Note from BW of Brazil: Let’s clarify, the above ad doesn’t actually request a slave, but we will expound on that in the reason for that headline in the material below. The main part of the ad reads as follows: “Nanny – Evangelical couple – Needs to adopt a girl from 12 to 18 years (of age) that resides (in the house) to take care of a one-year old baby, that can live (in the home) and go to school. He is a businessman and she is also a businesswoman.”
So what is the connection to slavery? Well the fact is that it’s kind of an unspoken secret that slave labor continues to exist in Brazil. Whether the workers are in conditions analogous to slavery, or they are children who are exploited for labor or sexually in the homes of the wealthy, we must call it for what it is. The fact is that only a few weeks ago, we shared a story detailing the story of the sexual exploitation of black girls in the homes of elites that provided yet another example of how this practice continues in Brazil 127 years after the official abolition of 350 years of this inhumane institution. Coincidentally, tomorrow is May 13th, which officially makes 127 years since slavery was ended in 1888. Brazil received the most Africans of all countries in the Americas during the infamous Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and was the last country in the West to abolish this act of human bondage.
Over the years we’ve come across numerous examples of young girls, usually black, whose parents, out of financial necessity, voluntarily give their children to well-off families in hopes that the opportunity for work and the association will provide them better opportunities in life. The wishes and the reality are often not the same as these girls often work long hours, sometimes with no day off, are paid little, if at all, and are denied the opportunity for an education while taking care of family’s children who acquire of the benefits of being part of elite families. Not only does this often lead to cycles of poverty and a life of domestic service, but stories of sexual coercion or exploitation are often common as well, even if these girls don’t often reveal this ‘part of the job’.
“We need girls for child labor and slavery”
By Douglas Belchior
The image above, photocopied and circulated on social networks in recent days, especially by Internet users in the northern region of the country, is from the classified section of an edition of Diário do Pará released last May 2.
The absurd situation, of a promotion of child labor analogous to slavery and attempt at illegal adoption, was denounced to the Associação dos Magistrados Trabalhistas da 8ª Região (Amatra8 or Association of Labor Magistrates of the 8th Region, under the care of Judge Claudine Rodrigues.
The case is being followed by the journalist, lawyer and activist Franssinete Florenzano on his blog, in which he registered:
“The judge – who through Amatra8 develops the project Trabalho, Justiça e Cidadania (Work, Justice and Citizenship), precisely on behalf of children and youth – personally called from the institution’s telephone, without identifying herself, and confirmed the veracity of the complaint. The person who answered the phone said the couple needed a babá (nanny) ‘with the requirements that were in the newspaper’ (a child from 12 years of age to a teenager up to 18, who lives at the place of the job). When the magistrate asked if the candidate could have more than 18 years, he heard a resounding ‘de jeito nenhum’ (no way)! And at the time she asked for the contractor’s name the man hung up the phone.”
The Ministry of Labor and the police have opened an investigation which targets both the individuals involved and the newspaper responsible for conveying the classified ad. According to the blog, Ministério Público do Estado do Pará (State Public Ministry of Pará) must also file an action.
Another case and a curious coincidence
Another sad case of the promotion of child labor analogous to slavery and attempted illegal adoption has also been denounced by the Franssinete Florenzano Blog, this time in Marabá (state of Pará), a town about 450 kilometers from (the capital city of) Belém.
A woman identified as Cristiane Soares Melo, evangelical, married to a pastor and with a two year old daughter, posted a Facebook group called “Venda, compras e trocas – Marabá”, (meaning ‘sales, purchases and exchanges in Maraba) was looking for a needy girl to help her, that lives with her. According to the blog, the case came to the attention of the work judge in the region that, in turn, immediately triggered the Ministry of Labor in Marabá.
And what’s a sad and curious coincidence of this profile? Evangelical couples …
Poor, black and indigenous children, victims as always
Brazil is internationally recognized as a country that uses child labor, both in the domestic trade, as in activities related to the export sectors and of course in the provision of domestic services. Nothing new since it is a phenomenon that has followed us from the colonial period.
The reasons for the permanence of this slavish heritage in the culture and social practice are complex and diverse. But surely, poverty and racism are the principle ones. And, of course, of the logic the “Market” god in its pursuit of profit above all things, that makes of children the prime target, precisely because they work for less money, and are more easily disciplined and far from unions or other forms of organization.
Paradoxically, Brazil is also recognized as one of the countries with the most modern and significant protection standards to children and adolescents, present in the Federal Constitution, the Estatuto da Criança e do Adolescente (ECA or Statute of Children and Adolescents), the Consolidação das Leis Trabalhistas (CLT or Consolidation of Labor Laws) and the Lei Orgânica de Assistência Social (LOAS or Organic Law of Social Assistance).
Or you could say: A country that advanced the formal imposition of duties and laws, but that does not practice them.
In the cases cited here, realize that the conjunction poverty+girls+slave work+discourse of care and help provide an adequate environment for the development of the next chapter: the exploitation and sexual abuse of children and adolescents.
Hence the importance of never naturalizing or ignoring facts such as those that the Franssinete Florenzano blog bring. After all, if we imagine a different and better country to live in, our resistance should and must be permanent and pedagogical. All the time.
Source: Douglas Belchior — CartaCapital
This is one of the more interesting/sad phenomena that I have observed here in the northeast of Brazil. It seems common practice here to “acquire” a girl from a poor comunity to become a lifelong servant to a rich, (usually white) family.
On the flip side of this issue, I have observed MANY poor people who are so disenfranchised from any realy opportunities in the society that they seem to WANT to become a kind of servant to a rich family. As I have oberved before, this will often come with some fringe-benefits. If it is a bad family, she will suffer from years of mental, emotional, and probably sexual abuse. If it is a “good ” family, she will live rent free (in exchange for her servitude), and will often have oportunities to receive an education, travel to different countries, and – if the family is very rich and she has served them for a long time – aquire a house or apartment that the family buys for her (this seems to be the case when the woman has been with the family for MANY years and has been loyal). If she eventually has children, her children may also be assured of having good medical care (using the connections and money of the boss), and can sometimes go to private school (again, this is usually only in the case of the people with “real” money here). There is also the situation where a family might receive a minimal salary to be the groundskeepers of a sition or farm. They will live there rent free and will usually even be able to sell the fruit or coconut water from the trees, or the farm produce from the animals for their own personal gain. These are all situations that I have observed .
I would like to see the different aspects of this topic explored in more detail. Moreover, I would like to know BWOB’s opinion on the families that seem to want to find oportunities in this type of “service” work for their children (as they may have no other real oportunities to leave a poor community, in this society where “who you know” can make a HUGE difference in a person’s overall opportunities in life).