The Brazilian Supreme Court and a lower appeals court have nullified two sentences against child sex abusers in recent months on the grounds that their behavior did not constitute a crime under Brazilian law, sparking a protest from the United Nations.
On June 23, Brazil’s Superior Tribunal of Justice (the nation’s Supreme Court for cases not involving Constitutional law) upheld the acquittal of several men who had paid two girls, 12 and 13 years of age, to have sexual intercourse with them, on the grounds that prostitution was not covered by child sex abuse statutes.
The men, one of whom has been identified as a Brazilian sports celebrity, reportedly took photos of the encounter.
Although the fact that the men engaged in sexual intercourse with the girls was apparently not in doubt, the Tribunal of Justice of the state of Mato Grosso do Sul had ruled that it was not a crime, because the girls were engaged in prostitution. Brazil’s Superior Tribunal agreed, upholding the lower court ruling.
“The prostitutes waited for the client in the street, and are no longer people who enjoy a good image in society,” the judge ruled in the original case, adding that “prostitution is such an old profession and is considered to be barely a moral abuse, but never a crime subject to penalty.”
Ariel de Castro Alves, a member of Brazil’s National Council for the Rights of Children and Adolescents, expressed horror at the ruling.
“The decision is almost a license for abuse and exploitation to be committed without punishment. Currently, cases like these are difficult to punish,” she told the Brazilian newspaper O Globo. “It is a difficult process, that involves impediments, and very often, threats against the victims and their families. When punishment is possible, we have an absurd decision like this.”
The decision is also being denounced by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
“As incredible as it may seem, the argument used is that the accused did not commit a crime, because the children had been sexually exploited before by other people,” the organization commented in a public statement.
“Moreover, the decision causes indignation, because of the insensitivity of the judiciary regarding the circumstance of vulnerability to which the girls are subject,” the statement continued. “The case also establishes a dangerous precedent: that sexual exploitation is acceptable when it is paid for, as if our children are for sale in the perverse market of adult power.”
In a second case, reported in Brazil on June 5 by legal commentator Renato Pacca, an appeals court in the state of Rio Grande do Sul overturned the conviction of a 30-year-old man who admitted that he had had anal sex with his 13-year-old brother.
According to the prosecutor, the accused, who has not been named in the Brazilian media, “through real and presumed violence, forced his three minor brothers who were 9, 12, and 13 years of age, to practice various libidinous acts of sexual intercourse during the time period in question, consisting in showing them pornographic films, submitting them to various sexual services, and practicing anal coitus.”
Although the accused confessed to molesting his 13-year-old brother, and although he was sentenced to 12 years in prison, he was absolved on appeal to the Fifth Criminal Chamber of the state’s Tribunal of Justice because the child had “requested it.”
According to the text of the judgment, “sexual promiscuity was the tonic of domestic life, and this reality is sufficiently attested by the natural way the topic was confronted by the supposed victims.”
The 13 year old “effectively consented to have sexual relations with his brother” the court said, by “sitting on the lap of his brother, arguing that ‘I knew that was wrong’ and that, in the act, he had the role of the woman and the accused the role of the man.”
Prosecutors appealed the case to the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, which, in contrast to the other, similar case regarding the two girls, overturned the appeals court ruling and restored the original sentence.
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