Brazil Debates Human Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation – Part II

[All links lead to Portuguese language pages except when otherwise noted.]

In the first article [en] covering this series we wrote about how European politics has made a favorable move to abolish prostitution as a legalized profession in the old continent. The main focus of the discussion took France’s situation into account, which together with Brazil, does not clearly criminalize or regulate prostitution.

On December 6 2012, in the French city of Bordeaux, a couple who ran a prostitution business sending young Brazilians to hotels, were condemned to three years in prison [fr]. The 13 Brazilian women, had been coerced to become prostitutes due to their dire financial situation, later had their documents confiscated, and were taken in by co-nationals living in Spain. Clients who rented rooms for four prostitutes at hotels were considered as partners in the prostitution business and were also sentenced for 3 to 4 months.

In Brazil, although the news was largely ignored, the government and media are trying to generate awareness about the seriousness of human trafficking.

A study conducted by the Ministry of Justice at the beginning of October 2012 in conjunction with the National Secretariat of Justice in Brazil (SNJ), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and governments from various nations, discovered that between 2005 and 2011 at least 337 people, the majority of whom were women, were forced to leave Brazil and become prostitutes. The states of Pernambuco, Bahia and Mato Grosso do Sul registered the highest incidence of victims. The main destinations in Europe were Switzerland (127 victims), Spain (104) and Holland (71). In these countries prostitution is regulated and allowed as any other profession.

According to the study, the age of the victims ranged from 10 to 29 years of age, victims were single and had a low level of education and income. The recruitment process and trafficking were mainly run by women while men were responsible for monitoring the organizations’ activities.

A video produced by journalists Rafael Marcante, Julien Manfrin, Vagner Krazt, Margareth Andrade and Thiago Correia reports on the process:

This scene was chosen from the Brazilian soap opera “Salve Jorge” by writer and director Gloria Perez. The soap aims at generating awareness about international human trafficking by telling stories of the victims. Gloria Perez stated:

O tráfico de pessoas é um problema mundial e uma das formas mais rentáveis da criminalidade. Ainda assim, tem permanecido invisível e é tido como lenda urbana.

The trafficking of human beings is a global problem and one of the most lucrative means of criminality. Despite this, the problem has remained invisible and perceived as a urban legend.

In an article entitled “Hypocrisy foments the trafficking of women” journalist Bruno Astuto comments:

Existem duas realidades no tráfico de mulheres para fins de exploração sexual. Na primeira, são moças enganadas por uma esperta rede de traficantes, que lhes promete empregos de garçonete, balconista ou dançarina no exterior […]. A outra realidade é a das moças que partem para o exterior sabendo que vão se prostituir.[…] Com Salve Jorge, esse silêncio será rompido, expondo à sociedade brasileira um crime que acontece tão ordinariamente sob suas narinas, mas que, pela hipocrisia com que se abordam a prostituição e a exploração sexual no país, foi colocado para baixo do tapete como se ele não existisse ou como ele se fosse descaramento de mulher da vida.

There are two realities in the trafficking of women for purposes of sexual exploitation. The first is the reality of women tricked by an expert in the trafficking scheme who promises them jobs as waitresses, shop keepers or dancers abroad […]. The other reality is that of women who travel abroad with the intent of prostituting themselves […]. With Salve Jorge, this silence has been broken, exposing the Brazilian society to a crime that takes place under its own nose, but has been ignored due to the hypocritical manner in which society looks at prostitution and sexual exploitation, as if it did not exist or as if the women in question were blameworthy.

Laws to Fight Human Trafficking

The Second International Symposium to Fight Human Trafficking took place at the end of October in the Federal Regional Tribunal of the Third Region in São Paulo.

CNJ Campaign

CNJ Campaign

The president of the Commission to Access Justice and Citizenship of the National Council of Justice (CNJ), Ney Freitas, emphasized the inefficiency of Brazilian institutions in fighting  human trafficking:

É necessário motivar a operação legislativa para que seja proposta uma norma mais severa que sancione com mais gravidade esse tipo de crime.

It is necessary to motivate the legislature to promote more severe norms that sanction this type of crime.

Brazilian legislation condemns the trafficking of women for  sexual exploitation but it does not include men and children in its legal definition nor does it include exploitation in other types of activities. Senator Lidice da Mata (PSB-BA) has formulated a law proposition to criminalize all kinds of human trafficking. A petition [pt] issued on October 18, aims at gathering popular support for the law so that it can be submitted for approval.

Journalist Priscila Siqueira fights against the sexual exploitation of women by stressing the importance of grasping the victims’ trauma:

A mulher escravizada é reduzida a uma mercadoria. Ela precisa de ajuda para se reestruturar e de alternativas para se profissionalizar, ter uma ocupação e não voltar para a malha do tráfico.

An enslaved woman is reduced to the status of merchandise. She needs help to recover from this, to create alternatives and to build a profession, an occupation that will free her from the grasp of traffickers.

In regards to the international day against sexual exploitation and the trafficking of women and children, on September 23, the blog Coletivo Rosas de Liberdade wrote:

Frente a uma tragédia exposta (digna de ser lembrada em calendário), com raízes tão profundas, devemos denunciar essa situação criminosa e altamente violadora de direitos e exigir dos órgãos responsáveis pela promoção e efetivação dos Direitos Humanos a maior seriedade no combate a esse tipo de crime. Mas, além disso, denunciar essa estrutura social que coisifica seres humanos e explora inclusive sua dignidade.

When faced by this deeply rooted tragedy (worthy of being remembered on the calendar), we must denounce this criminal situation that violates rights and must demand that the responsible bodies for the promotion and effectiveness of Human Rights seriously fight this kind of crime. Besides this, we must denounce the social structure that objectifies human beings and exploits their dignity.

In Brazil, the lack of distinction between the sexual exploitation of children and adolescents, the trafficking of women and voluntary prostitution abroad are also criticized. Anthropology Professor Thaddeus Gregory Blanchette, from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), criticizes the popular view of the “typical trafficked women” in the Bule Voador Blog: it is impossible to affirm that every prostitute in Europe is a victim of human trafficking.

Online prevention initiatives

The Ford Models Agency published a video called “Work Abroad Orientation” from the Ministry of External Relations:

Blogger Daniela Alves updates her site daily with data on the trafficking of humans as a means of reflecting and informing those who work on preventing the trafficking of human beings.

Brazilian NGO Repórter Brasil coordinates a program “Escravo, nem pensar!” with the mission of spreading knowledge about human trafficking. With the support of Mato Grosso’s Public Ministry, the NGO has edited material [pdf] that covers human trafficking to be discussed in classrooms.

CNJ campaign image on Facebook

CNJ campaign image on Facebook

The Bridge project has published on its facebook page information regarding a 180 national hotline in Brazil that gives advice against the abuse of women (just dial 180, it is free and confidential). The program deals with calls denouncing violence, including calls that denounce the trafficking of women, besides giving orientation about one’s rights:

Levantamento da Secretaria de Políticas para as Mulheres (SPM) indica que, de janeiro a outubro deste ano [2012], o Ligue 180 recebeu 62 ligações procedentes sobre [o tráfico internacional de mulheres], das quais 34% vindas da Espanha, 34% da Itália e 24% de Portugal.

A study conducted by the Secretariat for Women’s Policies (SPM) shows that from January to October [2012] the 180 Number received 62 calls connected to international trafficking of women, of which 34% originated from Spain, 34% from Italy and 24% from Portugal.


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