A Brazilian woman enslaved as a servant since the age of eight for almost four decades and forced into marriage has been rescued in a rare crackdown on domestic slavery.
The 46-year-old man was found living in a small room in an apartment in Patos de Minas, in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais. He had worked for the family most of his life without pay or time off, according to labor inspectors.
The victim was turned over as a child by her destitute parents to a professor at Patos de Minas University, Unipam, and raised by her mother, inspectors said.
“They gave him food when he was hungry, but they took away all other rights,” Humberto Camasmie, the inspector in charge of the rescue, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The woman’s name has been withheld to protect her identity.
Domestic servitude in Brazil is difficult to identify and address because victims rarely see themselves as modern slaves, authorities said. Of 3,513 workers found in slavery-like conditions between 2017 and 2019, only 21 were placed in domestic servitude.
A lawyer representing the professor’s family said they had been presented as guilty before their case was heard in court. A Unipam spokesman said the professor had been suspended by the university and that “all legal measures are being taken.”
Labor prosecutors said they were trying to reach an agreement with the family to pay compensation to the victim. If prosecutors accuse him of employing slave labor and find him guilty in court, the professor faces up to eight years in prison.
While labor inspectors can visit workplaces at will to check for slavery, they must obtain permission from a judge to enter a home and said evidence of abuse by victims was a prerequisite.
Neighbors alerted authorities after receiving notes from the 46-year-old woman asking them to buy food and hygiene products as she had no money, according to labor inspectors.
During her captivity, the woman was forced to marry an elderly relative in the family so that she could continue to receive her pension after her death, authorities said.
After her rescue at the end of November, the woman was transferred to a shelter where she is being assisted by psychologists and social workers. Authorities said they were trying to reunite the woman with her biological family.
The woman now gets a monthly pension of around R $ 8,000 ($ 1,560), seven times higher than the minimum wage in Brazil, according to the labor inspector Camasmie.
“She didn’t know what a minimum wage was,” he said. “Now he is learning how to use a credit card. She knows that every month she will be paid a substantial amount (of the pension).
Domestic servitude made headlines in Brazil in June, when authorities rescued a 61-year-old maid they judged had been enslaved by a woman who worked for the Avon beauty company.
Avon fired the executive and said it would support the victim. The former Avon employee, who along with her husband and mother were charged with enslaving a worker, denied the charges.
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