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Human Trafficking

Prevalence, Abuse & Exploitation of Street Children

In the first decade of the 21st Century                  

Federative Republic of Brazil

Characterized by large and well-developed agricultural, mining, manufacturing, and service sectors, Brazil's economy outweighs that of all other South American countries and Brazil is expanding its presence in world markets.

Since the onset of the global financial crisis in September, Brazil's currency and its stock market - Bovespa - have significantly lost value, -41% for Bovespa for the year ending 30 December 2008. Brazil incurred another current account deficit in 2008, as world demand and prices for commodities dropped in the second-half of the year.  [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2009]

Description: Brazil

CAUTION:  The following links and accompanying text have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Brazil.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspect(s) of street life are of particular interest to you.  You might be interested in exploring how children got there, how they survive, and how some manage to leave the street.  Perhaps your paper could focus on how some street children abuse the public and how they are abused by the public … and how they abuse each other.  Would you like to write about market children? homeless children?  Sexual and labor exploitation? begging? violence? addiction? hunger? neglect? etc.  There is a lot to the subject of Street Children.  Scan other countries as well as this one.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.


Check out some of the Resources for Teachers attached to this website.


Welcome to Brazil, a Paradise of Impunity for All Kinds of Criminals

Augusto Zimmermann, L.L.B., L.L.M., Ph.D. teaches constitutional law at Murdoch University, Western Australia.

This paper was presented at the Criminal Law Workshop held by the John Fleming Centre for Advancement of Legal Research at the Australian National University College of Law, 7-9 February 2008

[accessed 21 July 2013]

[accessed 23 November 2016]

VIOLENCE AGAINST CHILDREN - "Nowhere does the gap separating rhetoric and reality emerge more starkly than in the contrast between the guarantees afforded children by the 1988 Constitution and the cold-blooded assassination of boys and girls who live on city streets. If there is anything that most vividly symbolizes the perversity of the contemporary wave of violence in Brazil, it is the way it has victimized children."

There are now seven million abandoned children living on the streets of Brazilian cities. Crimes against these children are characterized by extreme brutality and include torture and dismemberment. Often their bodies are left out on the streets "to serve as example for others."

Those who manage to survive another day are left worrying about where their next meal will come from and finding a safe place to sleep. A social worker has suggested that these children are subject to a process of "natural selection," in which only the strong survive to adulthood and the weak die early from disease and violence.

Street children, utterly deprived of their most basic needs, often become victims of death squads or other forms of violence born of their precarious situation. Since they often resort to theft to survive, some people have paid death squads to "clean up the streets" and get rid of such an "inconvenience."

Unfortunately, many Brazilians believe that the extra-legal killing of street children is a legitimate measure to combat criminality and violence, because they feel revolted with the unrealistic legal "solutions" provided by the state.

T-shirt message suitable for framing

Craig and Marc Kielburger, Global Voices, The Toronto Star, Dec 21 2006

[accessed 8 Aug  2013]

After a few minutes of conversation, he brought me to the bus shelter he and several other street children called home. They were very anxious that others might discover their hideout. They said the police might beat them, or worse. At night, they covered themselves with cardboard and newspapers to stay warm.

The children told me stories of how they had ended up on the streets. Some had been sent away when their families' food supplies ran out. Others had fled homes where they were physically or sexually abused. Each one had a unique, heart-wrenching story.

Most of these children had only a pair of shorts and a T-shirt. They were penniless and malnourished. All were barefoot. Most didn't even know their own ages, but several must have been as young as 8. Violence and hunger were an everyday part of their lives.

Candelária massacre

Wikipedia, 10 February 2011

[accessed 8 April 2011]

THE MASSACRE - According to survivors, the morning of the day before the massacre, a young group of children threw stones at police cars. Some of policemen allegedly told them, "don't worry, we will get you soon!" As children from the Candelária church were usually given warnings such as these by policemen, the young perpetrators left without worrying too much about the threat.

At midnight, a few cars came to a halt in front of the Candelária church. Next, gunfire shots were heard. The children tried to cover up, but eight of them were shot to death, with several others wounded. One of the children present that night, Sandro Rosa do Nascimento, would later commit one of Brazil's most infamous crimes.

The international community severely condemned the attack, and many in Brazil asked for the prosecution of those who shot the Candelária church children.


*** ARCHIVES ***

A Video Playlist for Brazil

[accessed 8 April 2011]

There are an increasing number of street children videos now available that constitute a supplementary source of information for researchers, especially for those who may not have experienced the reality of street children.  [Playlist developed by Brian Horne of &]

The Department of Labor’s 2004 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

U.S. Dept of Labor Bureau of International Labor Affairs, 2005

[accessed 24 January 2011]

INCIDENCE AND NATURE OF CHILD LABOR - In urban areas, common activities for children include shining shoes, street peddling, begging, and working in restaurants, construction, and transportation.  Many children and adolescents are employed as domestic servants, and others work as trash pickers, drug traffickers, and prostitutes.  In 2001, 11.9 percent of working children ages 5 to 15 years were not attending school.

Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 7 February 2020]

ARBITRARY AND UNLAWFUL DEPRIVATION OF LIFE - Death squads with links to law enforcement officials carried out many killings, in some cases with police participation. The National Human Rights Secretary stated that death squads operated in 15 states. Credible, locally-based human rights groups reported the existence of organized death squads linked to police forces that targeted suspected criminals and persons considered "undesirable"--such as street children--in almost all states and the Federal District.

CHILDREN – A July study by the Institute of Applied Economic Policy (IPEA) reported that more than 100 thousand children and adolescents were living in public shelters. The leading causes for displaced children were: poverty (24 percent), abandonment (19 percent), domestic violence (12 percent), and drug abuse by parents or guardians (11 percent). The IPEA report also revealed that in more than half of the cases, children were living in shelters due to the parent's belief that the child would receive better care there than at home.

In September the NGO Travessia reported that approximately 350 children lived on Sao Paulo City streets, and an additional three to four thousand children worked as street vendors.

The city of Rio de Janeiro operated 38 shelters and group homes for street children. The Sao Paulo City government runs several programs for street children, including a number of shelters for minors and the Sentinel Program, which identifies at-risk youth and provides social services, counseling, and shelter.

Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) - 2004

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1 October 2004

[accessed 24 January 2011]

[64] The Committee expresses its grave concern at the significant number of street children and the vulnerability of these children to extrajudicial killings, various forms of violence, including torture, sexual abuse and exploitation, and at the lack of a systematic and comprehensive strategy to address the situation and protect these children, and the very poor registration of missing children by the police.

Remember the child victims of sex tourism

Sarah de Carvalho et al, Sept. 27, 2010, The Guardian

[accessed 8 April 2011]

In Brazil, along with partner organisations, we are working to mitigate the effects of this insidious trend; reports state that the country is overtaking Thailand as the most popular destination for child sex tourism. Despite Brazil's growing economy, street children in cities like Recife, in the north-east of the country, are turning to prostitution simply to afford a plate of food.

Life on the street for these children is grim and often punctuated by violence, drug addiction and sexual abuse. Many girls fall pregnant by the age of 12. The statistics are heart-wrenching – UNICEF estimates that there are as many as 250,000 child prostitutes in Brazil.

Brazilian Street Kid Publishes Inspirational Book with Help from American Professional Athlete

PRWEB, Sept. 26, 2010

[accessed 8 April 2011]

Life on the streets of Brazil's third largest city is far from easy. Approximately 5 million people inhabit Belo Horizonte, and the impoverished masses dwell in slums that line the city's mountainside circumference. These shanty communities are called "favelas" in Portuguese. Many favela children wind up working the streets to bring home money to feed their families, and often to support their parents' addictions. Most of the children who work in the streets one day choose not to return home at all.

By the time Sidney was 11 years old, he had been in and out of juvenile institutions. He was a drug addict, thief and gang member. He had escaped gang warfare, corrupt police and murderous vigilante squads. He had learned every survival tactic the streets had to offer -- survival tactics that were slowly killing him.

Street Children

Human Rights Watch

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 21 September 2011]

While street children receive national and international public attention, that attention has been focused largely on the social, economic and health problems of the children -- poverty, lack of education, AIDS, prostitution, and substance abuse. With the exception of the massive killings of street children in Brazil and Colombia, often by police, which Human Rights Watch reported in 1994, very little attention has been paid to the constant police violence and abuse from which many children suffer. This often neglected side of street children's lives has been a focus of Human Rights Watch's research and action

In several countries where we have worked, notably Brazil, Bulgaria, and Sudan, the racial, ethnic, or religious identification of street children plays a significant role in their treatment. The disturbing notion of "social-cleansing" is applied to street children even when they are not distinguished as members of a particular racial, ethnic, or religious group. Branded as "anti-social," or demonstrating "anti-social behavior," street children are viewed with suspicion and fear by many who would simply like to see street children disappear.

Brutal end for woman who devoted life to helping children from Rio's violent slums

Tom Phillips in Rio de Janeiro, The Guardian, 1 March 2007

[accessed 8 April 2011]

Appalled by reports of death squads exterminating street children in the beachside city, she set her sights on the favelas of Rio. Yet this week, after nearly a decade dedicated to the children of South America, she met the most ghoulish end imaginable - hacked to death with kitchen knives at her Copacabana home alongside her husband and another colleague, apparently by one of the street children she had tried to save.

Global peace a growing priority among diverse Christian groups

Hannah Elliott, Associated Baptist Press ABP, Dallas, January 23, 2007

[accessed 8 Aug  2013]

According to Bostian, U.S. director of Hope Unlimited, only 18 percent of Brazil's street children are biological orphans. The vast majority are children who have run away from home to escape violent or neglectful parents.  Once the runaways hit the streets, however, they find that option isn't much safer -- in fact, for many it is brutal and deadly. The average lifespan for a Brazilian street child is less than four years, with most meeting a violent end. In 2006, the United Nations reported that 16 children are reported murdered every day in Brazil. Many more murders go unreported.

NBC Nightly News to feature American Baptist ministry

Hannah Elliott, Associated Baptist Press ABP, Valley Forge Pennsylvania, December 21, 2006

[accessed 8 Aug  2013]

“The situation with street kids in Brazil has not gotten a lot of attention,” Bostian said. “Only 18 percent of these kids are biological orphans. The rest are social orphans. They think they would be better off on their own away from their home. Most die from violence in the streets.”

Many of the children suffer from poor health and malnutrition. Because of rape and forced child prostitution, they are often exposed to HIV/AIDS. According to the Brazilian Center for Children and Adolescents, Brazil has more than 800,000 child prostitutes. Drugs also run rampant among the children, who sniff glue to escape reality.

The problem with street children became so bad in the late 1980s that Brazil had “large-scale, deliberate, systematic killing of street children by death squads who enjoyed a high degree of impunity for their actions,” according to the Hope Unlimited website. “Street execution" was once listed by Amnesty International as the third leading cause of death for Brazilian children.

Brazilian activist says more money needed to help street children

November 29, 2006

[accessed 16 January 2017]

Yvonne Bezerra de Mello was changed by witnessing the police massacre of eight street children in 1993. That’s when she started alternative schools to help educate children who have been traumatized by life under control of drug lords that rule Rio.

'Zero Tolerance' comes to Brazil

Suzy Khimm, Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor, Rio De Janeiro, May 4, 2006

[accessed 8 April 2011]

His stepmother beat him, so Aluizio Pereira fled for the streets.  Three years later, the scrawny 13-year-old still sleeps on the sidewalk along Ipanema Beach, begging for handouts in the shadows of the luxury hotels that dominate the upscale neighborhood.

But to some, Aluizio is more than just a reminder of a grim social reality. In this divided city, he represents a threat to public security and - thanks to former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani - the police are working to clear him, and others like him, off the streets.

"Street Children" In Brazil

T.H.O.M.A.S. (Those on the Margins of a Society), EDGES Magazine Issue 27, November 2001

[accessed 8 April 2011]

[page 189]  The largest category consists of children living in absolute poverty. These children grow up in an extremely underprivileged social environment. They lack the most elemental means to meet basic needs and usually receive hardly any or no parental care, because their mothers (who are often the only parent) are forced to seek some means of subsistence. In the absence of day-care facilities, the children, even toddlers, are left on their own. This exposes them to a high risk of starting an early “career” on the street.

Brazil: Tragedy Of Street Children

Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey, Pravda.RU Lisbon, 25.04.2001

[accessed 8 April 2011]

Abused, confused, lonely and abandoned, children take to the streets to find a safe refuge from abuse by parents or stepparents. In a life without hope from the moment they are born, they soon find that they have nowhere to go, no one to turn to and no life to live.

Not for Kids

Chuck Pfister, Cover Story, September 1995

[accessed 8 April 2011]

An estimated 8-10 million children make their living on the streets in Brazil, primarily because of extreme poverty.  The degree of vigilante violence against these children is extreme, and the behavior of their vigilante murderers became a solidifying issue and a public relations cornerstone in the children's movement.

Real Dungeons

Human Rights Watch, December 6, 2004

[accessed 8 April 2011]

BEATINGS BY GUARDS - We heard reports of physical abuse by guards in all detention centers we visited. “The guards are very violent,” said a volunteer with a nongovernmental organization that works with detained youths.

The accounts of youths themselves were not the only indication we had of abuse. In some cases, the youths we interviewed showed us cuts and bruises that were consistent with their descriptions of beatings. And when Human Rights Watch talked to a group of parents of detained children, they described seeing visible signs of abuse while visiting their children. For example, one parent spoke of a visit to Santo Expedito in May 2003: … The guards had gone in and hit everybody, beat them up. The boys were bruised, with broken arms, broken legs, covered with blood. I saw this. Fifteen boys called me over to look inside and see how they were. I saw them inside a bathroom. They lifted their shirts to show me the injuries.

Street Children in Brazil

The United Methodist Church UMC

[accessed 8 Aug  2013]

FACTS ABOUT POVERTY - Sáo Paulo has more people than New York City.  There are 17 million kids, ages 10-14.  Children decide to live on the street, because home life is not good, they need to find other ways to get food, or they are orphans.  Before living in the streets, they existed in favellas, the most impoverished of slums, dug in garbage dumps for food, and encountered family violence because of the stress of poverty.

Working With The Street Children Of Brazil

Liz Searle, studentBMJ 2001;09:305-356 September ISSN 0966-6494

[accessed 19 September 2011]

Offering an alternative social network and activities for children to replace their existing lives on the street or their dependence on drugs or both, while dealing with any underlying emotional issues, and providing some hope of a brighter future.

Brazil's Street Children

United Nations Association of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 21 September 2011]

Grupa Ruas e Praças (GRP) is a civil society organisation founded in the 1987 by a group of street educators. The organisation now has a team of 12, including psychologists, art educators, social workers, and people who have lived on the streets themselves. GRP staff visit each site where children are regularly found on at least a weekly basis. Once they have gained the confidence of the children, they invite them to visit a safe farm owned by GRP where the children can benefit from comfort, peace and regular meals. If the visit goes well, the children are invited to spend longer at the farm and become part of a more structured programme before moving on to the next stage.

At Home in the Street: Street Children of Northeast Brazil

Tobias Hecht, Cambridge University Press, May 13, 1998

[accessed 10 October 2012]

Through innovative fieldwork and ethnographic writing, Hecht lays bare the received truths about the lives of Brazilian street children. This book changes the terms of the debate, asking not why there are so many homeless children in Brazil but why - given the oppressive alternative of home life in the shantytowns - there are in fact so few. Speaking in recorded sessions that participants called "radio workshops," street children asked one another questions that even the most experienced researchers would be unlikely to pose. At the center of this study are children who play, steal, sleep, dance, and die in the streets of a Brazilian city. But all around them figure activists, politicians, researchers, "home" children, and a global crisis of childhood

Brazil: An Endangered Generation

Marlinelza B De Oliveira, Women's Feature Service, Rio de Janeiro

[accessed 8 April 2011]

“The so-called street boy is an island surrounded by omissions on every side. All the basic public policies have already failed to help him," says Antônio Carlos Gomes da Costa in his book 'Brazil Urgent Child'.  This book was published over a decade ago but not much has changed since then.

Street Children and Circulation: A Case Study in São Paulo, Brazil

Maria Filomena Gregori, 29 November 2001

[accessed 8 April 2011]

[accessed 23 November 2016]

These families continually break up and regroup in order to meet minimum, short-term needs, sending a child to live with a relative or neighbor, or seeking work wherever possible. Gregori terms this constant movement "circulation," and says that the one constant in these children’s lives is instability.

Street children in Brazil

Spiros Tzelepis of Greece interviewing Yara Dulce Bandeira de Ataide, author of "Decifra-me ou Devoro-Te", an oral history of life of street children in Salvador

[accessed 8 April 2011]

[Question] Which are the causes for this phenomenon?  What happens with the families of these children?  [Answer] There are multiple causes for this phenomenon. The severe level of unemployment, the neo-liberal government policies, the domestic violence, the high levels of illiteracy of population, poverty are among them.  These families generally are misadjusted, with social and psychiatric problems, such as alcoholism, violence and other mental disturbances.

The Killings Escalate In Brazil - Street Children: More and More Killed Everyday

Caius Brandao, International Child Resource Institute ICRI Brazil Project Coordinator, 24 April 1995

[accessed 24 August 2011]

Clearly, there is a perceived benefit to killing destitute children, not only to those who directly profit from it, i.e., the hit-men. When street children die it also 'benefit' the people who paid the professional killers to clean up the streets in the first place.

In 1994, 1221 minors were killed in the State of Rio de Janeiro, an average of more then three kids everyday; 570 died from gunshot wounds, and a total of 344 were under the age of 11.

All material used herein reproduced under the fair use exception of 17 USC § 107 for noncommercial, nonprofit, and educational use.  PLEASE RESPECT COPYRIGHTS OF COMPONENT ARTICLES.  Cite this webpage as: Patt, Prof. Martin, "Street Children - Brazil",, [accessed <date>]