Handa Center Research Fellow Natasha Dolby recently spoke to an audience at Stanford about the findings of her publication, Domestic Sex Trafficking of Children in Brazil. In her paper, she highlights the cultural norms that sexualize girls and accept violence against women. She also said the vast majority of children being sold for sex in Brazil are of Afro-descent, a problem inherited from deep-rooted historical racism.
She told the story of Renata from Medina, where she visited for her research. Dolby said that churches and drug trafficking are the two main businesses in this city highly segregated by class. She told the story of a girl whose grandfather was killed by drug traffickers. At the age of 14, the man she called her “boyfriend” began instructing her to sell her body nightly by the highway and turn the money over to him. A local NGO gained the girl’s trust over the course of three years and was able to provide her with appropriate resources.
Dolby cited several other cultural and governmental concerns in the fight against trafficking. Conflating the terms “child abuse” and “sex trafficking,” for example, hinders the development and application of human rights delivery in Brazil. “There is currently a lot of debate over victimhood and agency as these people enter trafficking situations,” she added.
She said that the Disque 100 phone hotline fields calls on all manner of human rights violations; the operators are widely trained, and thus are not prepared for responding to human trafficking calls. The government also needs better data collection across multiple governmental bodies.
There are 5,904 Children Guardianship Councils in 5,570 municipalities. “Looking forward, they could be critical in ensuring that rights of the child are at the forefront.” But Brazil needs to rethink the role of CGCs in combatting child sex trafficking, she said. “They’re elected like a school board, but there are no requirements for qualifications in understanding children’s needs.”
Dolby is a Co-Founder of Freedom FWD, an organization working to end the commercial sexual exploitation of youth in San Francisco, and serves on several NGO boards. More information on Natasha Dolby can be found here.