Human Trafficking in Brazil

Following more than three hundred years under Portuguese rule, Brazil gained its independence in 1822, maintaining a monarchical system of government until the abolition of slavery in 1888. Shortly after – in 1889 – the military declared itself in control of the country as a republic. Brazilian coffee exporters politically dominated the country until populist leader Getulio Vargas rose to power in 1930. He is called the “Father of the Poor”, because of the fact that he brought social and economic changes that helped modernize the country.

By far the largest and most populous country in South America, Brazil underwent more than a half-century of populist and military government until 1985, when the military regime peacefully gave up power to civilian rulers. Brazil continues to pursue industrial and agricultural growth and development of its interior. Utilizing vast natural resources and a large labor pool, it is today South America’s leading economic power and a regional leader, one of the first in the area to begin an economic recovery.

Highly unequal income distribution and crime remain pressing problems. Human trafficking in Brazil, in international and internal forms, is still a phenomenon within Brazil. Secretary National Justice Paul Abram warns, “This is because one of its features is the invisibility of victims and denial of recognizing oneself as such. This is why we focused on awareness campaigns and the national network to support the victims. ” Although Brazil banned slavery its 1888 Golden Law, forced labor of thousands of workers occur daily which is helping drive the economy.

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. The Countries that registered the highest incidences of victims of human trafficking were the Suriname (which works as a route to the Netherlands), with 133 victims, followed by Switzerland with 127, Spain with 104 and Germany with 71. UNODC estimates indicate that sexual exploitation is the most common form of trafficking (79%), followed by forced labor (18%), reaching, especially children, adolescents and women.

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The Brazilian government has maintained efforts to prevent human trafficking in partnership with state governments, international organizations and NGOs. Authorities gathered extensive civil society and federal, state, and local government input to draft a second national plan for 2012-2016, as the first national plan ended in January 2010. The Ministry of Labor publishes a “dirty list,” which publicly identifies individuals and corporate entities the government has determined to be responsible for trabalho escravo and is subject to civil penalties.

Authorities continue to investigate sex and labor trafficking crimes, but data collection on trafficking prosecutions and convictions continued to be a challenge. Government-provided specialized shelter and services for victims of all forms of trafficking victims remained inadequate. Authorities continued to partner with civil society and international organizations to raise awareness about sex trafficking and trabalho escravo. During the International Symposium for Combating Human Trafficking, held in Goiania on May 14 and 15 many topics regarding the fight against human trafficking were put in place.

During the symposium, Mr. Bo Mathiasen, regional representative of UNODC, stressed the importance of having a legal basis, backed by enforcement action to combat human trafficking. Mathiasen stated, “We know that human trafficking is one of the cruelest forms of organized crime and it is not possible to move forward in the fight against it without a solid and comprehensive legal basis, capable of providing the necessary tools to rigorously punish the entire chain of criminals involved. It is only possible to fight transnational organized crime if criminals have the perception that there is a real risk of being punished. The UNODC Regional Office for Brazil and the Southern Cone, together with the Brazilian National Justice Council and the National Secretary for Justice have committed to collecting and distributing information regarding all judicial action in Brazil on human trafficking through the UNODC global Human Trafficking Case Law Database. It is expected that by the end of 2012 at least 50 Brazilian judicial will document proceedings in the UNODC Case Law Database. This is a step in the right direction for Brazil to begin to combat this chronic issue.

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