Slave labor and gender: Who are the female workers enslaved in Brazil?

The issue presented by Reporter Brasil shows the profile of the 1,889 women victims of this criminal practice, which represent 5% of the total number of people freed from slave labor in the country between 2003 and 2018. This data is part of an unprecedent investigation on gender issue and its correlation to labor exploitation.

The publication “Slave labor and gender: who are the female workers enslaved in Brazil?” presents the profile of these women found under labor analogous to slavery between 2003 and 2018. In Brazil, the 62% are either illiterate or have not finished elementary school. There is also a relevant racial disparity among those rescued: more than half (53%) are African descent (42% are pardo* and 11% are black).

Furthermore, the publication presents the geographic context of the problem according gender variable. As in the case of men, enslaved women are in the whole country. The mains states of their birthplace are MaranhĂŁo (16.4%), ParĂĄ (12.8%), Minas Gerais (10.6%), Bahia (10.4%) and SĂŁo Paulo (10.2%). Regarding economic activities, more than 80% of the cases are those in rural area, which include sugar cane cutting, charcoal activity and domestic work.

However, this problem is also recurrent in urban areas, including large cities such as São Paulo, where cases of slave labor in sewing workshops are frequent. From the total of 1,889 female workers rescued, 178 used to work as seamstresses, which makes sewing one of the main economic sectors with slave labor (it ranks the third place). Besides, there is a high concentration of female immigrant workers, mainly from Latin America, working in the textile sector under exploitation conditions. 

This material also approaches a problematic issue: the underreported cases of slave labor in domestic and sexual activities.

This publication was supported by the International Labor Organization.

* Pardo is an official category on the Brazilian census to designate “mixed race”

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