The story generally begins in Brazil’s hinterland, with a pretty, young woman from a disadvantaged background and with little formal education, who is drawn in by false promises and ends up in a sex trade network that stretches overseas.
The disturbing trend has begun to be addressed by the government, the justice system, the legislature and even a popular soap opera, with encouraging results.
Sex trafficking is such a complex phenomenon that there is little systematic, reliable data on it. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates the number of victims of what the U.N. describes as modern-day slavery at 2.5 million people or more.
In Brazil, according to the presidency’s Secretariat of Policies for Women (SPM), 475 cases of trafficking were documented between 2005 and 2011. Of that total, 337 of the victims suffered sexual exploitation, while the rest were subjected to slave labour.
“The majority of the women are young, between the ages of 18 and 30, and are in a vulnerable situation: they are low-income, they didn’t have access to education, and they had difficulties finding work,” SPM Minister Eleonora Menicucci told IPS.
“That is why they accept what look at first glance like excellent job opportunities abroad or in another part of Brazil, believing that they will improve their lives and those of their families,” she said.