Brazil (Tier 2)

The Government of Brazil does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared with the previous reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, if any, on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Brazil remained on Tier 2. These efforts included investigating and prosecuting more traffickers, identifying more trafficking victims, and continuing to issue regular updates to its public registry of slave labor offenders (the “dirty list”). However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government did not report any final trafficking convictions, and officials continued to punish most labor traffickers with administrative penalties instead of prison, which neither served as an effective deterrent nor provided justice for victims. The government reported limited efforts to combat sex trafficking or to identify sex trafficking victims among highly vulnerable populations, such as children and LGBTQI+ persons; some officials demonstrated a flawed understanding of the human trafficking crime, leaving victims vulnerable to penalization for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit. Victim protection mechanisms, including shelter services, remained inadequate and varied substantially by state.

  • Vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict in cases of sex trafficking, including child sex tourism.
  • Increase efforts to proactively identify trafficking victims.
  • Provide shelter and specialized assistance to victims of sex trafficking and forced labor.
  • Prosecute and convict labor traffickers in criminal courts and punish traffickers with significant prison terms.
  • Compile comprehensive data on victim identification; victim assistance; and investigations, prosecutions, and convictions at the federal and state level, disaggregated between sex and labor trafficking cases.
  • Train law enforcement officials on victim identification to prevent the penalization of victims for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit.
  • Increase the number of specialized anti-trafficking offices, especially in Mato Grosso do Sul, Piaui, Rondônia, Roraima, and Santa Catarina.
  • Prosecute and convict officials complicit in trafficking. • Improve interagency, federal, and state coordination efforts to combat trafficking, including among law enforcement.
  • Implement a victim identification protocol for law enforcement officials on trafficking indicators and proactive identification of victims and train them on its use.
  • Amend the 2016 anti-trafficking law to criminalize child sex trafficking without elements of force, fraud, or coercion in accordance with the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.
  • Allocate resources to local guardianship councils to increase specialized services for child trafficking victims, including case management assistance.
  • Increase and fund efforts to raise awareness of trafficking, including child sex tourism, on television, social media, and in print form, especially in communities along highways where human trafficking is prevalent.
  • Implement the Third National Action Plan.
  • Empower the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking (CONATRAP) to fulfill its mandate to support expansion of the anti-trafficking office network.
  • Implement and train officials to use the 2020 victim referral protocol.

The government increased law enforcement efforts. Article 149a of the penal code criminalized some forms of sex trafficking and all forms of labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of four to eight years’ imprisonment and a fine, which were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Inconsistent with international law, Article 149a required force, fraud, or coercion for child sex trafficking cases and therefore did not criminalize all forms of child sex trafficking. However, Article 244a of the child and adolescent statute criminalized inducing a child to engage in sexual exploitation without the need to prove the use of force, fraud, or coercion and prescribed penalties of four to 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine, which were sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Additionally, Article 149 of the penal code prescribed penalties of two to eight years’ imprisonment and a fine. It prohibited “slave labor,” or reducing a person to a condition analogous to slavery, and defined forced labor to include degrading work conditions and exhausting work hours, going beyond situations in which people are held in service through force, fraud, or coercion.

Law enforcement data provided by the government reflected efforts made under federal jurisdiction. Authorities reported initiating 285 investigations (64 sex trafficking investigations and 221 slave labor investigations), compared with initiating 206 slave labor investigations in 2020 and 296 (40 for sex trafficking and 256 for slave labor) in 2019. There were 299 ongoing investigations (53 for sex trafficking and 246 for slave labor) initiated in previous years, some dating to 2013, compared with 237 ongoing investigations (all for slave labor) reported in 2020. The government prosecuted 49 new cases under the anti-trafficking law (11 for alleged sex trafficking and 38 for alleged slave labor) in 2021, compared with prosecuting 14 new cases in 2020 (all for sex trafficking) and 56 in 2019 (four for sex trafficking and 52 for slave labor). The government reported 599 ongoing trafficking prosecutions (43 for sex trafficking and 556 for slave labor) in courts of first and second instance, compared with 512 ongoing prosecutions (six for sex trafficking and 506 for slave labor) in 2020. In 2021, the government reported two initial convictions—one for sex trafficking and one for sex and labor trafficking, both subject to appeal—and no final convictions under the anti-trafficking law, compared with three final trafficking convictions under a related statute criminalizing the facilitation of human trafficking and six initial labor trafficking convictions, subject to appeal, in 2020. Media reported the Brazilian Supreme Court upheld the slave labor convictions of two traffickers who appealed their case; the court sentenced them to six and three years’ imprisonment, respectively, for exploiting 26 people in conditions analogous to slavery. Brazil allowed successive appeals in criminal cases, including trafficking, before courts could issue a final conviction and sentence. Many convicted traffickers appealed their convictions several times, in both lower and appeals courts. Media reports showed that adjudication of cases could take four to 10 years. Traffickers sometimes served their sentence under house arrest or in prison work release programs, leaving to work during the day and returning to prison overnight; these punishments were not commensurate with the serious nature of the trafficking crime and did not effectively deter traffickers. Observers reported the judicial system did not experience pandemic-related delays during the reporting period; courts remained open throughout 2021. The government reported law enforcement officials conducted anti-trafficking investigations as normal, without any pandemic-related limitations.

The government treated forced labor as a distinct crime from human trafficking. Labor inspectors and labor prosecutors had primary authority over cases of slave labor and could apply civil penalties. The federal police and public ministry handled the investigation and prosecution of severe slave labor cases and had the authority to pursue criminal charges against labor traffickers. However, the government favored administrative penalties in cases of slave labor. Authorities in populous states had a limited understanding of sex trafficking and mostly focused on cases of transnational sex trafficking. Anecdotal reports indicated some government authorities had difficulty conceptualizing individuals in commercial sex as potential trafficking victims, which inhibited law enforcement action against traffickers and likely led to authorities overlooking potential victims. When authorities identified exploitation of individuals in commercial sex, including potential victims of sex trafficking, they sometimes considered them victims of slave labor and referred them to the Public Labor Ministry (MPT) or the Special Secretariat for Social Security and Labor.

Interagency coordination and data collection efforts were inadequate. Data remained spread across multiple databases at the federal and state level, making it difficult to obtain and analyze comprehensive data. The Brazilian Federal Police (PF) was the primary law enforcement entity charged with responding to trafficking crimes. In 2021, the PF increased staffing for its central anti-trafficking units and made provisions for temporary staffing expansions during busy periods. The PF had a local unit in every state and participated in the investigation of most trafficking crimes. However, the PF’s coordination with state and municipal entities varied considerably. In some states, the PF and state and municipal entities did not cooperate or communicate effectively; in others, observers reported successful coordination between local, state, and federal entities streamlined investigations and raids. Law enforcement units at all levels had insufficient funding, expertise, and staff to investigate trafficking. Observers reported police occasionally misclassified trafficking cases, suggesting such cases were under-reported.

The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses; however, it added two former public employees, a retired public prosecutor and a former mayor, to its public registry of individuals and companies guilty of slave labor, known as the “dirty list.” Corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes remained significant concerns, inhibiting law enforcement action during the year. Media reported the former prosecutor co-owned a farm where, in 2018, officials identified 18 victims of slave labor; the victims lived in crude structures, which lacked running water, on the property where their employer compelled them to harvest açai. The government did not report any additional developments related to cases of official complicity from previous years, including the October 2016 investigation of an elected official who was arrested and removed from his position in Parana state after allegations of his involvement in a child sex trafficking ring. Similarly, there were no updates on the prosecution’s appeal of an inadequate sentence given to a civil police investigator in 2016 for his involvement in a sex trafficking ring involving children.

During the reporting period, the government offered limited training opportunities; it did not report anti-trafficking training for prosecutors, judges, or law enforcement officials. Civil society observers reported law enforcement and judicial sector officials demonstrated a limited, albeit improving, understanding of trafficking crimes; these observers also reported state and municipal officials were significantly less proficient than their federal counterparts. The government reportedly required new labor judges to receive training on slave labor and human trafficking, but it did not report recruiting new judges in 2021; by contrast, 76 new judges completed the training in 2019, the last year for which data was available. The government continued to participate in a U.S. program designed to prevent suspected child sex tourists from entering the country. The government continued to coordinate with British, Portuguese, Spanish, and U.S. counterparts, as well as international law enforcement entities, on trafficking cases; in one such investigation, Brazilian officials coordinated with Portuguese and Spanish authorities to arrest seven alleged sex traffickers accused of recruiting as many as 100 Brazilian women, including children, to work for a fraudulent modeling agency, then forcing them to engage in commercial sex. The government reported extraditing one foreign suspected trafficker to face trial in another country and coordinating with the Belarusian government to extradite a Brazilian suspected trafficker to face trial in Brazil.

The government maintained protection efforts. In 2021, the government reported identifying 441 trafficking victims, compared with identifying and providing protection services to 357 potential trafficking victims in 2020. Among these victims, there were 221 men, 139 women, 51 boys, and 30 girls; the government did not specify how many were victims of sex trafficking, as opposed to labor trafficking. The government also reported identifying 1,937 victims of labor exploitation during 443 slave labor inspections; however, the government did not specify how many, if any, of these were trafficking victims, as opposed to victims of other forms of exploitation. As in previous years, the government did not report the total number of cases of forced labor as defined under international law. By comparison, authorities inspected 266 companies and identified 943 victims of labor exploitation in 2020; in a 2021 analysis, officials assessed as probable trafficking victims 223 of 936 victims of labor exploitation identified in 2020. Several government agencies at various levels collected data on victim identification and assistance; however, only the Ministry of Citizenship and Ministry of Labor reported victim identification data in 2021. Brazil’s lack of a centralized database and inconsistent reporting made it difficult to analyze data, perform year-to-year comparisons, and draw conclusions. Civil society observers noted the demographic profiles of trafficking victims varied considerably across available sources, based on the variables each entity tracked, as well as the population to which it catered; the Ministry of Health’s records, for example, frequently included more female victims than did law enforcement sources. In previous reporting periods, the government’s reported victim identification efforts varied from state to state; select rural states, such as Parana, often identified an outsized share of the victims identified in a given year, while more populous states identified relatively few. Observers suggested the government devoted insufficient resources to identifying victims of slave labor in female-dominated areas of work, including domestic labor. Federal labor inspectors reportedly shared with victims of slave labor information on basic resources available to them. The government did not report how many slave labor victims received such information in 2021 or 2020. Many, but not all, victims of slave labor had access to three months of unemployment insurance; the government reported that 1,687 slave labor victims received unemployment insurance in 2021, compared with 713 of the 942 victims identified in 2020. The government did not report what other services, if any, slave labor victims received.

The government had an updated protocol for victim assistance and referral, developed in consultation with an international NGO in 2020. However, observers reported implementation of the 2020 protocol was incomplete and some officials at the federal, state, and local level continued to rely on victim identification guidance from 2013, which predated the 2016 anti-trafficking law. However, the government did not report training any officials to use either resource during the reporting period; there was no indication that authorities in most states proactively or consistently identified victims of sex trafficking, child sex tourism, or forced labor, especially forced criminality. Labor inspectors identified victims of slave labor while conducting impromptu inspections into businesses or employers suspected of using slave labor. According to some government officials, judges demonstrated an incomplete understanding of the irrelevance of initial consent; they inconsistently identified trafficking victims as such when the victim initially consented to perform a certain job or service in which they were later coerced or forced to provide labor or services against their will. The MOJPS maintained eight “advanced posts” at locations, such as airports and bus stations, where authorities could screen for trafficking indicators; it operated the same number of posts in 2020 and nine in 2019.

Law 13.344 mandated the government provide victims with temporary shelter; legal, social, and health assistance; and protection against re-victimization. Implementation of the law was inconsistent across states. Authorities continued to operate 16 state-level and one municipal-level anti-trafficking offices (NETPs). NETPs operated interagency networks that could serve as the first point of contact for victims who had been identified by any means, including NGOs; however, most NETPs did not provide services to victims directly and were only open during the day. Most agencies with equities participated in the network, and NETPs could refer victims of adult sex trafficking to Specialized Social Service Centers (CREAS) serving vulnerable populations, victims of forced labor to the Secretariat of Labor Inspections (SIT), and child victims of trafficking to guardianship councils. The government did not report the number of victims NETPs assisted in 2021, compared with assisting 156 potential victims in 2020. Adult victims referred to CREAS could receive assistance from non-specialized psychologists and social workers; the government reported its network of CREAS assisted 441 victims in 2021, compared with assisting 357 potential victims in 2020. A government official indicated that the NETPs were not distributed in a balanced way across the country. Wealthier states, such as Sao Paulo, supplemented their NETPs’ budgets, allowing for more effective assistance and coordination teams comprised of police officers, prosecutors, labor inspectors, labor prosecutors, and mental health professionals. Federal funding, however, was limited and insufficient to adequately fund or equip NETPs in the absence of supplemental state-level funding. Many states did not have NETPs, including border states where trafficking was prevalent. Civil society reported some regional governments diverted NETPS resources to support pandemic mitigation efforts. The government did not report whether it maintained its partnership with an LGBTQI+ organization to increase the protection of transgender trafficking victims.

Some NETPs and CREAS could provide limited short-term shelter; the federal government did not fund specialized or long-term shelters for trafficking victims. The government had a national network of non-specialized government and civil society shelters serving vulnerable populations, such as individuals experiencing homelessness, victims of domestic violence, and the elderly. Of these shelters, the government reported more than 3,700 could receive trafficking victims, although far fewer served trafficking victims in practice. In 2019, the most recent year for which data was available, 32 of these shelters reported providing services to at least one trafficking victim each. The government did not report how many trafficking victims these shelters assisted during the reporting period. There were no specialized shelters for male victims of trafficking. States did not have specialized shelters for child sex trafficking victims, and guardianship councils often lacked the expertise and resources to adequately identify, refer, and support child victims. Some states placed victims in shelters for migrants, individuals experiencing homelessness, or victims of domestic violence. The state of Sao Paulo, for example, had two main shelters where trafficking victims could receive assistance—one was a state government-funded shelter where female victims and their children could receive health benefits, education, food, and housing for three to six months; the other was an NGO-operated shelter that provided temporary assistance for refugees and trafficking victims. When space in these shelters was unavailable, Sao Paulo officials housed trafficking victims in other non-specialized shelters and, occasionally, hotels. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s second most populous city, did not have any specialized shelters for victims of sex trafficking. Officials from the MPT used assets forfeited from traffickers to provide care to victims of slave labor. To increase and expedite access to care for forced labor victims, state governments could participate in the Integrated Action Program through MPT, which coordinated vocational training, sought restitution from traffickers, and arranged job placements. Authorities did not report providing training to any guardianship council social workers on the worst forms of child labor, including trafficking, in 2021 or 2020, compared with training 242 social workers in 2019.

Authorities sometimes penalized victims for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit. Due to inadequate application of formal identification and screening procedures, officials occasionally arrested foreign women for alleged drug trafficking crimes committed under coercion and as a result of their trafficking situation. The government had measures to encourage victims to testify in cases against traffickers, including allowing remote live video testimony. However, authorities have never reported using these measures in trafficking cases. Observers continued to express concern about the under-reporting of trafficking crimes, attributing it in part to victims’ lack of awareness of protection services and fear that filing complaints would lead to further exploitation, deportation, or other harm. The law entitled foreign victims of trafficking and other rights violations to a residence permit. The government did not report issuing any residence permits under this provision in 2021, whether to trafficking victims or victims of other crimes, compared with 12 in 2020. The government could assist victims of trafficking with repatriation, but authorities have not reported assisting any victims since 2017.

The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. The MOJPS oversaw the inter-ministerial group responsible for the implementation of the 2016-2022 Third National Action Plan; MOJPS did not report the plan’s operational budget in 2021, compared with a budget of 443,840 reais ($78,310) in 2020 and 639,246 reais ($112,780) in 2019. The MOJPS also funded the seven-member CONATRAP advisory committee, which included representatives from federal government agencies and NGOs. In 2021, CONATRAP issued updates to its committee bylaws. The MOJPS worked with an international organization and foreign government to produce and release a three-year analysis on trafficking trends. Coordination between agencies at the national and state levels remained uneven and varied in efficacy. At the state government level, officials from different agencies in 16 states coordinated to address trafficking independently from the federal government and in a decentralized manner through the state NETPs. The MPT did not report any 2021 activities related to its technical cooperation agreement with PF, focused on increasing information sharing on cases of child labor and slave labor or its working group assigned to develop standard operating procedures for government officials working with child victims of sexual exploitation, including sex trafficking.

Most awareness-raising efforts in Brazil focused on addressing child or slave labor more broadly; few campaigns attempted to raise awareness of sex trafficking and child sex tourism. Throughout the year and to commemorate World Day against Trafficking, municipal and state governments hosted workshops, trainings, performances, and roundtable discussions to raise awareness of human trafficking. Officials in Rio Grande do Sul distributed pamphlets outlining trafficking indicators and hosted trafficking awareness seminars. In the federal district, officials launched a campaign to reduce children’s vulnerability to trafficking and other forms of exploitation by registering births and issuing identity documents. The government reported partnering with NGOs to produce online seminars and a range of awareness materials, including a web series on active government-funded anti-trafficking programs. PRF officials continued to operate a database to identify critical locations along highways where the commercial sexual exploitation of children was prevalent and coordinated with MPT and the Brazilian Association for the Defense of Women, Children and Youth to include human trafficking in its mapping efforts. The federal government launched a public awareness initiative to promote regularization of domestic workers’ employment status, which would reduce their vulnerability to trafficking. In the first half of 2020, government-operated human rights hotlines received 156 calls related to human trafficking and 4,069 calls related to labor exploitation, including slave labor. Hotline operators could refer victims to local resources including police, state prosecutor’s offices, social workers, guardianship councils, CRAS, CREAS, and the labor inspectorate. Some states, including Sao Paulo, operated their own human rights hotlines. The government did not indicate whether it initiated any investigations from calls to the hotlines.

Authorities did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. However, authorities made efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor. The SIT published a “dirty list,” or Lista suja, which made public the names of individuals and businesses found guilty of using slave labor, twice annually. In its most recent iteration, released in October 2021, the list included 66 employers, compared with 113 in October 2020. The SIT added 32 new employers to the list in 2021, compared with 44 new employers in 2020. The government acknowledged the decrease in new additions to the list in 2021 and 2020, attributing them to pandemic-related capacity reductions; officials continued to work through the backlog caused by several months’ inactivity during 2020. Individuals and companies on the list were prohibited from accessing credit by public or private financial institutions; the government reported its civil lawsuits against seven banks that continued extending credit to businesses included on the “dirty list,” initiated in 2019, remained ongoing in 2021. While the “dirty list” remains one of Brazil’s most effective tools to reduce the demand for slave labor, the inadequate criminalization of these crimes hindered efforts to combat labor trafficking. Officials issued administrative penalties to 266 employers guilty of slave labor in 2020, compared with 106 employers in 2019. The government indicated the government’s staff of labor inspectors shrunk for at least the fifth consecutive year. Labor inspectors had access to an online course on slave labor and human trafficking, but the government did not report how many inspectors utilized this programming.

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Brazil, and traffickers exploit victims from Brazil abroad. Traffickers exploit women and children from Brazil and from other South American countries, especially Paraguay, in sex trafficking in Brazil. Gangs and organized criminal groups have subjected women and girls to sex trafficking in the states of Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina. Traffickers also exploit Brazilian women in sex trafficking abroad, especially in Western Europe and the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Traffickers lure Brazilian women abroad with false promises to exploit them in sex trafficking; traffickers have feigned offers of successful music careers to entice Brazilian women to travel to South Korea, where they are forced into commercial sex. Traffickers have exploited Brazilian men and transgender women in sex trafficking in Spain and Italy. Transgender women are one of the most vulnerable populations in Brazil. According to a study conducted in 2019, 90 percent of transgender women in Brazil are in commercial sex, and of those in Rio de Janeiro, more than half are in a situation at high risk for human trafficking. Demand for transgender women in commercial sex in Brazil is elevated relative to other countries, as are rates of violence against transgender women. Traffickers often require transgender victims to pay them for protection and daily housing fees. When they are unable to pay, traffickers beat them, starve them, and force them into commercial sex. Traffickers deceive transgender Brazilian women with offers of gender reassignment surgery, planning to exploit them in sex trafficking when they are unable to repay the cost of the procedure. Traffickers exploit children in sex trafficking along Brazil’s highways, including BR-386, BR-116, and BR-285. Child sex tourism remains a problem, particularly in resort and coastal areas; many child sex tourists are from Europe and the United States.

Migrants—especially Bolivian, Filipino, Haitian, Paraguayan, and PRC national migrants—and people living near any of Brazil’s border areas are vulnerable to trafficking. Traffickers have exploited PRC women in sex trafficking in Rio de Janeiro. Venezuelan migrants were highly vulnerable to sex trafficking and forced labor in Brazil. Traffickers recruit Venezuelans—those living in Brazil and those still in Venezuela—via online advertisements and social media platforms offering fraudulent job opportunities and later exploiting them in sex trafficking in major cities like Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Traffickers increasingly relied on digital means to recruit both sex and labor trafficking victims. Experts indicated the government convicted fewer than 5 percent of entities charged with slave labor.

Most identified trafficking victims are people of color, and many are Afro-Brazilian or otherwise of African descent; 63 percent of trafficking victims served at NETPs in 2020 identified as Black or Brown. Traffickers exploit Brazilian men—notably Afro-Brazilian men—and, to a lesser extent, women and children, in situations that could amount to labor trafficking in both rural areas (including in ranching, agriculture, charcoal production, salt industries, logging, and mining) and cities (construction, factories, restaurants, and hospitality). Traffickers exploit adults and children from other countries—including Bolivia, Paraguay, Haiti, and the PRC—in forced labor and debt-based coercion in many sectors, including construction, the textile industry (particularly in Sao Paulo), and small businesses. Traffickers exploit Brazilians in forced labor for some producers of sugar, coffee, garlic, charcoal, and carnauba wax. Traffickers exploit Brazilian women and children, as well as girls from other countries in the region, in forced labor for domestic servitude. Traffickers exploit Brazilians in forced labor in other countries, including in Europe. Traffickers force Brazilian and foreign victims, especially from Bolivia, South Africa, and Venezuela, to engage in criminal activity, including drug trafficking, in Brazil and neighboring countries. Cuban medical workers who departed Brazil in 2018, after the Cuban government ended Cuban medical worker participation in Brazil’s Mais Medicos program, continued to pursue a class-action lawsuit against an international organization for its role in their alleged exploitation. In the lawsuit, Cuban workers who were part of the Mais Medicos program in Brazil allege they were forced to work by the Cuban government, as part of a triangular arrangement facilitated by an international organization. NGOs and officials report some police officers ignore the exploitation of children in sex trafficking, patronize brothels, and rob and assault women in commercial sex, impeding identification of sex trafficking victims.

U.S. Department of State

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