty list" which publicly identifies individuals and corporate entities the government has determined to have been responsible for slave labor, continued to provide a modicum of punishment to those engaged in this serious crime, largely through public shame and the barring of these entities' access to loans from state financial institutions.

During the year, however, a number of individuals and corporate entities were able to remove their names from the "dirty list" through court action.

Throughout the year, there were reports of government officials' complicity in sex trafficking or slave labor, particularly with regards to police – directly or indirectly involved in sex trafficking rings – notably in the Amazon and northern states.

Furthermore, numerous credible reports indicated that state police officials were involved in the killing or intimidation of witnesses involved in testifying against police officials in labor exploitation or forced labor hearings.

There were also numerous killings of rural labor activists and labor union organizations, some of whom were active in fighting forced labor practices; some of these killings reportedly occurred with the participation or knowledge of state law enforcement officials.


The Brazilian government modestly improved efforts to provide trafficking victims with protection during the year through a network of 931 Specialized Social Assistance Reference Centers (CREAS) located in 1,107 Brazilian municipalities. The Ministry of Social Development provided shelter, counseling, and medical aid to adult and child victims of sex trafficking, along with other victims of sexual violence and exploitation.

In 2007, the government provided $2.5 million in funding for this program, which in 2006 – the last year for which data is available – assisted 6,820 child victims of sex trafficking or sexual exploitation. A national hotline for reporting incidents of child sexual abuse and exploitation, which includes child sex trafficking, registered 23,368 reports of such abuse in 2007.

Brazilian police continued to employ victim referral procedures when they identified child sex trafficking victims, referring the child victims to government-run CREAS for care. Labor inspectors and police officers who were members of the Ministry of Labor's anti-slave labor mobile units, which are tasked with conducting surprise inspections of remote labor sites suspected of slave labor, employed formal procedures in identifying victims of forced labor, and provided these victims with immediate care.

During the year, the Ministry of Labor's mobile units identified and freed 5,963 victims of forced labor through 114 operations targeting 203 properties. This is a significant increase from 3,390 forced labor victims freed in 2006 through 103 operations targeting 186 properties. Approximately half of the victims freed in 2007 were found on plantations growing sugar cane for Brazil's booming production and export of ethanol, a biofuels, marking a growing trafficking phenomenon.

In one operation alone, a Ministry of Labor mobile unit found 1,108 slave labor victims on a sugar plantation during an inspection in Pará state in July 2007. The Ministry of Labor awarded slave labor victims with compensation totaling $5.4 million as a result of these 2007 operations, funds which were derived from fines levied against the landowners or employers identified during the operations.

The government encouraged victims of sex trafficking to participate in investigations and prosecutions of trafficking, though often victims proved reluctant to serve as a state witness due to fear of reprisals from traffickers and corrupt law enforcement officials. The government did not, however, encourage victims of forced labor to participate in criminal investigations or prosecutions, although judges and prosecutors have begun to use victims' testimony recorded by NGOs.

The government did not detain, fine, or otherwise penalize identified victims of trafficking for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of their being trafficked. Some victims of sex trafficking were offered protection under a witness protection program on a limited basis, though a lack of resources limited this program's effectiveness. The government did not provide foreign victims of trafficking with legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they may face hardship or retribution.


The Brazilian government sustained its efforts to prevent trafficking through public awareness campaigns during the reporting period. A national plan of action on trafficking in persons, which covers all forms of trafficking, was produced by the government's Justice Secretariat and released publicly in January 2008.

Concurrently, an interagency committee on trafficking, chaired by the Justice Secretariat, was formed and began meeting during the year. The development of the national action plan and interagency committee were tasked by President Lula's anti-trafficking decree of October 2006, which also called for a dedicated budget for anti-trafficking activities; such a budget has not yet been realized.

The Ministry of External Relations continued to train its diplomats on identifying victims overseas and referring them to local NGOs in host countries. Although Brazil deploys a substantial number of troops abroad as part of international peacekeeping missions, the government did not provide them with training on human trafficking before deployment during the past year.

The Brazilian government cooperated with a number of foreign governments in punishing or removing foreign visitors who were charged with child sex tourism offenses in Brazil, though the exact number of cases is not known.

The Ministry of Tourism continued its radio and television public campaign of "Quem ama, protege" (He who loves, protects) aimed at addressing child sexual exploitation in the country's tourism centers and expanded this to neighboring countries, with versions in English, Spanish, and Dutch.

The government took measures to reduce demand for commercial sex acts by conducting a national media campaign against commercial sexual exploitation during the 2008 Carnaval holiday period.


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