Interview with Angélica Goulart, The National Secretary for the Promotion of the Rights of Children and Adolescents

1) Can you describe briefly your training and professional trajectory before entering your current position at the National Secretary for the Promotion of the Rights of Children and Adolescents?

I am a teacher. I worked for over 20 years in the public school system, and I have a graduate degree in Social Services from the Federal Fluminense University. As a social worker, I had the opportunity to work in the fields of health, education, justice and social assistance, with a focus on childhood and adolescence. I specialized in children’s and adolescents’ law at Universidade Estadual do Rio de Janeiro, in intrafamily violence at Universidade de São Paulo, in social responsibility and the third sector in Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro and finally I concluded my Masters degree on cultural goods and social projects at Centro de Pesquisa e Documentação de História Contemporânea do Brasil, Getúlio Vargas Foundation (FGV) – Rio de Janeiro. I started the initial project and ran the Xuxa Meneghel Foundation in the last 20 years, since 2002, I’ve taken on the role of Social Responsibility Director of the Xuxa Group. During this trajectory, I participated in the childhood’s social movement and integrated many networks of protection and promotion of childhood rights, namely the Network Não Bata Eduque [“Don’t Hit, Educate”, in English]. In 2012, I was invited by the Ministry Maria de Rosário, whom I met in Parliament, when I was a Federal Delegate, to be the National Secretary for the Promotion of the Rights of Children and Adolescents.

2) How is the situation of sexual exploitation in Brazil?

Efforts to combat sexual violence in Brazil have their main cornerstones: the Federal Constitution (1988), the Children and Adolescent Statute (1990) and especially the National Plan to Combat Sexual Violence Against Children and Adolescents (2000).

Legislation has challenged the Brazilian State in the fields of health, education, social assistance, tourism and labor to address sexual violence and to ensure the protection of the rights of children and adolescents.

Perceiving the prevention of sexual violence as a responsibility of the whole Brazilian society and as a gross human rights violation, the Secretary of Human Rights, the Ministries, international organizations and organized civil society have been developing educational campaigns, promoting complaints and publicizing the Disque 100 hotline. The numbers show that we have been relatively successful in these endeavors.

In the field of sexual exploitation, which is a type of sexual violence, the Brazilian government together with research institutes, and international and civil society organizations has been mapping the most vulnerable and critical points in order to generate a profile of the children and adolescents involved in this type of violence, to (de)construct the factors that have contributed to its occurrence, and especially, to prevent future forms of violence.

The last study of the Federal Highway Police, conducted in 2011, found more than 1,800 vulnerable and critical points for sexual exploitation of children and adolescents in federal highways. The Intersectoral Matrix to Combat Sexual Violence Against Children and Adolescents, designed in partnership with the University of Brasília, mapped the Brazilian cities with situations of sexual exploitation as well as the programs, services and initiatives available to support victims. We have to continue to fine tune our research on this topic as well as broaden the educational campaigns in place, and engage society in the first step of addressing this issue: filing a report.

Brazil has witnessed significant progress in the field of combating sexual exploitation, but it is key to keep progressing towards the consolidation of our legislation, the design of public policies capable of ensuring rights and overcoming this phenomenon of social, cultural and historical dimensions.

3) Promundo is currently putting together a campaign to prevent sexual exploitation of children and adolescents during the major sports events that will take place in Brazil. The campaign is aimed primarily at soccer fans. What can be done to prevent sexual exploitation of children and adolescents in this scenario? Which are the main challenges and opportunities?

We believe it is key to keep the issue on the public agenda and to inform people about the rights of children and adolescents and what the Brazilian legislation says as well as to disseminate information about the appropriate channels for the denunciation of violations locally and nationally. It is equally important to contribute to the creation of communication mechanisms with children and adolescents, and to mobilize people to support and integrate the Permanent Campaign for the Protection of the Rights of Children and Adolescents and the Protection Committees that have been set up in the cities hosting these sports events.

In this scenario of major sports events, we think that the biggest challenge may be articulating sexual exploitation prevention and combating initiatives at the governmental level (Union, States and municipalities), justice system, rights councils, and international organizations as well as at the civil society level (organized civil society and corporate sector). This major effort is being led by Brazil’s Department of Human Rights (SDH) alongside with the building of an Agenda of Convergence, with an aim to ensure the protection and promotion of the rights of children and adolescents in the context of major events.

Regarding opportunities, we think that the sports events that will take place in Brazil in the near future (the Confederations Cup, the World Cup, the Olympic games and the Paralympics) may contribute to strengthen our system of rights assurance, to show the world the advances that we have made in terms of children’s and adolescents’ protection, to effectively integrate the actions to combat sexual violence and all other types of violations and to mobilize the Brazilian society to the challenge of assuring rights and protecting children and adolescents from all kinds of human rights violations.

4) What can the soccer fans do to avoid sexual exploitation of children and adolescents?

Firstly, they should be deeply upset by it. Since it is a violation of the rights of children and adolescents; they should forward their complaints to the authorities (Conselho Tutelar, Military Police, the State Prosecutor’s Office) or present claims locally and nationally through the Disque 100 hotline. They can also participate actively in the campaigns, events and social mobilizations addressing sexual violence against children and adolescents. That is, follow the motto of our campaign: “Don’t look away! Pay attention! Keep an eye on it! Report! Use the Disque 100 hotline or go to the Conselho Tutelar”.

5) The research developed by Promundo, which will be launched on May 18th, reveals that 18% of the 662 interviewees have had relations with a minor. Many of these men affirmed that they maintained an affective relationship with the young woman. How should this type of sexual exploitation be addressed by public policies?

Public polices, especially those associated with prevention and assistance, should seek to empower children and adolescents, and give them the tools to defend themselves in these situations. The fact that many claim that there is in fact an “affective relationship,” which is in itself highly questionable, does not mean that it is not a sexual crime according to our legislation. We have to discuss the possibility that children and adolescents really have to give consent to these types of relationships. Adults are responsible for ensuring the rights of children and adolescents, and guaranteeing their safety from any form of violence, namely sexual. The boundaries for affective and sexual relationships have to be set by the adults, not by the children or adolescents.

6) What is the most important violation of the rights of children and adolescents that the Secretary has been combatting or should be combatting?

The SDH believes that no one violation of the rights of children and adolescents takes precedence over another. All are harmful and constitute equally important violations of the rights of children and adolescents, whether it is sexual violence, child labor, the non-assurance of the right to family and community life, the current conditions in which socio-educational measures are being implemented, or the killing of children and adolescents. Each of these have to be equally addressed and overcome.

7) Which activities are taking place on May 18th, the National Day to Combat Abuse and Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents?

The activities on May 18th will be decentralized. We estimate that over 3,000 Brazilian municipalities will be carrying out activities associated with the National Day to Combat Abuse and Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents. Usually the activities include seminars, debates, hikes, demonstrations and cultural activities involving children and adolescents, public auditions, and educational campaigns in the media.

The SDH together with the National Committee to Combat Sexual Violence, the Intersectorial Commission to Combat Sexual Violence Against Children and Adolescents, which brings together the ministries, the secretaries, and the international organizations, the Parliamentary Front for Children and Adolescents, and the Caravan Siga Bem Caminhoneiro, are organizing a public audition in the National Congress on May 15th, the third edition of the Neide Castanha Award and the Cultural Event at the Esplanada dos Ministérios, in Brasília – DF. It will be a political and cultural event aimed at mobilizing civil society and political agents towards combating sexual violence against children and adolescents.

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