The number of reports of human trafficking in Brazil has risen 1,500 percent in 2013, according to government figures, indicating an increased awareness of a crime, which remains a major problem in the country.
The Secretariat of Women's Policies announced a dedicated government reporting hotline had registered 263 allegations of the crime during the first six months of the year, compared to 17 over the same period in 2012.
Of those 263 cases, 170 were reports of international human trafficking, while 90 related to cases inside Brazil. Most of the international reports were of sex trafficking, while 42 were accusations of labor trafficking and 2 of organ trafficking. Of the domestic reports, 64 were of sex trafficking, 25 were of labor trafficking and 1 case an illegal adoption.
Around 20 percent of all reports were made by the alleged victim's mother, 16 percent by the alleged victim herself, 23 percent by relatives or neighbors, and the rest by friends, colleagues, ex-boyfriends or former victims. In just over one-third of the cases the victim's life was considered to be at risk.
The Minister of Women's Affairs Eleonora Menicucci attributed the rise in reports to the success of publicity campaigns by the government, which had increased awareness of violence against women and publicized the existence of the hotline.
InSight Crime Analysis
Brazil's vast economic inequalities provide the perfect conditions for human trafficking to flourish, with a steady stream of desperate people vulnerable to exploitation and no shortage of wealthy people to pay for them. Its emerging economic strength has also helped fuel labor exploitation and made the country an increasingly attractive destination for poor international migrants.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Human Trafficking
On the plus side, human trafficking has risen up the political agenda in Brazil in recent years, with the government introducing its first national anti-trafficking action plan in 2008. Its second $2.9 million national plan, announced earlier this year, will see a revision of the penal code and new control posts set up in ten border towns.
Since 2008, 16 anti-trafficking offices have been set up across the country and more recently "well-publicized media campaigns about trafficking warning signs" have been launched, according to the US Department of State's 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report.
The dramatic rise in reports of human trafficking show the campaigns are clearly having an effect. What's needed now is an accompanying rise in investigations and prosecutions: last year there were just six convictions for domestic sex trafficking and two for international sex trafficking.