Trafficking in Persons Report 2014 - Brazil

Tier 2


Brazil is a large source 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 child prostitution in the north and northeast regions. Brazilian women are found in sex trafficking abroad, often in Western Europe or neighboring countries such as Suriname, but also as far away as Japan. To a lesser extent, women from neighboring countries, including Paraguay, are exploited in sex trafficking in Brazil. Transgender Brazilians are forced into prostitution within the country, and 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 in Brazil’s northeast. Child sex tourists typically arrive from Europe and, to a lesser extent, North America.

Under Brazilian law, the term trabalho escravo, or slave labor, is defined as forced labor or labor performed during exhausting work days or in degrading working conditions. While not all individuals identified as working in trabalho escravo are forced labor victims, one study noted that 60 percent of workers interviewed in rural trabalho escravo cases had experienced key indicators of forced labor, and numerous cases involving debt bondage were identified during the year. Some Brazilian men, and to lesser extent women and children, are subjected to trabalho escravo in rural areas, often on cattle ranches, charcoal production camps, and sugar-cane plantations, as well as in logging, mining, and agriculture. There is a correlation between trabalho escravo and environmental degradation and deforestation-related activities, particularly in the Amazon region. Brazilians in trabalho escravo have also been identified in urban areas, primarily in construction, as well as in factories and the restaurant and hospitality industries. For the first time, in 2013 Brazilian authorities identified more individuals in trabalho escravo in urban areas than in rural areas. Labor inspectors have identified trabalho escravo used by sub-contractors constructing subsidized housing for a government program. Brazil is a destination for men, women, and children from other countries, principally Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru, Haiti, and China, exploited in forced labor and debt bondage in a variety of sectors. These sectors include construction; the textile industry in metropolitan centers, particularly Sao Paulo; and small businesses in different parts of the country.

Many Brazilian women and children, as well as girls from other countries in the region, are exploited in domestic servitude, particularly in the northeast and in the interior of the country. Child domestic servitude is rarely identified, although a recent census estimates indicate that more than 250,000 children—some of whom are trafficking victims—are employed as domestic workers in Brazil. In some cases, traffickers informally adopt girls to work in homes without remuneration. Some Brazilian men, women, and children who are trafficking victims are forced by their traffickers to engage in criminal activity within the country and in neighboring countries, including drug trafficking. Brazilian forced labor victims have been identified in other countries, including Spain, Italy, and the United States.

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. Brazilian authorities increased the number of criminal investigations against potential labor trafficking offenders and upheld convictions against at least five labor traffickers and seven sex traffickers. The government continued a variety of awareness-raising efforts at the federal, state, and local level. Brazilian law defines trafficking as a movement-based crime and statutes prohibiting trafficking do not align with international law, making it difficult to assess fully government efforts. Most cases took many years to move from investigations to final convictions in the slow-moving judicial system, and some sex and labor traffickers whose initial convictions were upheld in 2013 served sentences by paying fines, completing community service, or living under house arrest. There were some cases of government officials who were investigated in 2013 for complicity in trafficking-related crimes. The government did not fund specialized services or shelters for sex and labor trafficking victims, and it was unclear how many victims received services during the year. Only one state out of 26 provided job training and reintegration services for labor trafficking victims.

Recommendations for Brazil:

Increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and sentence trafficking offenders, including those engaged in internal sex trafficking not involving movement; in partnership with civil society, dedicate increased funding for specialized assistance, shelters, and protection for victims of sex trafficking and forced labor; vigorously investigate and prosecute those who engage in the prostitution of children, including through child sex tourism; amend legislation to apply more stringent sentences for trafficking offenders to ensure convicted traffickers cannot serve sentences through community services or fines; verify through ongoing oversight that victims of both sex and labor trafficking are referred to comprehensive social services and that officials working at social service centers have funding and training to provide specialized services, including vocational training and employment opportunities as needed; provide oversight to local guardianship councils to ensure the child victims of sex and labor trafficking receive comprehensive services and case management; enhance timely data collection on trafficking prosecutions, convictions, and victim identification; increase staff dedicated to proactively identifying victims of sex trafficking and domestic servitude, using the model of dedicated staff assigned to investigate trabalho escravo in formal work places; dedicate funding to replicate the Mato Grosso job training program for freed laborers in other states; and increase collaboration between government entities involved in combating different forms of human trafficking to ensure coordinated efforts.


Brazilian authorities continued law enforcement efforts against human trafficking, although the lack of a unified anti-trafficking law and comprehensive data made it difficult to evaluate these efforts. Brazilian laws prohibit most forms of trafficking in persons. Articles 231 and 231-A of the penal code prohibit sex trafficking involving movement, 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 and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Articles 231 and 231-A are inconsistent with international standards because they require movement as a necessary element of human trafficking and also prohibit moving a person for the purposes of prostitution, which is not a trafficking crime as defined in international law. Prosecutors sometimes prosecute cases of sex trafficking not involving movement under pimping statutes instead of the sex trafficking statute and many internal sex trafficking cases are investigated as other crimes, such as sexual exploitation of children.

Some labor trafficking offenses are criminalized pursuant to Article 149 of the penal code, which prohibits trabalho escravo, or reducing a person to a condition analogous to slavery, prescribing penalties of two to eight years’ imprisonment. Article 149, however, goes beyond situations in which people are held in service through force, fraud, or coercion to criminalize other treatment that is not considered human trafficking, including situations in which persons are subjected to exhausting work days or degrading working conditions. Article 207 of the penal code prohibits fraudulent recruitment of workers, with sentences of one to three years’ imprisonment. Brazilian law does not appear to adequately criminalize non-physical coercion used to subject workers to forced labor, such as threatening foreign victims with deportation unless they continue to work.

Given that Brazilian laws related to trafficking also criminalize non-trafficking offenses, and that other laws may have been used to prosecute and convict trafficking offenders, it was unclear how many total trafficking investigations and prosecutions were initiated or how many trafficking offenders were convicted and sentenced in 2013. Authorities did not report how many sex trafficking cases were investigated in 2013 or how many sex trafficking prosecutions were initiated in 2013. According to data from federal prosecutors’ offices, police opened 185 investigations and prosecutors opened 702 criminal investigations of potential trabalho escravo in 2013 compared with 167 police investigations and 391 prosecutorial investigations in 2012. Based on available but incomplete data, there were approximately 101 criminal prosecutions launched under Article 149 in 2013 compared with 153 in 2012.

Most sex and labor trafficking offenders convicted by lower courts appealed their convictions while living in freedom. These judicial processes last for years, and officials noted that delays in the justice system made it difficult to hold traffickers accountable for their crimes. In 2013, federal appeals courts upheld the convictions of at least seven sex traffickers and five labor traffickers. Of these convicted sex traffickers, two received no jail time but were fined and sentenced to community service, while other sentences ranged from two years served in house arrest to 15 years’ imprisonment. Of the convicted labor traffickers, two received no jail time but were fined the equivalent of approximately $300,000, two had sentences that could be served as house arrest or community service, and one was sentenced to 11 years and 6 months’ imprisonment for child domestic servitude involving repeated torture of the victim. It was unclear how many trafficking convictions federal courts upheld in 2012 and if this represented an increase or decrease in upheld convictions.

Various federal and state police and prosecutorial units investigate potential trafficking cases, and various state and federal courts rule on trafficking cases. The lack of a unified approach led to disjointed law enforcement efforts. Many law enforcement units, including those investigating crimes against women or children, reported they needed more funding, expertise, or staff to investigate potential trafficking cases. Some officials reported bureaucratic hurdles in conducting trafficking investigations, including the inability to investigate businesses for sex trafficking without the registration of an official complaint. According to civil society organizations and officials, some police officers did not understand traffickers’ use of subtle forms of coercion. Officials recognized that training for local and state level law enforcement officials remained uneven, and authorities provided anti-trafficking training to more than 2,000 state and federal police officers in 2013.

The Ministry of Labor (MOL)’s anti-trabalho escravo mobile units continued to free laborers and require those responsible for their exploitation to pay fines. Labor inspectors and prosecutors could only apply civil penalties, and their efforts were not always coordinated with Public Ministry prosecutors who initiate criminal cases. Many of these trabalho escravo cases were not criminally prosecuted. In some areas, local political pressure, threats, and violence from landowners; shortage of labor inspectors or police officers; and the remoteness of areas in which rural trabalho escravo was prevalent were impediments to investigation. Mobile inspection teams were not always accompanied by federal police for physical protection. In some cases, individuals and companies had multiple accusations and investigations involving trabalho escravo against them. Officials reported that domestic servitude cases were particularly difficult to identify and investigate.

In May 2013 and January 2014, members of the National Council of Justice visited Amazonas state and found that judges repeatedly and purposefully delayed the investigation of the mayor of the one of the largest cities in the state for operating a child sex trafficking ring in a case that dated back to 2009. The mayor and five members of his cabinet were arrested in February 2014. Authorities in Bahia state opened an investigation against a judge for alleged involvement in international sex trafficking and authorities in Rio de Janeiro opened an investigation into local police officers allegedly involved in operating a brothel. NGOs and officials reported that some police officers often turned a blind eye to the commercial sexual exploitation of children and were clients at brothels, impeding proactive identification of potential sex trafficking. In 2013, authorities identified eight members of Congress as owning companies that employed trabalho escravo in previous years. It was unclear how many new criminal investigations or prosecutions of officials for trabalho escravo were opened, if any.


The Brazilian government continued to identify a large number of potential trafficking victims and offer social services to vulnerable populations, but did not fund specialized services and did not report how many total victims were assisted during the year. Labor inspectors, staff at anti-trafficking offices, and other officials had guidance on how to identify potential trafficking victims, though some officials lacked formal written procedures to guide them in identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable populations. Various government entities used different definitions to identify the number of trafficking victims assisted in 2013, making it difficult to assess total victim identification and assistance efforts. State governments operated 16 state-level anti-trafficking offices and 13 assistance posts in airports and other key transit points to aid repatriated citizens, including possible trafficking victims. Six of these offices reported identifying at least 190 potential sex trafficking victims and 1,144 potential labor trafficking victims. Many of the latter were identified by MOL mobile inspection units, which identified and freed 1,658 laborers in situations of trabalho escravo in 2013. One international organization study reported that 13 percent of workers subjected to forced labor were rescued by mobile units during their exploitation, suggesting that many forced labor victims remain unidentified. It was unclear if authorities identified any victims of domestic servitude during the year. The government did not report the number of children identified in commercial sexual exploitation in 2013.

The federal government did not fund specialized shelters or services for trafficking victims. Victim services and shelters varied from state to state and remained underfunded and inadequate in many parts of the country. Anti-trafficking offices and posts functioned during business hours and were responsible for referring victims to services, but authorities did not report how many victims identified by these entities were referred to services such as shelter or legal or psychological care. The government operated specialized social service centers across the country where psychologists and social workers provided assistance to vulnerable people, including trafficking victims; 454 of the centers, or 20 percent, were certified by officials to assist trafficking victims. The Ministry of Social Development provided generalized shelter, counseling, and medical aid to women through its nationwide network of at least 187 centers and 72 shelters. In 2012, the last year for which statistics were available, these centers assisted at least 137 victims of sexual exploitation: 31 girls, 19 women, 27 boys, and 60 men. The centers did not report how many victims of labor trafficking were assisted in 2012. Many government-run centers were not prepared to handle trafficking cases and were underfunded. NGOs and international organizations provided some additional victim services. There were no specialized services for male and transgender sex trafficking victims Long-term shelter options for sex trafficking victims were generally unavailable, and officials in many states, including Sao Paulo, reported the need for specialized shelter options. Sex trafficking victims did not receive three months’ salary at minimum wage like laborers in situations of trabalho escravo.

It was unclear how many child victims were referred to government-run specialized social service centers to receive legal and health services. Specialized shelters for children in commercial sexual exploitation were lacking. Local guardianship councils, autonomous entities whose members were elected by community members, were responsible for monitoring the situation of children whose rights had been violated and deciding what protection measures should be taken; however, NGOs and officials reported these councils often did not have the expertise or resources to correctly identify child trafficking victims and refer them to services.

Individuals removed from trabalho escravo were provided with unpaid wages plus three months’ salary at minimum wage and transportation home. Although labor prosecutors reported awarding some victims monetary compensation from fines levied against employers, in some cases authorities did not file for these indemnities, and in other cases the victims did not receive them due to nonpayment by employers. The government reported that rescued workers were due the equivalent of approximately $3.2 million in back-pay in 2013. The state of Mato Grosso continued to fund a program to provide vocational training in construction skills and other services to freed slave laborers in partnership with civil society and the private sector and was the only state to do so. According to NGOs and international organizations, a significant percentage of rescued slave laborers have been re-trafficked, due to few alternate forms of employment and a lack of substantive assistance and services. A recent study found that workers freed from trabalho escravo faced the same vulnerabilities a year after being rescued. This research found that officials responsible for providing social services in rescued workers’ hometowns were not told that these workers had returned and did not have the knowledge or capacity to provide services to these victims.

The government encouraged trafficking victims to participate in investigations and prosecutions of their traffickers, but did not report how many did so. Some victims were reluctant to testify due to fear of reprisals from traffickers. Victims of sex trafficking were eligible for short-term protection under a program for witnesses, but it was unclear how many victims participated in this program in 2013. The government generally did not detain, fine, or otherwise penalize identified victims of trafficking for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. The government ombudsman recommended that foreign trafficking victims be offered refugee status, although authorities did not report how many victims, if any, received this status in 2013. In 2013, federal police officers deported some foreign citizens identified as trabalho escravo victims, despite official guidance instructing officials not to do so.


The Brazilian government continued various prevention efforts, but coordination between initiatives focused on different forms of trafficking was uneven. The National Secretary of Justice (SNJ) coordinated the national committee on trafficking, which also included selected NGOs. The SNJ issued two reports in 2013 on government efforts to implement a plan for movement-based trafficking launched in the previous reporting period. NGOs reported that plan implementation was weaker in states with fewer financial resources. The government continued to operate anti-trafficking offices in 16 states. These offices were responsible for coordinating local government efforts against trafficking, raising public awareness, and referring victims to services. Some of these offices lacked adequate infrastructure, human resources, and budget. Many states and some municipalities had local-level anti-trafficking coalitions, committees, and plans. The national commission to eradicate trabalho escravo, a council composed of government agencies, NGOs, and international organizations, continued to coordinate efforts against trabalho escravo, and some states had local commissions of varying degrees of activity. Various federal, state, and municipal entities undertook anti-trafficking initiatives and trafficking offices awareness efforts, such as traveling awareness roadshows and workshops, often in collaboration with civil society and the private sector.

In an effort to reduce the use of forced labor, the MOL published a “dirty list,” which publicly identified individuals and corporate entities determined to be responsible for trabalho escravo. The most recent version of the list, released in December 2013, added more than one hundred new entries for a total of 579 total employers, who were denied access to credit by public and private financial institutions because of this designation. A state official sued to have her name removed from the list. Sao Paulo state had a law penalizing companies using trabalho escravo in their supply chain.

Authorities continued awareness campaigns during the Carnival season in an effort to reduce the demand for commercial sexual exploitation of children. The government continued to prosecute 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. Government records do not specify the total number of investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of child sex tourists in 2013. The Brazilian government provided anti-trafficking training to its military troops prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.

Associated documents

  • Document ID 1194037 Related / Associated
  • Metholdologie associated with Annual report on trafficking in persons (covering April 2013 to March 2014)

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