The site dedicated to Brazilian women of African descent
Note from BW of Brazil: To say the least, this is quite a disturbing story! These types of reports once again makes one ask if law, order and justice in fact exist in Brazil or it is just window-dressing. Here we have so many unjust factors of Brazilian society rolled into one case:
Many of the topics in this story have been approached in previous material on this blog but as our readers may not be familiar with those posts, a few clarifications of definitions will be in order. Quilombos are the independent maroon societies established by fugitive slaves escaping captivity during Brazil’s slavery era, the greatest of which was Palmares led by Brazil’s greatest black leader, Zumbi. Residents of these quilombos are known as quilombolas and some descendants of these quilombolas continue to live in these areas formerly inhabited by their ancestors.
Kalunga (or calunga) is the name given to descendants of runaway slaves and freedmen from central Brazil gold mines that formed self-reliant communities and who lived more than two hundred years isolated in remote regions close to the Chapada dos Veadeiros in the current state of Goiás located in the central region of the country. In 1956 Goiás was selected as the site for the federal district and the nation’s capital city, Brasília, where it is located today.
In the report below, please keep in mind the long struggle for the rights of Brazilian maids that activists saw as being in many ways analogous to slavery which eventually culminated in new laws meant to protect the rights of domestics. This case extends beyond the question of maids attaining working rights and enters into the realm of human rights as centuries of racial inequality between black and white, rich and poor also play a strong factor in the details of this case. Inequalities of race and “place” that can still be noted in the attitudes of many Brazilians toward those considered “the help”. As the investigations on these accusations are ongoing, we will reserve judgement on this case, but given the track record of justice in Brazil it wouldn’t be hard to understand why the cards seem to be stacked against the victims of this case!
The new slave quarters: From slavery to rape. Raped at 10 years old and mother at 12
At least eight investigations concluded just in 2015, by the Civil Police of Goiás denounced the use of kalunga girls as sex slaves. The victims, between 10 and 14, had as executioners white and powerful men of the city of Cavalcante
By Renato Alves with contributions from Cleomar Almeida
Female descendants of slaves born in kalunga communities of Chapada dos Veadeiros protagonized the same horror stories and barbarism of their ancestors, taken by force to work on the farms of the region in the 18th and 19th centuries.
With no high school education and without any possibility of employment beyond the manual labor on unproductive lands in the villages where they were born, they are handed over by their parents to residents of Cavalcante *….
In the town of 10,000 inhabitants in the northeast of Goiás, 310km (192 miles) from the Brazilian capital of Brasília, most work as maids in middle-class family homes. In return, they earn only food, a place to sleep and free time to attend public school classes. To make matters worse, they are exposed to all kinds of violence. The most serious, rape, usually committed by their employers – white men with economic and political power.
The victims are between 10 and 14 years of age. The perpetrators, from liberal professionals to politicians, from 20 to 70. For now, they remain unpunished. However, the story began to change in December, when the direction of the Civil Police of Goiás decided to change all personnel of the local police station. Even without structure and enough people, the new researchers, coming from other cities and startled with so many cases of rape of the vulnerable – in which the victim is under 14 years old – shelved, decided to give priority to this type of occurrence. Since then, they completed eight surveys. The latest indicted the vice mayor of the Câmara Municipal (City Hall), Jorge Cheim (PSD), 62. Two weeks ago, a finding confirmed the rape of a 12 year old kalunga girl who lived in his house.
The police chief Diogo Luiz Barreira called the preventative detention of Cheim, that, in addition to being a city councilor for three terms, is the former mayor of Cavalcante and husband of the current vice mayor of the city, Maria Celeste Cavalcante Alves (PSD). The request and the investigation against him are by the sole prosecutor of Justice of Cavalcante, Úrsula Catarina Fernandes Siqueira Pinto. Responding for the district of the city for 18 years, she is married to a cousin of Cheim. To friends and police of the city, she said that it must be declare herself suspicious in the lawsuit stage. The General Magistrate of the Public Prosecutor of Goiás (MPGO) analyzed an assessed complaint last month against her work. In the complaint, residents complain of alleged slowness and lack of response to complaints of crimes committed in the city.
The prosecutor that tends to the public only on Thursdays, was not found for an interview nor returned messages left by the Correio Braziliense (newspaper) reporters that were in Cavalcante Tuesday and Wednesday. In a statement, Cheim denied the crime. He claimed to have taken the victim to live in his house because of the family financial difficulties of the girl, a resident of a quilombola village 100km (62 miles) away from city headquarters. About the lack of judicial authorization to care for the child, he emphasized that the prosecutor knew everything. The Correio team went to the house of the accused, on Tuesday. Two men, one of them the son of the councilman, received the report at the door. He said the councilor was on his farm, but would make a point of granting an interview. They ensured that he would be found in session of the Câmara (City Hall), on Tuesday night. Cheim missed the meeting, was not seen any more in the city nor returned the newspaper’s calls.
Unlike most municipalities in Goiás and the rest of the country, incidents related to the use and trafficking of drugs are not the most common in Cavalcante. In the city with the worst Human Development Index (HDI) of the state, cases of sexual abuse outweigh all others, according to the MPGO and the Civil Police. The complaints made to the Guardian Council reach an average of 60 per year. Most have kalunga girls as victims. But since 2010, only 11 resulted in lawsuits filed by the prosecutor Úrsula Pinto.
One of them has as defendant another politician, former councilman Neovalto Cândido de Souza. Civil Police arrested him in April 2011, when he was Secretary of Cavalcante Planning, on charges of having sex with an 11 year old child. A city judge issued the arrest warrant “for the convenience of the criminal process” because the accused was coercing witnesses, the victim’s parents, and hindering the work of the Court. Neovalto was eventually convicted. While awaiting judgment of the appeal, without getting re-elected because of the Lei da Ficha Limpa (Clean Record Law), he managed refuge at City Hall, where he works as an advisor. In the two days that the Correio team sought him in the headquarters of the local legislature, they were that he was not there.
President of the Kalunga Quilombo Association, based in Cavalcante, Vilmar Costa Souza, 34, says that the number of cases of abuse against children descendants of slaves is much higher than those recorded by the police and MPGO. “Here, the law of silence prevails. Many girls are afraid to denounce it. Often their parents even know what happens in the houses where they were sent. And they do it with the best intentions, believing that they will have a better life than what they can offer,” he says. For him, the great-grandson of slaves, the silence is the result of impunity. “The few reported cases don’t make it to court. With this, no one is arrested. And when there is indictment, this occurs long after the perpetrator has disappeared,” he adds.
The fourth largest city of Goiás in the territorial area, Cavalcante doesn’t have a police chief. The investigator Diogo Barreira is in Alto Paraíso, 100km away. In addition to these two cities, he responds to police stations in two cities. The Cavalcante unit has only two officers and two clerks, who work on shifts. There is no truck at their disposal, only passenger cars. Thus, they are unable to even deliver subpoenas on farms and in villages, because some of the properties and population centers are up to 220km (137 miles) from the municipal headquaters. Among them, Quilombo communities isolated by a lack of roads, can only be reached by mule.
What the law says
Penalty of 8 to 15 years
Law No. 12.015, of August 2009, establishes carnal knowledge with persons under 14 years as vulnerable rape, because the victim does not have valid intellectual maturity or discernment to consent to sexual relations, even if such relations are coming from a loving relationship. The penalty for the convicted ranges from eight to 15 years in prison, depending on the aggravating factors of the crime. If it results in death, it goes from 12 to 30 years.
The state deputy Isaura Lemos, president of the PCdoB (Communist Party of Brazil) in Goiás, requested a hearing last week with the Human Rights Secretariat of the Presidency, in order to demand the creation of a Working Group to examine measures against sexual abuse against children and young people in Cavalcante. The parliamentarian is still awaiting a response to the request.
Raped at 10 years old and a mother at 12
One of the most shocking cases investigated by the Civil Police of Goiás is the girl who was abused twice by different men. In the second, she became pregnant. Her sister, 14, also has a baby. Until then, they didn’t know what rape was.
“The man told me he would do only one thing with me and that it wouldn’t hurt. I was afraid of him, but I let him.” – 12-year-old, mother of a newborn baby
A 13-year-old girl is a victim in two separate investigations opened this month by the Civil Police in Cavalcante. One says her first sexual relation was when she was 10. The perpetrator was 20. He is the run. The other case is about the pregnancy of the girl, at 12. The baby, a girl, was born 15 days ago. The father also disappeared. He would be 21. In addition to not registering the child, he never gave any financial help to her mother. Nor did he promise anything.
The girl, a black descendant of slaves, lives with her mother, an unemployed 28-year, on the outskirts of Cavalcante. They share the shack, an unfinished, four-room – bedroom, living room, bathroom and kitchen – with the only sister of the abused girl. At 14, the eldest daughter of the unemployed mother had a baby at 13. Also in her case, the father did not register the child nor procured her after the birth of the child.
The family survives on the R$780 (US$252) (per month) (1) pension left by the second husband of the matriarch, who had daughters from her first marriage. She and her first partner left the garden where they worked as laborers on farms on the Goiás border with (the state of) Tocantins, in search of a better life in Cavalcante didn’t prosper as they expected. The man left her in misery and took to an unknown destination. The second one separated from her, but honors the pension required by law.
The woman, her two daughters and two granddaughters made the path five miles round trip to the police station of Cavalcante, on foot, under the bright sun on Wednesday afternoon. It was the very first time for all of them in that environment. And they didn’t come with any initiative to denounce anything. The researchers came to the family after being informed of the 12-year girl’s pregnancy. In the cross-examination, they tried to extract from her the maximum amount of information about the father and the man who took her virginity. She only knew first names.
Until then, mother and daughters did not even know that the family had been a victim of crime. “The man told me he would do only one thing with me and that it wouldn’t hurt. I was afraid of him, but I let him,” she told the Correio team, at home, saying her first sexual relation was at 10 years of age. Remembering the second man, who impregnated her, she wept. She said she was afraid he would come back and harm family members, because of the police investigation.
In a related report by the O Popular website, a 12-year kalunga girl revealed that, “he showed me a porno video and then took me to his bed.” The statement was made by Amanda (not her real name) (2). She is not the only victim. The Guardian Council registers, on average per month, five reports of child sexual abuse. Most of the victims are kalungas and, because of threats, live under the gag rule. Even a city councilor is another child abuse suspect. Vulnerable rape is the most common crime in the city, confirms the Public Ministry of the State of Goiás (GO-MP).
Many victims have become adults, not seeing the punishment of the guilty, says Dalila Reis Martins, one of the representatives of the kalungas. Elaine (ficticious name), 31, knows what it is. A kalunga, she remembers that she was abused at age 9. “I was being abused for a long time and didn’t say anything because I was afraid of dying. Today I’m more afraid of my children going through the same situation.”
The girl and her mother complained about the direction of the school, where she left school in the seventh grade. “They said that if she didn’t go back now, she would miss the year. She can’t go back because she has to breastfeed her daughter. But I want her to study. I told the two that even with children, she will have to finish high school, to have a good life,” said the former peasant. The school declined to comment. Teachers interviewed for said that, despite the large number of pregnant students, sexuality is a taboo subject in Cavalcante educational institutions.
In addition, the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and abuse suffered by kalunga children and adolescents left by parents under the trust of city families is always left out of debates in the quilombola communities. In the Cavalcante headquarters, many see the exploitation of child labor and even rape of slave descendant maids as a mere cultural issue.
On three occasions, the Correio team was approached by middle-class city residents, outraged by the presence of journalists in the city. Without giving names or professions, they reduced the police investigations into alleged political bickering and reinforced believing child labor to be “normal” in Cavalcante homes. They even came even to blame the victims for the crimes, claiming that they wear “short clothes”.
The use of short skirts, shorts and T-shirts is common for most Cavalcante residents. The municipality stamped at the entrance the motto “O Sol da Chapada” (The Sun of Chapada). With a tropical climate, Cavalcante usually records high humidity, and an average annual temperature of 24° C to 26° C (75-79 Fahrenheit), reaching 31ºC (88 Fahrenheit) in August and September. The more than 100 waterfalls, a tourist attraction of the city, next to the kalunga villages, give a beach air to the region with tourists always in light, comfortable, short, low-cut clothing.
Bribery and repeal
In addition to the sexual abuse charges of children and adolescents, Cavalcante of councilors are characters from other scandals. In September 2013, police officers were caught in the act when three of them received R$20,000 (US$6,500) in cash at the then secretary of municipal administration. The value would have been the first part of a total of R$250 (US$81,720) thousand charged for approval of the matters at City Hall, authored by Mayor João Pereira da Silva Neto (PTC).
Augusto dos Anjos (PR), Geraldo Santos Júnior (PV) and Sival Borges (PTB) have just been released on bail. Responding to the accusation of extortion in freedom, they returned to their positions. On December 12, 2014, with other colleagues, Neto was revoked for absence from the city for more than 15 days without authorization of the City Council. The deputy mayor, Maria Celeste Cavalcante Alves, took over and stayed in office until January 9, 2015, when the Goiás Court of Justice (TJGO) determined Neto’s return.
Area of protection
The kalunga population is a black community, originally formed by descendants of the first quilombolas (maroon society inhabitants). Slaves escaping from captivity, they organized villages (quilombos) in areas of difficult access, going to live in relative isolation. In them, they constructed their own identity and culture, with African elements of their origin added to that of European colonizers, marked by the strong presence of traditional Catholicism of the countryside.
With over 230 hectares of protected cerrado (savanna), the kalunga area located in the northeast of Goiás is the largest remnant quilombo community in Brazil, with about 4,000 citizens, who only had contact with the modern world for less than 30 years. Many still live as their ancestors, without electricity and other facilities.
Occupying the municipalities of Cavalcante, Monte Alegre and Teresina of Goiás, quilombos are in the region now known as Chapada dos Veadeiros. Since 1991, the entire area occupied by this community was officially recognized by the state government of Goiás as a historic site that houses the Kalunga Cultural Heritage.
In this territory, there are more than 20 villages. Four nuclei concentrate most of them: Vão do Kalunga, Vão de Almas, Vão do Moleque and the old Ribeirão dos Negros, later renamed Ribeirão dos Bois.
* – Cavalcante is a municipality in northern Goiás state, Brazil. It is one of the poorest municipalities in the state. It is home to communities of descendants of runaway slaves called Kalungas. Source
1. Brazil’s current minimum monthly salary is R$788.00 per month currently worth about US$ 255
2. As this is a report surrounding the same scandal and the O Popular site uses a ficticious name, the girl who made this statement could be one of the girls from the Correio report but could also be a completely different person. As they separate are reports on the same scandal, there is no way of being certain.