Women Trafficking for Sexual Purposes: The Brazilian Experience After Law N.11.106, of March 28, 2005

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015
Maria João Guia (ed.)The Illegal Business of Human Trafficking10.1007/978-3-319-09441-0_4

4. Women Trafficking for Sexual Purposes: The Brazilian Experience After Law N.11.106, of March 28, 2005

Danilo Fontenele Sampaio Cunha 

Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil



Danilo Fontenele Sampaio Cunha


This chapter presents an overview of women trafficking in Brazil within an internal sex tourism market where women are reduced to a subspecies without rights. Assuming a very critical stand towards academic definitions and the concept of “free choice”, the author reflects on causes and legal definitions and explores the new Brazilian legislation. The author calls for a change in the social perception of prostitutes, shaped by a sexist society, and stronger political measures, highlighting the importance of social prevention (greater access to education and health, stronger border controls, and awareness campaigns).

4.1 Introduction

The beginning of each century always brings the illusion of us going into a new era of peace and prosperity, and the coming of the twenty-first century has not behaved differently.

However, as incredible as it seems, mankind still develops practices that not only explore economically their peers but also degrade and debase people to the most abyssal of human conditions, namely to serve as objects of pleasure and/or profit to others.

Villainy and sordidness, characteristics that one expected to be overcome by centuries of evolution, have been made present in one of the lucrative criminal actions of all times, which is the trafficking of people for sexual purposes.

Being surpassed only by the trade of drugs and weaponry, the trafficking of people affects 137 countries and reaches approximately 2.5 million people, generating 32 billion dollars per year (according to UNODC) and providing for, beyond the exploitation of slave workforce, international networks of prostitution, many times connected to routes of sexual tourism.

Data by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, in a study of 2003, points to 83 % of the cases involving women and 48 % under 18 years old, with only 4 % involving men as victims, being invariably refugees and/or illegal aliens. Said study also states that in 92 % of the analysed cases, the victims were enticed for purposes of sexual exploration and in 21 %, they were used as slave workforce.

In 2002, the Research on Women, Children and Adolescents Trafficking for Commercial Sexual Purposes (Pestraf 2002), coordinated by Professor Maria Lúcia Leal, of Universidade de Brasília—UnB, when she worked with the Reference Center on Studies and Actions on Children and Adolescents (CECRIA), mapped 141 routes of national and international trafficking that “commercialised” Brazilian children, adolescents, and women and was the starting point to the work performed in 2003 and 2004 by the Joint Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry (CPMI) of the National Congress of Sexual Exploitation against children and adolescents, reported by Ceará State Senator Patrícia Saboya Gomes.

Said research identified that the Brazilian victims of the international trafficking networks are mostly adults, coming mainly from coastal cities (Rio de Janeiro, Vitória, Salvador, Recife e Fortaleza) and also from Goiás, São Paulo, Minas Gerais, and Pará, destined to Europa, especially to Italy, Spain, and, more recently, Portugal and Latin American countries such as Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic.

It is known that Goiás and Ceará have been diagnosed by Pestraf (2002) as two of the main locations from which victims of human trafficking for sexual exploitation come, and in Ceará, sexual tourism in practice internally, especially in the capital Fortaleza, is the main link with the international trafficking networks—because of the easy access to Brazilian women by foreigners interested in paying for sex. The women who are targeted by these networks have usually been involved with prostitution before.

The sexual exploitation of women is the most common (79 %) because, in general, it is more visible, it happens in urban centres or in the roadside, and it is the object of denunciation. Differently, other means of abuse, such as slavery, are not sufficiently reported.

The present study aims to expose practices and invisible behaviours that reinforce the differences, strengthen the inequalities, and create silence towards people who are being explored, hurt, and used for sexual purposes, with special attention to the social costs incurred by a considerable share of the female population.

The knowledge of national and international legislation on the subject will help us reflect on our own human condition and on the prevention and fight against such degrading practices.

4.2 Precepts of Women Trafficking for Sexual Purposes: The Purposed Dehumanisation

To think of human trafficking for sexual purposes is to think of prostitution itself, since the dominant percentage of such practices refers to reducing women to a condition that is comparable to a sexual slave. And dealing with prostitution is always a cause for controversy, especially by those who understand it to be a profession like any other.

To bring the analysis closer to reality, we need to establish a small differentiation between our lives and the lives of thousands of women in the streets of all countries.

Actually, it must be said that the subject requires the knowledge for all of us, legal professionals, professors, and scholars, that there will be a guaranteed tomorrow and then another day and then another and that our lives will continue to follow the serene course set by ourselves, with the occasional inconvenience but always with a following tomorrow. One must also remember that we can always hide from the sun or the rain and study safely in a healthy and comfortable environment, accompanied by people who are interested in our progress, with parents, brothers, relatives, and friends around us.

Such reality, for us so natural and obvious, also entails that our ideas and desires will never cause any unpleasantness and that the occasional disagreement will never harm our lives.

Said premises for all of us, professionals, professors, and students, do not apply to the lives of women who live in prostitution or who have lived in prostitution. In prostitution there is no tomorrow. The prostitutes are not allowed to presume that a tomorrow may exist.

One can talk about prostitution in its encyclopaedic definition of providing sexual services, whether with a moralist and reducing premise, whether with the premises of a romantic and merely academic feminism of female sexual freedom and personal autonomy. Accordingly, it is possible to analyse the trafficking of people through numerous aspects, but the basic study seems more suitable—although the reality is harsh and bitter—so that, through a frank analysis of the subject, we may think of sincere solutions that will move beyond mere academic theory.

Even though other forms involve the use of the female body by other women, or the use of the male body by women and men, the vast majority of human trafficking cases for sexual purposes are related to the use of the female body by men, which is why the analysis of the subject will be limited to prostitution simply as the use of the female body for sex, via payment, by men.

Such definition brings other behavioural precepts. I would rather talk about behavioural precepts than precepts of culture because classifying any practice as a cultural precept may induce people to accepting, being tolerant of, or even being confused with whether this or that behaviour is common and/or natural.

I start by the premise that there is nothing natural in prostitution. It is not part of the nature of any human being to be taken, used, explored, and thrown away. It is not part of anybody’s nature to have his dignity vilipended each day, each hour, in each date.

Something that should not need to be said but must be clarified: prostitution comes from male choice and not from female nature. No cultural alibi can be used to justify it nor lies, excuses, or any kind of cheap rhetorical reasoning.

In other clear, obvious, and straightforward terms: the only reason why there is prostitution is because there is a male consumer market for it.

Another basic precept inherent to prostitution is that the money, for people involved in it, seems to have a magical attribute of allowing the limitless use of whatever purchase.

Therefore, if a man pays a woman with his money for the practice of sex, the latent thought is that she wanted and deserved what was done to her, as violent and degrading as it may have been, and nothing more than that.

It must be noted that when the work conditions of a factory worker are witnessed, everybody agrees that they should be better or that they should earn more, that the norms of protection for accidents should always be updated, and that the work hours should be reduced. The perverse reality in the workplace of the underworld of luxury is that no one speaks of the work conditions faced by prostitutes. What would be the reason for that?

The answer seems to be found in another precept: for a lot of people, money is more important than women. Such cruel idea indicates that money is more real to people than the woman around the corner, anonymous, with a fake identity, with a fantasy of being taken by a client, and with a reality of submission for life.

It really seems that the absence of a name, of a surname, of an origin, of details that are common to normal people potentiate this precept. If that woman is not real, then there is no need for any type of interaction, any form of care, or even a minimum of respect.

It seems that, without even knowing their name, men do not need to remember who these women are. Without a name, it seems that they are nobody. They are merely diffuse incarnations of women, reduced to a series of sexual orifices. Based on that, men can do with them whatever they want. Because men see them as objects; they know that they have no one to call for since, after all, objects do not speak, do not go to the police, and are not represented by lawyers. Objects are nobody.

4.2.1 What This Destructive Logic Entails Is the Depersonalisation of People

The situation, through dehumanisation and objective categorisation of people, reduces all the potentialities of women to one single imposed destiny: to be a utensil for another human being.

Such logic leads undeniably to a miserable project of human being and rejects the notion that people were born for transcending their initial conditions and that it is always possible, as hard as it may seem, to overcome the difficulties, break free from the apparently solid limitations, and change. This kind of reasoning belittles human beings and reduces women, especially poor women, to a subspecies, with no rights, no opportunities, and no voice.

All of us have lived through one day or another, one situation or another in which we felt like nothing. Once or twice, we have been humiliated, mistreated, or neglected. But that was certainly just one episode, a passing situation that we may even forget or vaguely remember. For a woman in prostitution, these life experiences happen every day, forever and ever.

Even in face of such a harsh reality, prostituted women can somehow react. In the lawsuits I have presided on women trafficking for prostitution purposes, what apparently and initially happens with victimised women is the necessity of pretending or faking some sort of domain over their clients or over the situation they live in. Therefore, they act as if they were free to choose their clients, to deny this or that service, and, furthermore, to “leave this life” whenever they please.

In fact, I interpret that behaviour as a way of minimally preserving their human identity, which involves choice—I do not know, however, if they have that much free will.

My opinion is that choice leads to option, and, from what I have seen, these options are nonexistent or visibly disproportionate in relation to the difficulties suffered. Actually, it is not easy to convince an uneducated, unemployed, unqualified, poor, and hungry woman, with the same desires of any adolescent, that it is best to earn a day’s work being a housemaid than to perform sexual services and earn the same as she would in a month.

I believe most women in prostitution did not make a rational and truly free choice to enter such activity. I believe they simply had an attitude of survival, which, in most cases, was not even an option, since it was the only one.

I say once again this never-mentioned precept: the liability of those who unscrupulously add to and make use of the trade of human beings.

4.3 Causes

In international terms, I do not believe that poverty is enough to create a legion of prostitutes, even though many societies are organised differently, in a way that the measures of repression and negligence towards women are so overwhelming that the only thing of value in the woman becomes her sexual freedom, and, consequently, a sellable action.

It is certain that, nowadays, the large flow of prostitution in Europe has now basically economic and crime-related causes, a reality that tends to increase the social effects of economic crises.

But beyond poverty, other factors have potentiated the possibility of prostitution, such as sexual abuses in childhood, especially incest, when children are trained not to have respect for their own body and learn that they are valued solely for sex, which is connected to the loss of structure in families.

I now want to make clear that I am not being conservative to the point of thinking of the continuation of marriages as a means to prevent cases of prostitution, but I am only highlighting that a girl without a mother or a father, with no studies or household conditions, and neglected by governmental supporting bodies will probably live in the streets, and a homeless woman goes through much more vulnerable situations than the average homeless man.

The international trafficking itself has another typical characteristic: the mutual fascination between the foreigner and the prostitute.

The dream of many Brazilian women, typically distorted via unrealistic and enchanting images of a Hollywood world, is bound to the illusion of Europe or America having good men, men who they would be comfortable marrying. The illusion persists in the perverse fascination of leaving poverty with no considerable effort and in the need to be welcomed by people who they imagine to be better, by a fairer country, where they will be righteous people and will come back with money or may even bring all of the family there, as if it were a modern realisation of fairy tales.

Another socioeconomic aspect must be highlighted: why do women of underdeveloped countries become prostitutes abroad?

One of the answers is pretty obvious: because there, they may achieve what these underdeveloped countries cannot provide—access to education and qualification and to the formal workplace in equal conditions to men, with the same level of pay. Prostitutes in countries with strong economies and citizenship guarantees are not that many, and they do not charge so little money for their services.

4.4 Legal Definition

The international trafficking of women for the purpose of prostitution had already been reported in 1885 as a concern of nations, in the Convention of Paris in 1902, which gave the League of Nations authority to repress the trafficking of “white slaves”.

In 1950, the United Nations, through the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, established an international cooperation against women trafficking (Brazilian legislative Decree n. 6, of June 12, 1958).

The Pact of San Jose, Costa Rica, of 1969 (ratified by Brazil in 1992), has also reaffirmed the commitment of the Americas in defending human rights and repressing international women trafficking for prostitution in the same way that the Inter-American Convention was created to prevent, punish, and eradicate violence against women in 1994 (ratified by Brazil in 1995).

Brazil has also signed and ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1990), Convention 182 of ILO concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor (2000), the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (2000), and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography (2001).

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