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Fighting Contemporary Slavery in Brazil

By Deborah Goldemberg, Global Voices  Posted by Jason Paz (about the submitter)     Permalink       (Page 2 of 2 pages)
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Still in São Paulo, an article by sociologist and Municipal Assembly member Floriano Pesaro, posted on the Coisas de São Paulo blog [pt], discusses the case of street children forced to work by their parents. It is a case of double infringement: child labor and slave labor:

Child labor on the streets, in shops and even in the home endures in urban and rural Brazil. It manifests itself in its worse forms, with practices analogous to slave labor, commercial sexual exploitation, child trafficking and sale or sexual exploitation, and the use of children in drug dealing. These practices involve criminal activities that are illicit and lead children and adolescents to death. In the city of São Paulo, according to a FIPE research, in 2007, there are over 1,000 children in child labor only on the streets.

Whilst writing this article for Global Voices Online, I wondered if disseminating such bad news to the whole world would not damage Brazil's image abroad, but this very interesting blog by Edson Rodrigues [pt], helped me make up my mind. He brings a list of 15 Truths and Lies about slave labor in Brazil, one of which has to do with the international dissemination of slave labor practices bringing damage to our country:

Issuing work permit documentation in the forest. Photo by Ricardo Funari.

Making his words my own, I conclude this article feeling sure that slave labor is a generalized remnant of the time of legal slavery in Brazil and that it would be an injustice not to combat this phenomenon head on.

The photos that illustrate this piece have kindly been provided by Rio de Janeiro based photojournalist Ricardo Funari, who works to create and distribute images documenting and addressing issues of social injustice in the country. According to what he has seen through his work, "the main mechanism of enslavement in Brazil is through debt - the physical immobilization of workers on estates until they can pay off debts, which are often incurred through fraud, and are provoked by their very working conditions. Thus workers from areas hit by recession or drought are enticed into verbal contracts, and then loaded into trucks which transport them thousands of miles to work in dangerous conditions. On arrival the attractive wage rates promised to them are reduced, and then forfeited in order to pay for transport costs, food and even working tools. Workers often do not receive cash in hand. As time passes, the workers' debts become greater and greater so that they have no possibility of leaving." His photo set, Contemporary Slavery in Brazil, can be seen on his Flickr account.

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The main mechanism of enslavement in Brazil is through debt - the physical immobilization of workers on estates until they can pay off debts, which are often incurred through fraud, and are exacerbated by their very working conditions. Thus workers from areas hit by recession or drought are enticed into verbal contracts, and then loaded into trucks which transport them thousands of miles to work in dangerous conditions. On arrival the attractive wage rates promised to them are reduced, and then forfeited in order to pay for transport costs, food and even working tools. Workers often do not receive cash in hand. As time passes, the workers' debts become greater and greater so that they have no possibility of leaving.

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