UN criticises Brazil over forced labour
The United Nations on Tuesday expressed its concern over forced labour in Brazil, saying some businesses that treated workers as virtual slaves did so with "impunity".
Gulnara Shahinian, the UN special rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, visited Brazil in May, and in a report praised the country for acknowledging the problem of forced labour and taking measures against it.
"These exemplary actions are, however, threatened by the impunity enjoyed by landowners, local and international companies and intermediaries," the report said.
"The victims are predominantly boys and men aged 15 years and older. In urban centres, forced labour is a feature of the garment industry.
"Such sectors are in need of urgent reform to prevent slavery-like practices, such as forced labour, from being used."
In rural areas, forced labour was most prevalent in the cattle ranching industry, as well as in agriculture.
"In all these situations, the victims of forced labour work long hours, with little of no pay.
"They are threatened with or subjected to physical, psychological and sometimes sexual violence."
Around 40,000 people in Brazilian rural areas are victims of forced labour, according to a 2008 report by the UN's International Labour Organization.
Last week, authorities released 95 people working in slave-like conditions in sugar-cane plantations in the southeast of the country.
© 2010 AFP