2021 Trafficking in Persons Report: Brazil

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 to the previous reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Brazil remained on Tier 2. These efforts included obtaining final convictions for three sex traffickers and initial convictions for six labor traffickers, as well as developing comprehensive new guidance for identifying and providing assistance to slave labor victims, including labor trafficking victims. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. It did not report initiating new prosecutions for forced labor, 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. Victim identification and protection mechanisms, including shelter services, remained inadequate and varied substantially by state. The government investigated and prosecuted fewer traffickers and did not offer sufficient training for law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges to increase their capacity to respond to trafficking. The government penalized victims of trafficking for crimes committed as a result of their trafficking situation, and authorities in populous states did not proactively identify victims of sex trafficking, including among highly vulnerable populations, such as children and LGBTQI+ persons.


Provide shelter and specialized assistance to victims of sex trafficking and forced labor. • Proactively identify and vigorously investigate cases of sex trafficking, including child sex tourism. • Prosecute and convict labor traffickers in criminal courts and punish traffickers with significant prison terms. • 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. • Develop 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. • 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. • Implement the third national action plan. • Strengthen the mandate of the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking (CONATRAP) to assist in the development of anti-trafficking offices in every state. • Update the referral mechanism guidance to reflect the provisions of the 2016 trafficking law.


The government decreased 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, defining 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 206 new slave labor investigations but did not report the number of new sex trafficking investigations in 2020, compared with 296 new investigations in 2019 (40 for sex trafficking and 256 for slave labor). There were 237 ongoing slave labor investigations initiated in previous years, some dating to 2003. The government prosecuted 14 new cases of suspected sex trafficking in lower courts in 2020, compared with 56 new prosecutions in 2019 (four for sex trafficking and 52 for slave labor). Authorities did not report any new criminal prosecutions for slave labor in 2020. The government reported 512 ongoing trafficking prosecutions (six for sex trafficking and 506 for slave labor) in courts of first and second instance. In 2020, the government reported three final trafficking convictions under a related statute criminalizing the facilitation of human trafficking; it did not confirm whether these were sex or labor trafficking convictions or provide details on the length of sentences the traffickers received. Courts convicted at least six labor traffickers in other cases in 2020, but these traffickers could appeal their verdicts and therefore the convictions were not final. In one case where convictions were subject to appeal, courts convicted three labor traffickers for exploiting a Venezuelan woman in forced labor. Brazil allowed successive appeals in criminal cases, including trafficking, before courts could issue a final conviction and sentence. Many convicted sex and labor traffickers appealed their convictions several times, in both lower and appeals courts. Media reports showed that adjudication of cases could take anywhere from 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, punishments that were not commensurate with the seriousness of the crime and did not effectively deter human trafficking. The government reported pandemic-related delays in the judicial system slowed the processing of prosecutions and appeals, including human trafficking and slave labor prosecutions.

In one notable case, officials arrested a suspected trafficker accused of falsely purporting to be a talent scout for professional soccer teams to exploit young athletes. The suspect allegedly recruited boys from Mato Grosso to travel to Paraná to play soccer, where he restricted their movement and forced them to pay a monthly fee, purportedly to maintain their recruitment eligibility. In another high-profile case, law enforcement officials arrested an executive in the beauty industry on slave labor charges after a hotline tip revealed she had exploited her 61-year-old domestic employee for 23 years, offering meager pay, regularly withholding wages and food, and providing inadequate housing. In a third case, officials arrested a Venezuelan couple on charges of human trafficking and extortion; the suspected traffickers made false job offers to Venezuelans with hearing impairments, offering to pay their travel expenses to Brazil to establish a debt. Once arrived, the couple confiscated the victims’ passports and forced them to beg on the street to repay the debt. In 2020, law enforcement officials reported pandemic-related decreases in their interactions with the public, including potential trafficking victims, reduced staffing, and inadequate training on performing routine duties under such conditions; these factors may have limited the efficacy of law enforcement efforts to investigate trafficking crimes and identify trafficking victims.

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. Authorities in populous states, such as Rio de Janeiro, had a limited understanding of sex trafficking, and mostly focused on cases of transnational sex trafficking. Law enforcement officials in the state of Rio de Janeiro did not have a protocol to help them identify victims and did not receive any training on proactive identification. Many of this state’s 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) had a unit in every state and was involved in the investigation of most trafficking crimes; however, in some states, such as Rio de Janeiro, the PF and state and municipal entities generally did not cooperate or communicate. Observers reported police occasionally misclassified trafficking cases, suggesting such cases were under-reported. Law enforcement units at all levels had insufficient funding, expertise, and staff to investigate trafficking.

The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses; however, corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes remained significant concerns, inhibiting law enforcement action during the year. Cases of official complicity from previous years remained open, including the October 2016 investigation of an elected official who was arrested and removed from his position in Paraná 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 targeting prosecutors, judges, or law enforcement officials. Civil society observers reported law enforcement and judicial sector officials demonstrated a limited understanding of trafficking crimes; these observers also reported state and municipal officials were significantly less proficient than their federal counterparts. The government required new labor judges to receive training on slave labor and human trafficking, but it did not recruit new judges during the reporting period due to the pandemic; by contrast, 76 new judges completed the training in 2019. Authorities continued to coordinate with United States officials to prevent suspected child sex tourists from entering the country. The government hosted the headquarters for a large-scale, multicountry investigation into human trafficking and human smuggling, coordinated by an international law enforcement agency; through the investigation, PF forces contributed to the arrest of approximately 30 suspected traffickers and the identification of nearly 100 potential trafficking victims across 32 countries.


The government maintained protection efforts. In 2020, the government reported identifying and providing protection services to 494 potential trafficking victims. The government provided partial victim identification data from a subset of federal agency records; in past years, the government also reported partial victim identification statistics but collected this data from a subset of state-level protection agencies. Several government agencies at various levels collected data on victim identification and assistance; for example, in 2020, the Ministry of Health reported its officials identified 61 adult and 36 child trafficking victims, more than half of whom were Afro-Brazilian or mixed race. However, the lack of a centralized database and inconsistent reporting made year-to-year comparisons difficult. Identification efforts varied greatly from state to state; select rural states, such as the state of Paraná, identified a large number of the reported victims, while more populous states, such as Rio de Janeiro, identified relatively few. In 2020, labor inspection authorities conducted inspections at 266 companies and identified 942 victims of labor exploitation; however, the government did not specify how many of these victims experienced forced or slave labor, as opposed to other forms of exploitation. The government did not report the total number of cases of forced labor as defined under international law. In comparison, authorities inspected 280 companies and identified 1,130 victims of labor exploitation in 2019. Labor inspectors at the federal level 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 2020. However, all 942 identified victims had access to three months of unemployment insurance, compared with the 713 possible victims that received unemployment insurance in 2019. The government did not report what other services slave labor victims received. According to the Ministry of Justice and Public Security (MOJPS), authorities from all federal, state, and local governments continued to use victim identification guidance from 2013, which predated the 2016 anti-trafficking law, to aid victim identification and assistance. However, government officials did not receive training on the use of such guidance, and 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. Officials from the labor inspector’s office identified victims of slave labor while conducting impromptu inspections into businesses or employers suspected of using slave labor. According to some government officials, judges did not consistently identify individuals as trafficking victims who had 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. In 2020, the government produced new standard operating procedures (SOPs) for identifying and providing assistance to victims of slave labor; the new guidance did not include additional funding for victim assistance and the government did not report trainings related to the new SOPs. The MOJPS maintained eight “advanced posts” at locations, such as airports and bus stations, where authorities could screen for trafficking indicators, a decrease from nine advanced posts in 2020 and 12 in 2019.

Law 13.344 mandated the government provide victims with temporary shelter; legal, social, and health assistance; and protection against re-victimization; however, 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. In 2020, an unknown number of NETPs assisted 156 potential victims, compared with 10 NETPS assisting 129 possible victims in 2019. Adult victims referred to CREAS could receive assistance from non-specialized psychologists and social workers; the government reported all 494 potential trafficking victims received services from CREAS but did not disclose the forms of assistance provided. A government official indicated that the NETPs were not distributed in a balanced way across the country. In wealthier states, such as Sao Paulo, the NETP had effective assistance and coordination teams comprised of police officers, prosecutors, labor inspectors, labor prosecutors, and mental health professionals. In contrast, the government did not adequately fund or equip other NETPs to refer and assist victims. Many states did not have NETPs, including border states where trafficking was prevalent. Throughout 2020, the government maintained a partnership with a Brazilian LGBTQI+ organization to increase the protection of transgender trafficking victims, but it did not report any active projects involving the group.

Some NETPs and CREAS could provide limited short-term shelter; the federal government did not fund specialized or long-term shelters for trafficking victims. Some states placed victims in shelters for migrants, the homeless, or victims of domestic violence. The state of Sao Paulo 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. 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. There were no specialized shelters for male victims of trafficking. The government had a 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 victims. The government did not report how many trafficking victims these shelters assisted during the reporting period. Despite being the second most populous city in the country, Rio de Janeiro 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 2020, compared with training 242 social workers in 2019.

Authorities penalized victims for unlawful acts traffickers forced them to commit. Due to inadequate application of formal identification and screening procedures, officials sometimes arrested foreign women for drug trafficking crimes committed under coercion and as a result of their trafficking situation. The government had measures to encourage victims to testify in the case against their traffickers, including allowing remote live video testimony. However, authorities have never reported using these measures for 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 trafficking victims to a residence permit; the government updated the permit application process to clarify required steps in March 2020. The government reported issuing 12 such residence permits in 2020 but did not report how many of these permits it issued to trafficking victims. The government could assist victims of trafficking with repatriation, but authorities have not reported assisting any victims since 2017.


The government decreased efforts to prevent trafficking. The MOJPS continued to oversee the inter-ministerial group responsible for the implementation of the 2016-2022 Third National Action Plan, and worked with an operational budget of 443,840 reais ($85,450), a decrease from 639,250 reais ($123,070) in 2019. The MOJPS also funded the CONATRAP advisory committee, which included representatives from federal government agencies and NGOs. CONATRAP operated with a reduced membership of seven representatives, the result of a 2019 executive order; in 2020, CONATRAP met virtually to elect new civil society participants. 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 continued to convene and address trafficking independently from the federal government and in a decentralized manner through the state NETPs. The MPT continued its three-year technical cooperation agreement with the PF, initiated in 2019, focused on increasing information sharing on cases of child labor and slave labor, but it did not report specific activities related to the agreement in 2020. MPT established a working group to develop SOPs for government officials working with child victims of sexual exploitation, including sex trafficking.

Most awareness raising efforts 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, training, art installations, performances, and roundtable discussions; however, many municipal entities canceled celebrations of the World Day against Trafficking due to pandemic-related complications or restrictions. The Federal Highway Police (PRF) distributed flyers in a January 2020 event to educate recipients on human trafficking and how to make a report via the hotline. A state-level anti-trafficking commission launched an awareness campaign featuring ads on 30 buses in the city of Florianopolis, where forced labor was common in the garment sector. The government reported partnering with NGOs to produce online seminars and a range of awareness materials, including a series of comic strip-style social media posts. There were overall fewer awareness-raising events and campaigns in 2020 than in 2019; the government attributed this decrease, at least in part, to pandemic-related restrictions. The government coordinated with a civil society organization to offer trafficking awareness training to approximately 100 state government officials in Para and Sao Paulo. PRF officials continued to operate a database to identify critical locations along highways where the commercial sexual exploitation of children was prevalent. In 2020, PRF partnered with MPT and the Brazilian Association for the Defense of Women, Children and Youth to include human trafficking in its mapping efforts. In the first half of 2020, government-operated human rights hotlines received 194 calls for human trafficking, 382 calls for slave labor of adults, and 1,915 calls for child labor, a significant increase from the first half of 2019, when hotlines reported 46 calls for human trafficking, 61 for slave labor of adults, 1,971 for child labor, and seven calls reporting child sex tourism. 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, such as Sao Paulo, operated their own human rights hotlines. The government did not indicate whether it initiated any investigations from calls to the hotlines, but media reporting suggested at least one investigation, involving a 61-year-old domestic worker exploited in slave labor, stemmed from a hotline call.

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 2020, the list included 113 total employers, compared with 190 in October 2019. The SIT added 44 new employers to the list in 2020, compared with 69 new employers in 2019. The government attributed the decrease in new additions in the list’s October edition to pandemic-related restrictions; officials stopped processing new names for inclusion for several months during the reporting period due to lockdowns, creating a backlog. The SIT had resumed the adjudication process by the end of the reporting period but continued to operate at reduced capacity. 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 2020. 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. From April 2020 until June 2020, labor inspectors ceased performing routine inspections due to pandemic-related lockdowns; mobile inspection teams continued to operate during this time. The government published guidance on conducting labor inspections during the pandemic and provided COVID-19 testing and personal protective equipment to labor inspectors. Observers indicated the government’s staff of labor inspectors shrunk for at least the fourth consecutive year. The government did make available to labor inspectors an online course on slave labor and human trafficking for labor inspectors, but it did not report how many inspectors participated in this programming. In 2019, the MPT committed to creating a new public list of employers convicted of slave labor; however, the government had not released the list by the end of the reporting period. Authorities did not report any new investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of child sex tourists in 2020.


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 China. 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 Brazilians 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. 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 and people living near any of Brazil’s border areas are vulnerable to trafficking. Traffickers have exploited Chinese women in sex trafficking in Rio de Janeiro. Venezuelan migrants within Brazil were highly vulnerable to sex trafficking and forced labor. Traffickers recruit Venezuelans—those living in Brazil and those still in Venezuela—via online advertisements and social media platforms offering fraudulent job opportunities, later exploiting them in sex trafficking in major cities like Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

Many identified trafficking victims are Afro-Brazilian or of African descent. 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 China—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, 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. In 2018, the Cuban government ended its medical missions to Brazil after Brazilian authorities raised significant concerns of exploitation and forced labor associated with these missions. Cuban medical professionals who participated in medical missions in Brazil may have been exploited and forced to work by the Cuban government. NGOs and officials report some police officers ignore the exploitation of children in sex trafficking, patronize brothels, and rob and assault women in prostitution, impeding identification of sex trafficking victims.