Brazil is a large source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. A significant number of Brazilian women and children are exploited in sex trafficking within the country, and federal police report higher rates of child prostitution in the Northeast. Brazilian women are found in sex trafficking abroad, often in Western Europe or neighboring countries such as Suriname, but also as far away as Japan. Authorities reported that between 2005 and 2011 the foreign ministry identified more than 300 Brazilian sex trafficking victims abroad. To a lesser extent, some women from neighboring countries, including Paraguay, have been exploited in sex trafficking in Brazil. Some transgender Brazilians are forced into prostitution within the country, and Brazilian men and transgender Brazilians have been exploited in sex trafficking in Spain and Italy. Child sex tourism remains a problem, particularly in resort and coastal areas in Brazil’s northeast. Child sex tourists typically arrive from Europe and, to a lesser extent, the United States.
Under Brazilian law, the term trabalho escravo, or slave labor, is defined as forced labor or labor performed during exhausting work days or in degrading working conditions. While not all individuals identified as working in trabalho escravo are forced labor victims, one recent study noted that 60 percent of workers interviewed in rural trabalho escravo cases had experienced key indicators of forced labor, and numerous cases involving debt bondage were identified during the year. Some Brazilian men, and to lesser extent children, are subjected to trabalho escravo in rural areas, often on cattle ranches, charcoal production camps, sugar-cane plantations, as well as in logging, mining, and agricultural production. An NGO identified a strong link between trabalho escravo and environmental degradation and deforestation-related activities, particularly in the Amazon region. Forced labor victims are commonly lured with promises of good pay by local recruiters known as gatos. Brazilians in trabalho escravo have also been identified in urban areas, primarily in construction, as well as in the restaurant and hospitality industries. Brazil is a destination for men, women, and children from Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru, and China in situations of trabalho escravo in garment factories and textile sweatshops in metropolitan centers, particularly Sao Paulo. Some Brazilian women and children, as well as girls from other countries in the region, have been subjected to domestic servitude. Brazilian forced labor victims have been identified abroad.
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. Authorities continued to prosecute and convict trafficking offenders, continued funding for 16 anti-trafficking offices, and increased awareness on trafficking in persons by launching well-publicized media campaigns about trafficking warning signs. The government also launched a national anti-trafficking plan and committed to spend the equivalent of approximately $2.9 million to implement it by 2014. Despite this progress, challenges remain. Brazilian officials continued to define trafficking as a movement-based crime and statutes prohibiting trafficking were both too broad and too narrow, making it difficult to assess fully government efforts to combat trafficking. The government continued to investigate and prosecute trabalho escravo cases, though sentences for some trabalho escravo offenders remained inadequate. The government also did not fund specialized services, such as shelters, for sex trafficking victim and did not report how many total sex trafficking victims were identified or referred to services during the year. Specialized services, including shelters and job training, were unavailable to many of the more than 2,600 potential labor trafficking victims identified during the year. Some identified foreign trabalho escravo victims were deported.
Recommendations for Brazil: Increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and sentence trafficking offenders, including those involved in internal sex trafficking; dedicate increased funding for specialized assistance, shelters, and protection for victims of sex trafficking and forced labor, in partnership with civil society; vigorously investigate and prosecute those who engage in the prostitution of children, including through child sex tourism; amend legislation to apply more stringent sentences for trafficking offenders to ensure that convicted trafficking offenders cannot serve sentences through community services or fines; enhance data collection on trafficking prosecutions, convictions, and victim identification and increase transparency by making this data public; and increase collaboration between government entities involved in combating trabalho escravo, sex trafficking, and child prostitution, in order to ensure coordinated efforts against all forms of human trafficking.
Authorities continued to investigate and prosecute human trafficking and improved data collection on trafficking-related crimes, but it was unclear how many trafficking offenders were prosecuted or convicted during the year. Brazilian laws prohibit most forms of trafficking in persons. Articles 231 and 231-A of the penal code prohibit sex trafficking involving movement, with violence, threats, or fraud as aggravating elements, as opposed to necessary elements of the offense. These articles prescribe penalties of two to eight years’ imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. These articles are inconsistent with international standards because they require movement as a necessary element of human trafficking, and also prohibit movement of a person for the purpose of prostitution, which is not a trafficking crime as defined in the 2000 UN TIP Protocol. However, other penal code statutes prohibit sex trafficking that does not involve moving the victim. Many internal sex trafficking cases appear to be investigated as other crimes, such as sexual exploitation of children. During the year, the Senate committee on human trafficking released a report that recommended new legislation to increase penalties for trafficking offenders and to expressly criminalize labor trafficking.
Some labor trafficking offenses are criminalized pursuant to Article 149 of the penal code, which prohibits trabalho escravo, or reducing a person to a condition analogous to slavery, prescribing penalties of two to eight years’ imprisonment. Article 149, however, goes beyond situations in which people are held in service through force, fraud, or coercion, and criminalizes other treatment that is not considered human trafficking, including situations in which persons were subjected to exhausting work days or degrading working conditions. Some convicted labor trafficking offenders have not served jail time in Brazil, as most are eligible to appeal their convictions while out on bail, or serve sentences in a half-way home, or pay fines. Article 207 of the penal code prohibits fraudulent recruitment of workers, with sentences of one to three years’ imprisonment.
While there were not comprehensive statistics on law enforcement efforts against all forms of trafficking in Brazil, the government enhanced data collection efforts during the year, including by reporting the number of convictions under trafficking-related statutes achieved in 2012. Given that these laws also criminalize non-trafficking offenses and other laws may have been used to prosecute and convict trafficking offenders, it was unclear how many trafficking offenders were convicted and sentenced in 2012. Authorities reported at least nine prosecutions and six convictions under internal sex trafficking statutes, as well as at least two convictions under international sex trafficking statutes in 2012, but did not report the range of sentences. Many trafficking offenders were free to appeal their convictions while out on bail, and officials noted that delays in the justice system made it difficult to hold traffickers accountable for their crimes, sometimes due to delayed transfer of cases from police to prosecutors. There was no public data on the number of individuals prosecuted or convicted in cases of sex trafficking not involving movement in 2012. Prosecutors typically prosecute cases of sex trafficking not involving movement under pimping statutes instead of the sex trafficking statute.
To investigate potential cases of trabalho escravo, the Ministry of Labor (MOL) conducted 135 operations involving 241 properties in 2012, compared with 171 operations involving 342 properties in 2011. According to data from federal prosecutors’ offices, there were 503 police investigations of potential trabalho escravo open at the end of 2012. Based on available but incomplete data, there were approximately 286 open prosecutions under Article 149 before courts in 2012. Of these prosecutions, 39 resulted in sentences during the year, but it was not clear how many, if any, were acquittals. There was no centralized data on the range of penalties for these sentences: according to press reports, some individuals convicted of trabalho escravo in 2012 were given prison sentences that were fulfilled through community service or reduced to fines, while others faced long sentences, in some cases for 10 years’ imprisonment. During the year, NGOs identified some cases of individuals and companies with multiple accusations and investigations involving trabalho escravo against them, indicating the difficulty in preventing recurrence of this crime.
The Ministry of Labor’s anti-trabalho escravo mobile units continued to free laborers and require those responsible to pay fines. Labor inspectors and prosecutors can only apply civil penalties, and their efforts were not always coordinated with Public Ministry prosecutors who initiate criminal cases. An NGO that filed the many of these complaints noted in 2011 that only half of the trabalho escravo cases they referred to authorities were investigated and that only around 10 percent were criminally prosecuted. In some areas, local political pressure, threats from landowners, shortage of labor inspectors or police officers, and the remoteness of areas in which rural trabalho escravo was prevalent have been cited as impediments in the investigation of some of these cases. Mobile inspection teams should have been accompanied by federal police for physical protection, but this did not always occur and sometimes limited prosecutors’ ability to investigate cases. Official guidelines instructed labor prosecutors to respond to possible cases of child domestic servitude with awareness efforts, as opposed to criminal or labor investigations, but officials reported that these guidelines were under review.
There were no reports of investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of public officials for complicity in sex trafficking offenses during the year. In 2012 authorities continued to investigate or prosecute three members of Congress for trabalho escravo. Authorities trained federal police, labor inspectors, and other officials on how to identify trafficking cases and assist victims, but training for local and state level police was uneven.
The Brazilian government maintained efforts to ensure that trafficking victims had access to specialized services during the year. The government operated anti-trafficking offices in 16 states that referred victims to government and NGO services, but did not fund specialized services for victims of sex trafficking or forced labor. Authorities continued to use mobile inspection teams to identify forced laborers, but did not report systematic procedures for identifying sex trafficking victims among other vulnerable populations, such as people in prostitution. During the year, however, authorities issued a guide for government entities working on trafficking that described trafficking indicators and suggested referral mechanisms. There were no comprehensive statistics regarding the number of trafficking victims identified and assisted in 2012, and different government entities used different definitions when counting trafficking victims. Authorities in Sao Paulo reported identifying 18 sex trafficking victims and 59 victims of trabalho escravo in 2012. In 2012, the MOL’s mobile units identified and freed 2,560 laborers in situations of trabalho escravo; it is unclear how many of these laborers were victims of forced labor. A recent study reported that only 13 percent of workers that had experienced strong indicators of forced labor were rescued by mobile units during their exploitative experience, suggesting that many exploited workers and forced labor victims remain unidentified. Child sex trafficking was often miscategorized, and authorities did not report the number of children identified in commercial sexual exploitation during the year.
Additional challenges remained. The federal government did not fund specialized shelters for trafficking victims, and victim services and shelters are underfunded and inadequate in some parts of the country, particularly in the Northeast. The Ministry of Social Development provided generalized shelter, counseling, and medical aid to women through its nationwide network of at least 187 centers and 72 shelters, but authorities noted that these services are not specifically for trafficking victims. It was unclear how many trafficking victims received these services in 2012, and some services were limited due to lack of funding. Brazilian police continued to refer child sex trafficking victims to the government-run specialized social service centers, where they could be referred to legal and health services and offered temporary shelter for 24 hours, after which the children were referred to families or to an alternate shelter. It was unclear how many child victims were referred to these centers during the year, and specialized shelters for children in commercial sexual exploitation were lacking. NGOs noted some government-run centers were not prepared or willing to handle trafficking cases, and were underfunded. NGOs and international organizations provided additional victim services, often with foreign funding, and authorities referred victims to NGOs during the reporting period for specialized care. There were no specialized services for male and transgender sex trafficking victims. Long-term shelter options for sex trafficking victims were generally unavailable, and an NGO noted that identified sex trafficking victims were not offered three months’ salary at minimum wage like laborers in situations of trabalho escravo.
The federal government continued to fund regional anti-trafficking offices in partnership with state governments in 16 states, one of which opened during the reporting period. These offices are responsible for coordinating local government efforts against trafficking, raising public awareness, and referring victims of movement-based trafficking to services. The government funded assistance posts in airports and other key transit points to aid repatriated citizens, including possible trafficking victims. There were a total of 12 assistance posts, six of which were opened during the year. The offices and posts generally functioned during business hours, and staff received training during year on victim assistance. The report released by the Senate in 2012 noted that some offices received inadequate funding and highlighted some office’s limited ability to assist victims. There was no public information about how many total victims these entities identified and assisted in 2012 or what services victims were referred to, such as shelters or legal or psychological services.
Forced labor victims were not eligible for government-provided shelter assistance, though victims who were Brazilian citizens were provided with unpaid wages plus three months’ salary at minimum wage. Although labor prosecutors reported awarding some victims monetary compensation from fines levied against employers, in some cases authorities did not file for these indemnities, and in other cases the victims did not receive them due to nonpayment by employers. The government reported that rescued workers were due the equivalent of approximately $4.4 million in back-pay in 2012. The state of Mato Grosso continued to fund a program to provide vocational training in construction skills and other services to freed slave laborers, and was one of the only states to do so. According to NGOs and international organizations, a significant percentage of rescued slave laborers have been re-trafficked, due to few alternate forms of employment and a lack of substantive assistance and services.
The government encouraged trafficking victims to participate in investigations and prosecutions of trafficking, and some did so during the year. Some victims were reluctant to testify due to fear of reprisals from traffickers. Victims of sex trafficking were eligible for short-term protection under a program for witnesses, but it was unclear how many victims participated in this program in 2012. The government generally did not detain, fine, or otherwise penalize identified victims of trafficking for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. Foreign victims of trafficking were eligible for permanent visa status, although authorities did not report how many victims received this status in 2012. During the reporting period, however, federal police officers deported some identified foreign victims of trabalho escravo, despite official guidance instructing officials not to do so. Brazilian consulates abroad assisted Brazilian victims.
The Brazilian government took steps to prevent human trafficking during the year, most significantly by formally launching the second national anti-trafficking plan for 2012-2016. The plan for movement-based trafficking established government priorities in several areas, including changing the law, increasing the number of anti-trafficking offices and assistance posts, and improving data collection. The government announced that it would dedicate the equivalent of $2.9 million to implement this new national plan by 2014, including by opening an additional 10 anti-trafficking offices and training 400 government officials. The National Secretary of Justice coordinated interagency efforts on movement-based trafficking, and federal government entities reported meeting frequently in 2012. In 2012 the government released a study it conducted with UNODC on Brazilian trafficking victims exploited abroad between 2005 and 2011. Many states and some municipalities had local-level anti-trafficking coalitions, committees, and plans, some of which were launched in 2012. The national commission to eradicate trabalho escravo, a council composed of government agencies, NGOs and international organizations, continued to coordinate efforts against trabalho escravo, and some states had local commissions displaying varying degrees of activity. Authorities distributed awareness materials targeted at Brazilians traveling abroad or within the country. Civil society organizations, private sector companies and various federal, state, and municipal entities collaborated on anti-trafficking initiatives.
The MOL published a “dirty list,” which publicly identified individuals and corporate entities determined to be responsible for trabalho escravo. The most recent version of the list, released in December 2012, added more than one hundred new entries from the 2011 list, for a total of 400 total employers, some of whom were denied access to credit by public and private financial institutions because of this designation. In some cases, owners of companies included on the list created new companies to avoid consequences associated with the list. In December 2012, the Sao Paulo state legislature passed a law strengthening state-level penalties for companies using trabalho escravo in their supply chain. The government took public measures to reduce demand for commercial sexual exploitation of children by continuing to raise awareness during the Carnival season. Despite the significant number of child sex tourists visiting Brazil, there were no public reports of prosecutions or convictions for child sex tourism in 2012. The Brazilian government provided anti-trafficking training to its military troops prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.