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Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons


Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape. Intimate partner violence remained both widespread and underreported to authorities, due to fear of retribution, further violence, and social stigma. Persons convicted of killing a woman or girl in cases of domestic violence may be sentenced to 12 to 30 years in prison. Longer sentences may be set for conviction of killing a pregnant woman, girls under age 14, or women with disabilities or who are over age 60. According to the Rio de Janeiro Court of Justice’s Observatory of Violence Against Women, from January to June 58,000 new cases of violence against women were brought to trial in the state. In May a high-profile case of an adolescent girl’s gang rape by 33 individuals ignited a debate regarding the prevalence of gender-based violence. According to UN Women and the Secretariat of Women’s Policies, in 2013 an average of 13 women were killed per day in the country due to this type of violence.

The federal government maintained a toll-free nationwide hotline for women to report instances of intimate partner violence (Dial 180). The hotline has the authority to mobilize military police units to respond to such reports and to follow up regarding the status of the case.

Each state secretariat for public security operated police stations dedicated exclusively to addressing crimes against women, which remained a significant problem. The specialized stations provided psychological counseling, temporary shelter, and hospital treatment for survivors of intimate partner violence, including rape, as well as criminal prosecution assistance by investigating incidents and forwarding evidence to courts. State and local governments also operated reference centers and temporary women’s shelters. The Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) reported 8 percent of municipalities had a dedicated space for the protection and care of victims of gender-based violence.

The law requires health facilities to contact police regarding cases in which a woman was harmed physically, sexually, or psychologically and to collect evidence and statements should the victim decide to prosecute.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is a criminal offense, punishable by up to two years in prison if convicted. The law prohibits sexual advances in the workplace or educational institutions and between service providers or clients. In the workplace it applies only in hierarchical situations where the harasser is of higher rank or position than the victim. NGOs reported sexual harassment remained a serious concern, particularly because 70 percent of victims were minors.

Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of children; manage their reproductive health; and have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence.

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. According to the Institute of Applied Economic Research, in 2014 women received 70 percent of what men received for equal work.


Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from birth in the country or from a parent. The National Council of Justice, in partnership with the Secretariat of Human Rights (SDH), acted to reduce the number of children without birth certificates by registering children born in maternity wards. The National Documentation of Rural Workers initiative offered assistance in obtaining birth certificates and other documents for children born in rural areas. In December 2015 the federal government announced the percentage of children without a birth certificate declined to 1 percent.

Child Abuse: Abuse and neglect of children and adolescents were problems. Children and adolescents were victims of rape and molestation, including girls impregnated by family members. The SDH oversaw a program that established nationwide strategies for combating child sexual abuse and best practices for treating victims. The government maintained a protection program for children and adolescents. Sixty percent of the children in the program had received death threats due to involvement in drug trafficking, and most entered the program accompanied by one or more family members. The program offered psychological counseling and technical courses to reinsert these youth into stable community situations.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 18 (age 16 with parental or legal representative consent). According to data from the UN Children’s Fund, 11 percent of women ages 20-24 were married before age 15, and 36 percent of women ages 20-24 were married before age 18.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Sexual exploitation of children, adolescents, and other vulnerable persons is punishable by four to 10 years in prison if convicted. The law defines sexual exploitation as prostitution of children, sexual activity, production of child pornography, and public or private sex shows. The law sets a minimum age of 14 for consensual sex, with the penalty for conviction of statutory rape ranging from eight to 15 years in prison.

While no specific laws address child sex tourism, it is punishable under other criminal offenses. The country was a destination for child sex tourism. Several major coastal cities in the Northeast were tourist destinations for the trafficking of children and adolescents for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. Additionally, reports indicated sexual exploitation of children and adolescents increased around major construction projects.

The law criminalizes child pornography. The penalty for conviction of possession of child pornography is up to four years in prison and a fine.

The Ministry of Tourism promoted its code of conduct to prevent the commercial sexual exploitation of children in the tourism industry. The Federal Highway Police and the International Labor Organization disseminated awareness materials in places such as gas stations, bars, restaurants, motels, and nightclubs along highways considered areas for sexual exploitation of children and adolescents.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at


According to the Jewish Federation, there were approximately 120,000 Jewish citizens, of whom approximately 50,000 were in the state of Sao Paulo and 25,000 in Rio de Janeiro State. It is illegal to write, edit, publish, or sell books that promote anti-Semitism or racism. The law enables courts to fine or imprison anyone who displays, distributes, or broadcasts anti-Semitic materials and for those convicted mandates a two- to five-year prison term.

Several leaders of the Jewish and interfaith communities stated overt anti-Semitism remained limited. According to local reports, Casa Mafalda, an autonomous space for culture and politics in the city of Sao Paulo, was targeted by a neo-Nazi group who painted a swastika on the entrance gate of the institution and wrote references to Hitler. Neo-Nazi groups operated in the southern states of Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, and Parana.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical and mental disabilities in employment, air travel and other transportation, education, the judicial system, and access to health care, and the federal government generally enforced these provisions. While federal and state laws mandate access to buildings for persons with disabilities, states did not enforce them effectively.

The Brazilian Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities Act, a legal framework on the rights of persons with disabilities, seeks to promote greater accessibility through expanded federal oversight of the Statute of Cities, harsher criminal penalties for conviction of discrimination based on disability, and inclusive health services with provision of services near residences and rural areas.

The National Council for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the National Council for the Rights of the Elderly have primary responsibility for promoting the rights of persons with disabilities. According to the SDH, specific problems included the short supply of affordable and up-to-date orthotics and prosthetics, scarcity of affordable housing with special adaptations, and a need for greater accessibility to public transport. Children with disabilities attended primary and secondary schools and higher educational institutions, but there was a shortage of schools with adequate support. The lack of accessible infrastructure and schools significantly limited the ability of persons with disabilities to participate in the workforce.

Civil society organizations acknowledged that monitoring and enforcement of disability policies remained weak, and criticized a lack of accessibility to public transportation, weak application of employment quotas, and a limited medical-based definition of disability that often excludes learning disabilities. The government improved access for persons with disabilities in its infrastructure development and in retrofitting public sports venues to prepare for sporting events such as the 2016 Paralympic Games.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The law prohibits racial discrimination, specifically the denial of public or private facilities, employment, or housing, to anyone based on race. The law also prohibits the incitement of racial discrimination or prejudice and the dissemination of racially offensive symbols and epithets, and it stipulates prison terms for such acts.

The 2010 census reported that for the first time white persons constituted less than half the population; approximately 52 percent of the population identified themselves as belonging to categories other than white. Despite this high representation within the general population, darker-skinned citizens, particularly Afro-Brazilians, frequently encountered discrimination.

Afro-Brazilians were underrepresented in the government, professional positions, and middle and upper classes. They experienced a higher rate of unemployment and earned average wages below those of whites in similar positions. There was also a sizeable education gap. Afro-Brazilians were disproportionately affected by crime; according to one congressional investigative report, black men were 3.7 times more likely to be homicide victims than their white counterparts.

The 2010 Racial Equality Statute continued to be controversial, due to its provision for nonquota affirmative action policies in education and employment. In 2012 the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of racial quota systems at universities. A quotas law went into effect that gave the 59 federal universities four years to provide for half of the students of incoming classes to be from public schools, which generally enrolled a higher percentage of Afro-Brazilian students than did private schools. The 2010 law requires 20 percent of federal public administration positions be filled by Afro-Brazilians. The states of Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Sul, Parana, and Mato Grosso do Sul have similar laws for local public administration positions. In August the Ministry of Planning established a requirement for government ministries to set up internal committees to validate the self-declared ethnicity claims of public-service job applicants by using phenotypic criteria, essentially assessing “blackness” in an attempt to reduce abuse of affirmative action policy and related laws.

Indigenous People

According to data from the National Indigenous Foundation (FUNAI) and the 2010 census, there were approximately 896,900 indigenous persons, representing 305 distinct indigenous ethnic groups and speaking 274 distinct languages. The law grants the indigenous population broad protection of their cultural patrimony, exclusive use of their traditional lands, and exclusive beneficial use of their territory. Congress must consult with the tribes involved when considering requests to exploit mineral and water resources, including ones with energy potential, on indigenous lands. The law grants indigenous tribes rights to a portion of the profit resulting from mining. According to the constitution, all aboveground and underground minerals as well as hydroelectric-power potential belong to the government. FUNAI has a mandated role for an indigenous consultation process, but human rights groups expressed concerns that most of the requirements for indigenous consultation remained unmet and that the body’s budget was significantly cut during the year.

Illegal logging, drug trafficking, and mining, as well as changes in the environment from large infrastructure projects, forced indigenous tribes to move to new areas or make their demarcated indigenous territories smaller than established by law.

According to FUNAI, the federal government established rules for providing financial compensation following the occupation in good faith of indigenous areas, as in the cases of companies that won development contracts affecting indigenous lands. Various indigenous peoples protested the slow pace of land demarcations.

The latest report (2015) of the Indigenous Missionary Council cited data from the Special Secretariat for Indigenous Health showing 137 indigenous persons were killed across the country. The council’s own research separately found 54 killings of indigenous persons throughout the country. In June public health worker Clodiodi Aquileu Rodrigues de Souza was shot and killed and six indigenous persons were injured in the municipality of Carapo in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, on land claimed by the Guarani Kaiowa indigenous group. Paramilitary forces acting on instructions of wealthy land owners allegedly carried out the attack as a reprisal against the indigenous community for seeking recognition of their land rights.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Federal law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, but several states and municipalities have administrative regulations that prohibit such discrimination and provide for equal access to government services. Social discrimination remained a problem, especially against the transgender population. Violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals was a serious concern, with local NGOs reporting that as of June, 139 LGBTI persons were victims of hate killings.

The criminal code states offenses subject to criminal prosecution fall under federal statutes, leaving hate crimes subject to administrative, not criminal penalties. Sao Paulo is the only state to codify punishments for hate-motivated violence and speech against LGBTI individuals. In the state of Rio de Janeiro, the law penalizes commercial establishments that discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation. Sanctions vary from warnings and fines to the temporary suspension or termination of a business license. Fines may reach 15,600 reais ($4,460).

On July 2, Diego Vieira Machado, a student at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, was found dead at the Fundao campus, located in the northern region of Rio de Janeiro. His body was partially naked and showed signs of abuse. Friends alleged that the fact he was gay, black, poor, and born in the north of the country clearly played a role. They also said Machado had received several threats prior to the attack.

The National LGBT Council, composed of civil society and government agencies, combated discrimination and promoted the rights of LGBTI persons. Meetings were open to the public and broadcast over the internet.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS is punishable if convicted by up to four years in prison and a fine. Civil society organizations and the press reported discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS. According to the UN Program on HIV/AIDS in Brazil, discrimination against certain groups, particularly gay men, made individuals hesitate to seek HIV testing and treatment.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

According to the Catholic NGO Pastoral Land Commission, rural violence, death threats, and killings of environmentalists continued to take place. A commission press release cited 47 such killings of environmentalists through September. Global Witness reported 50 killings of environmental activists in 2015 (with 90 percent occurring in the states of Maranhao, Para, and Rondonia).

In October Luiz Araujo, the environmental and tourism secretary of the city of Altamira in the state of Para, was shot and killed in his driveway. Media outlets reported it appeared to be a targeted killing, and an associate of Araujo said he was under pressure because of his efforts against illegal deforestation.

The Brazilian Committee of Human Rights Defenders also reported that in the first four months of the year, 24 human rights defenders were killed, 21 of whom were from organizations that defended land rights.

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