BRAZIL: Tier 2
Brazil is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Brazilian women and children are exploited in sex trafficking within the country, and federal police report higher rates of children exploited in prostitution in the north and northeast regions. Brazilian women are found in sex trafficking abroad, often in Western Europe and China. Women and girls from other South American countries, including Paraguay, are exploited in sex trafficking in Brazil. Transgender Brazilians are forced into prostitution in Brazil. 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; many child sex tourists are from Europe, and to a lesser extent, the United States. Brazilian law defines trabalho escravo, or slave labor, as forced labor or labor performed during exhausting work days or in degrading work conditions. While not all individuals in trabalho escravo are forced labor victims, many are. Some Brazilian men, and to lesser extent women and children, are subjected to trabalho escravo and debt bondage in rural areas, including in ranching, agriculture, charcoal production, logging, and mining. Exploitation of workers is sometimes linked to environmental damage and deforestation, particularly in the Amazon region. Brazilians are also found in trabalho escravo in urban areas in construction, factories, and the restaurant and hospitality industries. Brazilian women and children, as well as girls from other countries in the region, are exploited in domestic servitude with approximately 213,000 children employed as domestic workers in Brazil. Some Brazilian trafficking victims are forced to engage in criminal activity, including drug trafficking, in Brazil and neighboring countries. Brazilian forced labor victims have been identified in other countries, including in Europe. Brazil is a destination for men, women, and children from other countries—including Bolivia, Paraguay, Haiti, and China—exploited in forced labor and debt bondage in many sectors, including construction; the textile industry, particularly in Sao Paulo; and small businesses. NGOs and officials report some police officers tolerate children exploited in sex trafficking, patronize brothels, and rob and assault women in prostitution, impeding proactive identification of sex trafficking victims. Government officials and former officials have been investigated and prosecuted for trabalho escravo.
The Government of Brazil does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Brazilian law defines trafficking as a movement-based crime and statutes prohibiting trafficking do not align with international law, making it difficult to assess government efforts accurately. Decentralized data collection on prosecutions, convictions, and sentences inhibits government coordination and also makes assessment difficult. Most trafficking cases took many years to progress through the legal and judicial systems. An increased number of state governments offered vocational training and access to public services to forced labor victims. Authorities confirmed providing general services to only a small portion of potential victims, and the federal government did not fund specialized shelters, although some states provided job training for vulnerable populations, including forced labor victims. The government continued awareness-raising efforts.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR BRAZIL:
Increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses and convict and sentence traffickers, including those engaged in internal sex trafficking not involving movement, the exploitation of children in prostitution and child sex tourism, and any form of trafficking involving complicit officials; improve judicial processes, including by improving coordination and collaboration between the judiciary and the federal prosecutor’s office, so measurable results are achieved in holding traffickers accountable, and implement sentences that are sufficiently stringent; train law enforcement and prosecutors in proactively identifying, obtaining, preserving, and corroborating evidence to reduce dependence on victim testimony; in partnership with civil society, increase funding for specialized services for victims of sex trafficking and forced labor and fund shelters for victims of sex trafficking and forced labor; amend legislation to harmonize the definition of trafficking with the 2000 UN TIP Protocol and establish sufficiently stringent sentences for traffickers; verify with measurable results that victims of both sex and labor trafficking are referred to comprehensive services and that officials working at social service centers have funding and training to provide specialized care, such as employment assistance; increase oversight of local guardianship councils so child trafficking victims receive specialized services and case management; enhance timely data collection on prosecutions, convictions, and victim identification and care; increase law enforcement dedicated to identifying victims of sex trafficking and domestic servitude; increase labor inspectors trained to recognize and report indicia of forced labor; and increase collaboration between government entities involved in combating different forms of trafficking.
Authorities maintained uneven law enforcement efforts largely focused on sex trafficking and not sufficient given the scope of both sex trafficking and labor trafficking in Brazil. The lack of a unified anti-trafficking law and comprehensive data made efforts difficult to evaluate. Brazilian laws prohibit most forms of trafficking in persons. Articles 231 and 231-A of the penal code respectively prohibit international and domestic sex trafficking, but they are inconsistent with international law as they require movement as a necessary element, 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, but not commensurate with those prescribed in Brazil for other serious crimes, such as rape. Officials investigated and prosecuted cases of sex trafficking not involving movement under other statutes, such as those related to pimping or sexual exploitation. Article 149 of the penal code prohibits trabalho escravo, or reducing a person to a condition analogous to slavery, prescribing penalties of two to eight years’ imprisonment. Article 149 goes beyond situations in which people are held in service through force, fraud, or coercion to criminalize other treatment, including subjecting workers to exhausting work days or degrading working conditions. Article 149 does not adequately criminalize non-physical coercion, such as threatening foreign victims with deportation unless they continue to work. Draft legislation to harmonize the definition of trafficking with the 2000 UN TIP Protocol and increase the minimum sentences for anti-trafficking crimes was introduced in 2014, but not approved by Congress in 2015.
Since the laws related to trafficking also criminalize non-trafficking crimes, and other laws may have been used to prosecute and convict trafficking offenders, the total number of trafficking investigations, prosecutions, and convictions was unknown. In 2015, authorities reported 374 existing police investigations, 97 new or existing prosecutions under article 231 and article 231-A, and 12 new convictions, 10 under article 231 and two under article 231-A, as decided by regional federal tribunals; and 296 new investigations, 65 new prosecutions, and nine new convictions under article 149. In comparison, in 2014, authorities reported police investigations of 75 new cases and five new prosecutions under article 231, and 77 cases and 16 new prosecutions in 2013; nine investigations and two new prosecutions under article 231-A; and 327 new or existing investigations, 105 new prosecutions initiated, and four final convictions under article 149. Most sex and labor traffickers convicted by lower courts appealed their convictions while out of jail; there were 43 appeals related to trafficking cases in the federal court system in 2015. These judicial processes lasted years and delays made holding traffickers accountable difficult. Authorities leniently implemented sentences issued under trafficking statutes. Based on incomplete data, in 2015 federal appeals courts upheld the convictions of 12 international sex traffickers in five cases and nine labor traffickers in six cases, compared with nine international sex traffickers in two cases and four labor traffickers in 2014. Officials reported no final convictions for cases involving child victims. Sex traffickers convicted in 2015 had sentences ranging from six years’ to six years and five months’ imprisonment; however, most convicted traffickers served these sentences under house arrest or by spending only nights in prison while being free during the day. Imposed sentences for convicted labor traffickers in 2015 ranged from one year and two months to nine years. In 2015, federal judges emphasized that collecting evidence from victims and witnesses gathered at the scene remained challenging, and that many cases had been dismissed due to insufficient evidence.
Efforts are also being undertaken by some states. In Paraiba state, officials investigated a criminal ring that subjected more than 50 male teenagers to trafficking in Latin America and Italy for sexual exploitation as transvestites. Investigations have been ongoing since 2013, and authorities arrested and charged 12 Italians and Brazilians in criminal court in 2015. The case is in the hearing stage. The federal government also brought a civil class action lawsuit for 20 million reals ($5,566,400) against the defendants; a final ruling is expected in 2016. This is the first time the federal government filed a civil class action suit on behalf of trafficking victims in Brazil. Any monetary compensation from the lawsuit will go to a fund that assists trafficking victims, but it is unconfirmed whether any of the money will go to the victims in the case. In 2015, labor inspectors rescued 11 trafficking victims from northeastern Brazil who were hired for the construction of the Olympic Village. The prosecutor’s office for labor cases said that although no civil action had been taken on this case, each of the workers was awarded 20,480 reals ($5,700) in back-wages. No criminal charges have been filed to date.
Anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts were disjointed due to different laws and government entities involved. Significant challenges stemming from bureaucratic and systemic deficiencies in the criminal justice system remain in the areas of investigation and prosecution. Law enforcement units required more funding, expertise, and staff to investigate trafficking, and awareness of trafficking among law enforcement was low. In addition to state committees tasked with coordinating data sharing among courts, authorities established a national forum of judges from various levels, including the president of the supreme federal court, which compares notes and information on sentences related to trafficking cases. The coordinating body sought to prioritize the collection of data on judicial cases related to international sex trafficking and slave labor, and to work with the federal prosecutor’s office to share prosecution data. The government collaborated with an international partner to provide a two-day anti-trafficking training for some law enforcement officials, judges, and prosecutors; however, training for law enforcement remained uneven, especially for state police. In Sao Paulo, the city government trained police to detect signs of trafficking. The Ministry of Labor (MOL)’s anti-trabalho escravo mobile units freed workers and required those responsible for their exploitation to pay fines. Labor inspectors and prosecutors could only apply civil penalties, and the government did not criminally prosecute many trabalho escravo cases. Local political pressure, threats from landowners, a shortage of labor inspectors or police, and the remoteness of properties hampered some investigations. Officials found domestic servitude particularly difficult to identify and investigate.
Authorities did not report any new investigations of complicit officials in 2015. The government did not report progress on 2013 cases involving a judge in Bahia state allegedly involved in sex trafficking and police officers in Rio de Janeiro allegedly involved in operating a brothel.
The government maintained inadequate victim protection efforts and identified significantly fewer potential victims than in 2014. A government publication provided guidance on how to identify and assist potential trafficking victims, but many officials did not have or did not implement this guidance and lacked guidelines for screening vulnerable populations for trafficking indicators. Government entities used different definitions of trafficking, making it difficult to assess victim identification and assistance efforts. Sixteen of 27 state governments operated state-level anti-trafficking offices, which varied in effectiveness, and unreliable data remained a problem. There were also 19 offices helping migrants at airports, up from three in 2014. The 16 state anti-trafficking offices and 19 offices at airports reported a total of 528 potential sex trafficking and 176 potential labor trafficking victims in the first half of 2015, compared to 170 potential sex trafficking and 2,145 potential labor trafficking victims in the first half of 2014. They reported 459 potential sex trafficking and 700 potential labor trafficking victims in the latter half of 2015, compared to 81 potential sex trafficking and 1,185 potential labor trafficking victims in the latter half of 2014; in some cases the same victims were counted twice. MOL mobile inspection units identified many potential labor trafficking victims and identified and freed 1,010 laborers in situations of trabalho escravo in 2015, compared with 1,509 in 2014. Officials did not report the total number of victims of domestic servitude or commercial sexual exploitation of children identified in 2015.
The federal government did not fund specialized shelters for trafficking victims; however, some states provided job training for vulnerable populations, including forced labor victims. There were no specialized services for male and transgender sex trafficking victims. The government did not fund long-term shelter for trafficking victims. Specialized shelters for child sex trafficking victims were lacking, and NGOs and officials reported local guardianship councils often did not have the expertise or resources to identify child victims correctly and refer them to services. General victim services and shelters varied in quality from state to state and generally remained underfunded and inadequate. Anti-trafficking centers for social assistance were responsible for referring victims to services, but authorities did not report how many victims these offices referred to services. Of the 2,453 specialized social assistance centers across the country where psychologists and social workers provided assistance to vulnerable people, only 675 centers, or 28 percent, were certified to assist trafficking victims; and many centers were underfunded. In 2014, 623 centers were certified to assist trafficking victims. Officials generally did not refer individuals in trabalho escravo to these centers. In 2014, the last year for which statistics were available, these centers reported assisting 1,137 trafficking victims, including 192 girls, 284 women, 145 boys, and 516 men. In comparison, in 2013, these centers reported assisting 292 trafficking victims. The Sao Paulo shelter providing temporary assistance for refugees and trafficking victims did not report how many victims stayed at the shelter.
The government provided individuals removed from trabalho escravo with unpaid wages plus three months’ minimum wage salary and transportation home, a benefit sex trafficking victims did not receive. While labor prosecutors awarded some workers compensation from fines levied against employers, in some cases officials did not file for these indemnities, and in other cases victims did not receive them due to non-payment by employers. Authorities reported that rescued workers received 3.1 million Brazilian reals ($860,000) in back pay in 2015. State governments in Mato Grosso, Bahia, Rio de Janeiro, and the “Bico do Papagaio” region provided funds to a program that offered vocational training to freed slave laborers. Most rescued slave laborers remained vulnerable to re-trafficking due to few employment options and lack of adequate assistance; however, the government sought to address this issue by expanding vocational training. The Ministries of Labor and Social Development signed a memorandum of understanding to provide forced labor victims access to comprehensive public services by including the victims in the registry for social programs, granting them priority access to the Bolsa Familia cash transfer program, unemployment insurance, subsidized low-income housing, a 60 percent discount on energy bills, and technical assistance—all implemented at municipal-level centers for social assistance. Some victims were reluctant to testify due to fear of reprisals from traffickers. Sex trafficking victims were eligible for short-term protection under a program for witnesses created in 1999, and authorities reported that two trafficking victims received protection in 2015, one victim of international trafficking for slave labor and one for international sex trafficking. Foreign sex trafficking victims were entitled to permanent visa status, and the government reported one victim received it in 2015, compared to no victims in 2014. At least one labor trafficking victim was repatriated to China with assistance from the Rio State government and NGOs; he was the first Chinese trafficking victim ever repatriated. There were no reports in 2014, the last year for which data were available, that victims were penalized for unlawful acts committed as a result of being subjected to human trafficking, although in past years police officers deported foreign citizens in trabalho escravo and with the weak victim identification system it is likely some victims were detained and jailed.
The government continued modest prevention efforts, amidst reduced resources and budgets. Coordination among anti-trafficking initiatives was uneven, making the initiatives less effective. The national committee on trafficking included selected NGOs, and officials maintained a separate commission to eradicate trabalho escravo. Authorities issued two reports in 2015 on efforts to implement the 2013-2016 plan for movement-based trafficking. Most federal ministries reported reduced budgets limited their ability to implement the plan. State anti-trafficking offices often lacked adequate human resources and budgets, and interagency coordination was weak in several states. Federal, state, and municipal entities undertook anti-trafficking initiatives and awareness efforts. The MOL last published a public list identifying individuals and businesses responsible for trabalho escravo in 2014; some companies sued to be removed from the list. The July 2014 list cited 609 employers who were denied access to credit by public and private financial institutions because of this designation. The supreme federal court is expected to make a final decision in 2016 on the publication of the list. Authorities continued awareness campaigns in an effort to reduce the demand for commercial sexual exploitation of children. In 2014, federal police helped identify points of increased risk for sexual exploitation of children along federal highways; at the close of the reporting period, no data was provided as to efforts made at the points of risk. Officials did not report any new investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of child sex tourists in 2015. There was no reported progress on an ongoing prosecution of a case initially investigated in 2007 involving a fishing tour company that brought U.S. citizens to engage in child sex tourism with indigenous girls in Amazonas State. Military troops received anti-trafficking training prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions. The government provided anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel.