10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Brazil
Brazil is the largest country in South America and a key player in the international sphere. Despite its power and influence, there are still human rights issues prevalent in Brazil’s population. Human trafficking affects a significant portion of the 211 million people living in the country. Here are 10 facts about human trafficking in Brazil.

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Brazil

  1. Due to recent urbanization in Brazil, many industries, such as textile companies, are exploiting undocumented workers, especially those from neighboring Spanish-speaking countries. Undocumented workers are not the only victims of human trafficking in Brazil, however, as women and children are in situations of forced labor or prostitution. Between the years of 2010 and 2017, Brazil had over 500 cases of forced sexual exploitation, stemming from the country’s severe income inequality. Since 2005, Brazil’s government has made efforts to reduce the income gap, but since over 70 percent of those in forced labor situations are illiterate, these efforts have yet to impact the high rates of human trafficking in Brazil.
  2. Traffickers are taking women from their homes in small villages. The NGO Rede Um Grito pela Vida, which translates to A Cry for Life Network, reports that criminal organizations are taking females from their homes in small villages along the Amazon. The traffickers tell these women that they will have a better life involving work or education. Furthermore, criminal organizations usually move them to other Brazilian cities. The traffickers commonly place these women into roles of forced sexual exploitation.
  3. The U.S. Department of State has commended the efforts of the Brazilian government in its work towards ending human trafficking in the country. Such work includes convicting more traffickers, investigating and prosecuting more trafficking cases and identifying more victims of “trabalho escravo,” or unpaid labor. Although each state’s reported data varies, Brazil remains a “tier 2” country, meaning that it is working in the right direction, but still has a long way to go to decrease human trafficking at an effective rate.
  4. In 2019, Brazilian authorities brought down a human trafficking ring that specifically targetted transgender women. At least 38 transgender women were working in brothels in the state of Sao Paulo, where traffickers were holding them due to the debts they owed for undergoing illegal transitional surgeries. The importance of this case involves the distinction between sex work and the exploitation of sex workers. Sex work is legal in Brazil. However, the exploitation of sex workers blurs the line between human trafficking and legal employment.
  5. The Ministry of Labor implemented the use of “Special Mobile Inspection Groups” with the aim of spotting forced labor in rural areas. It does this by performing unannounced inspections in farms and factories. Between the years of 1995 and 2017, there have been over 53,000 successful rescues of forced laborers in Brazil through the efforts of these inspection groups.
  6. According to the Digital Observatory of Slavery Labour in Brazil, government agencies rescued over 35,000 people from slave labor between 2003 and 2017. The Federal Police performed many of the rescue missions in the form of raids on groups that utilize human trafficking. These raids, in particular, focused individuals who had to provide labor for no cost to their captors.
  7. Although there are many kinds of human trafficking, a common type of modern slavery inside Brazil is forced labor. Forced labor is prevalent in rural areas. It focuses on industries that require field labor, such as cattle ranching, coffee production and forestry. About 7 million domestic workers in Brazil are victims of forced labor. This means they work long hours, suffer abuse and receive little to no pay.
  8. There are many NGOs working to provide legal and social assistance to victims of human trafficking in Brazil and its neighboring countries. The GLO.ACT, an initiative that the E.U. and the U.N. support, began its efforts in Nicaragua, and since then expanded to providing assistance to over 100 participants from NGOs and government agencies in Brazil. In addition, it provides missions in Brazil where participants can visit cities and help vulnerable migrants find shelter, all while creating awareness about the issue of human trafficking.
  9. The U.S. Department of State’s 2019 trafficking report outlines the role of the Brazilian Federal Police (DPF) in combatting human trafficking. The DPF has a unit in every state in Brazil that investigates most trafficking crimes. Although law enforcement at all levels lacks sufficient funding and staffing, the support of international organizations and foreign governments is supplementing this deficit.
  10. Traffickers often trick undocumented migrants into entering Brazil under the false pretense that they will live in the U.S. The traffickers then either force those migrants into human trafficking rings or dangerous journeys from Brazil up to the border between the U.S. and Mexico. The U.S. is taking legal action in response to these crimes and prosecuting human traffickers through its judicial system when their crimes cross the U.S. border.

 Although these 10 facts about human trafficking in Brazil present startling statistics, there remains a beacon of hope surrounding the topic. Brazil’s government is taking steps towards advancing the legal protection of human rights in the country, such as ratifying the United Nations Palermo Protocol. International human trafficking is an issue that requires support from various sectors, especially from governments and their agencies. Through international support and awareness, facts about human trafficking in Brazil may replace with more positive statistics. Overall, the work of NGOs, foreign aid and the Brazilian government continues to generate progress in the fight against human trafficking.

Ariana Davarpanah
Photo: Flickr