New Prostitution Law Proposal Punishes Enterprises in Brazil – 16 June 2014

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The Brazilian parliament is currently analysing a new law proposal that is intended to punish private commercial establishments associated with prostitution or trafficking in persons. The Law proposal 5742/13, by the deputy Guilherme Mussi, is considered another barrier in the affirmation of sex workers’ rights in Brazil.

According to the proposal, enterprises responsible for realising, facilitating, conceding property, or contributing to prostitution or trafficking will be obliged to pay a fine up to 60 living wages. Recurrence in such practices will result in more penalties, including prohibition to contract with public institutions or participate in public tender.

Mr. Mussi affirmed: “by impairing the income of these companies, the prohibition will be more effective”. The author argues that victims of human trafficking and sex workers are exposed to several human rights violations, thus any commercial enterprise collaborating with these activities are conniving and should be punished. The project still needs to be analysed by two commissions before getting voted by the parliament.

The proposal is considered problematic for a number of reasons. First, it equates prostitution with trafficking, as favouring any of the two activities results in penalties for enterprises. Second, the project does not consider that prostitution is a legal activity under the Brazilian legal system; hence companies that have their income associated with prostitution will be punished for receiving income from legal activity. Third, the project does not specify which forms of association ought to be combatted, creating space for an open interpretation of the judiciary. Fourth, it is not clear in the law proposal how the government expects to benefit victims of trafficking, since the fine is applicable to companies and the money collected will not be geared towards social programmes.

By ignoring the differences between sex work and trafficking, the law proposal impacts negatively on Brazilian sex workers that work autonomously in apartments and/or indoor settings. Real estate agencies will have stricter rules to rent apartments, as they will be targeted by this legal measure if it enters into force. This increases stigma and discrimination against sex workers, and reduces their living and work places. Banks likewise will have stricter control rules to verify income of sex workers.  

For more information read here (in Portuguese).