Brazil’s Definition of Slavery

feb152014_1_shape-1In Brazil the definition of slavery does not necessarily include coercion or force. Degrading or humiliating conditions alone can be enough to close down a quarry or whatever place is involved. Anti Slavery Mobile Units respond to tips and go investigate working conditions. They find no water, no sanitation facilities, workers living in bare soil shacks with little protection from the elements, little if any food. They may or may not get paid and when they are, it is minimal. Some may be free to leave theoretically but can’t if they’re not paid and have no money to get out of the jungle where they find themselves. They may work in flip flops, have no protective gear even if they work with dangerous substances, and explosives can be found hanging in plastic bags with no special precautions. The investigators must decide if what they find is enough to meet conditions of slavery, if it is the quarry is closed down. Often employers don’t agree thinking they offer more than some of their cohorts. An activist priest says that “to subjugate somebody you don’t have to deny them formal freedom… if you isolate someone and he has no means to leave, he is a prisoner.” Some would like to widen the definition of slavery, and be able to better prosecute offenders. Like anywhere else it may be a trade off, a better system of enforcement for a narrower definition. Still narrow or not Brazil is setting a standard widening what is acceptable and what it not.