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The Prevalence of Human Trafficking in Brazil by Eduardo Duarte

It is impossible to look back at the history of Brazil and not be horrified by the long period of slavery that marked its foundation. Throughout almost four centuries (XVI to XIX), the country was run by an outrageously unjust system - supported by the trick of legality - that exploited black and indigenous people’s labour and bodies (Schwarcz 27). And even though Brazilian authorities abolished it officially in 1888 (making Brazil the last state from Latin America to do so), its consequences are still harshly present today.

Our history books are filled with data such as the fact that the average life expectancy of a male slave was 25 years. But what is the purpose of studying history if not keeping humanity from committing the same mistakes? While our kids learn at school about the horrors of our past, society as a whole turns a blind eye to the current crime network that cannot be defined as anything other than modern slavery.

This human trafficking network has increased in such a way that it has developed its own “international division of labour” in which countries are categorized according to their position on the trafficking routes. There are three categories: origin, transit and destination. And sadly enough, Brazil is the only state (along with Suriname) to figure in each one of them, which may be explained by the scientifically-proven fact that certain phenomenons such as poverty, political instabilities, social inequality, and unemployment are inextricably linked to the increased exposure of a country’s population to trafficking.

Furthermore, taking into consideration the five regions into which Brazil is divided, more than 60% of the 241 trafficking routes are located on the two with the lowest HDI (Human Development Index): North and Northeast. On the remotest of the rural areas, not only Brazilians, but also a huge amount of immigrants are coerced into forced labour. They are seduced by job opportunities, and even before they arrive on the farm where they will work, they get into a debt infinitely bigger than what they would earn in a year (Plassat, pars. 1-5). Those debts tend to grow exponentially, as the farmers are the ones to provide shelter and all other kinds of subsistence, which are always charged at a disproportionately high price.

Nevertheless, agribusiness is the the sector of the economy that most often recruits people to work in conditions analogous to slavery; the human trafficking network in Brazil is also known for engaging men and women - especially minors - in other activities. It works in a similar way: the individual is recruited, transported, lodged by an aliciator (who uses threat, force or any other kind of coercion for exploitation purposes), and is used for illegal activities such as prostitution and organ trafficking.

In response, motivated by the Palermo Protocol, Brazil has developed the National Policy on Trafficking in Persons and a Plan of Action with 58 goals to ensure the prevention and repression of the cited crimes. However, data- like the fact that only 31 of the 458 cases of trafficking in persons investigated by the Federal Police between 2003 and 2007 were prosecuted- shows that there is still a long path ahead of us to end impunity. Furthermore, one cannot forget that it is impossible to disassociate the fight against trafficking from the fight against poverty and social inequality.

Works Cited

Ignacio, Julia. “Tráfico De Pessoas: Como é Feito No Brasil e No Mundo?” Politize!, 22 Mar. 2018, Accessed 4 June 2020.

“Justiça e Segurança Pública.” Enfrentamento Ao Tráfico De Pessoas - Ministério Da Justiça e Segurança Pública, Accessed 4 June 2020.

Plassat, Xavier. “Trabalho Escravo Se Concentra Na Zona Rural.” Senado Em Discussão, 14 July 2011, Accessed 5 June 2020.

Schwarcz, Lilia Moritz. Sobre o Autoritarismo Brasileiro. Companhia Das Letras, 2019. Accessed 4 June 2020.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Global Report on Trafficking in persons, (February 2009), available on Accessed 5 June 2020.

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