Sex Abuse: Brazil Needs Change in Attitude

    Sex Abuse: Brazil Needs Change 
in Attitude

    Along the Brazilian
    highways young people are being sexually
    exploited. Between January and March, 33.4 percent of all
    the incidents with children reported by Brazil’s Highway Police

    involved sex. One big problem is that Brazilians do not regard
    certain sexual crimes as illegal, immoral, or criminal.
    by: Luciana
    Vasconcelos

    Brazzil
Picture

    "Youth struggle—for an end to impunity" will be the theme of
    this year’s commemoration of the National Day to Combat the Sexual Abuse and
    Exploitation of Children and Adolescents.

    The coordinator of the
    National Committee to Confront Violence against Children and Adolescents,
    Neide Castanha, considers it possible to eliminate sexual exploitation. But
    for this to occur, she says, it is necessary to overcome not only impunity
    but also social inequality and exclusion.

    "It is of no avail
    to call a halt to impunity and continue to produce and reproduce boys and
    girls in conditions vulnerable to acceptance of the sex trade, that is, to
    offer their bodies as a condition of their survival," she affirmed.

    Brazil’s National Congress
    has just received the file "Araceli Never Again—30 Years of Impunity
    in Brazil," containing cases of sexual violence against children and
    adolescents that have gone unpunished since 1973. The publication was produced,
    with the Committee’s support, by the National Association of Child and Adolescent
    Protection Centers (Anced).

    According to the president
    of the Association, Renato Roseno, it is not a study but, rather, a warning
    about the existence of impunity, with suggestions on how to combat this type
    of crime. "Impunity is the rule, not the exception," he asserted.

    The title of the file
    is a reference to an 8-year old girl, Araceli Santos, who was a kidnap, rape,
    and murder victim 31 years ago, in Vitória, Espírito Santo state.

    In 2000, on May 18, the
    anniversary of her death, the National Day to Combat the Sexual Abuse and
    Exploitation of Children and Adolescents was established by law.

    Qualification

    One of the Association’s
    suggestions is to update the legislation dealing with sexual crimes. The legislation
    dates back to the 1930’s. "Sexual crimes are currently grouped together
    as crimes against public morals. This is absurd, because they are crimes against
    human dignity," Roseno emphasized.

    He also suggests that
    the police and the judicial system be trained to handle crimes that involve
    sexual violence. "If a person is not well received, he or she will be
    victimized again," he said. He goes so far as to propose the creation
    of special courts to treat cases of sexual exploitation and abuse of children
    and adolescents.

    Sexual violence against
    children and adolescents can take various forms. The most common are sexual
    abuse within the family itself and sexual exploitation for commercial purposes,
    such as prostitution, pornography, and trafficking.

    When sexual violence against
    children and adolescents is suspected, it can be reported to police stations,
    Tutelary Councils, or Courts for Children and Youth. The Tutelary Councils
    visit the families, notify them, and analyze the background of each case.

    If the accusation is confirmed,
    the Council passes it along to the Public Prosecutor’s Office. The Courts
    for Children and Youth can receive denunciations in municipalities that don’t
    have Tutelary Councils.

    Highway Child Sex

    Along the Brazilian highways,
    between one city and another, young people are sexually exploited. A study
    showed that between January and March, 2004, 33.4 percent of all the incidents
    reported by the Federal Highway Police (PRF) involving children and adolescents
    on the highways had sexual connotations.

    The study, which was done
    by PRF inspector Junie Penna, points out that one of the big difficulties
    in combating sexual violence is the acquiescence of society, which does not
    regard certain behaviors as illegal, immoral, or criminal.

    "We are unable to
    act, unless organized civil society gets effectively involved, unless society
    raises demands for government policies, and, clearly, to do this, it must
    realize the magnitude of the problem," he affirmed. Another difficulty
    he discovered is arresting those who practice exploitation, because the crime
    is hard to characterize.

    Research

    A 2001/2002 study coordinated
    by the Center of Reference, Studies, and Actions for Children and Adolescents
    (Cecria) identified 241 overland, sea, and air routes for sexual exploitation
    in Brazil.

    131 of them are international
    routes. Inside the country, exploitation networks were confirmed to be active
    in all regions of the country, but the largest concentration of cases is in
    the North and Northeast.

    Most of the victims of
    trafficking are women and adolescents between 15 and 25—the group most
    affected includes girls between 15 and 17. The profile of the victims shows
    that they generally come from families with low levels of income and schooling,
    reside on the outskirts of urban areas, live with relatives, and, in many
    instances, have already suffered some kind of sexual violence at home.

    A Manifesto against Sexual
    Abuse and Exploitation of Children and Youth was handed to President Luiz
    Inácio Lula da Silva, on Tuesday. The document is signed by 65 thousand
    transportation sector professionals and owners who pledge to combat this crime.

    The coordinator of the
    Social Service of Transportation and the National Apprenticeship Service of
    Transportation (Seste/Senat), Norma Avelar, calls for the "use of the
    power of this sector to combat the sexual exploitation of children and youth."


    Luciana Vasconcelos works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press
    agency of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at lia@radiobras.gov.br.

    Translated
    from the Portuguese by David Silberstein.

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