More than 170 soldiers from the Brazilian Army participated this week in a UN course on protection against sexual exploitation and abuse in northern Brazil.
The purpose of the training is to combat the crime of sexual abuse in situations of forced displacement and mixed migration flows that bring together refugees and migrants, as is the case of Venezuelans who arrive in Brazil through the State of Roraima.
Political scientist Ana Cláudia Pereira, a project officer on gender, race and ethnicity, from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said that these training courses are not only given to the Armed Forces, but also to UN officials, to apply “standards” to eliminate sexual abuse and exploitation.
“In a context like this, we have a group of people in great vulnerability with a concentration of people who take humanitarian aid, a service in the context of emergency, it becomes more necessary,” he said.
According to her, the idea, in the first place, is to present the internationally agreed standards of performance by the United Nations.
“These standards include, for example, that there is no sexual relationship, sexual contact, with people under the age of 18. Although Brazilian law allows for a consensual relationship in some of these cases, in the case of internationally law, under 18 years old is prohibited,” explained the expert.
Ana Claudia also stressed the prohibition of the exchange of goods or money for sexual favors, understanding that this implies a very unequal situation between the people who are depending on the help and those who are helping.
“The objective of the initiative is to promote an environment in which” these [refugees] are protected and that as many armed forces as the different actors involved act as protectors and not as violators of rights,” she said.
The Social Communication Advisor of the Army’s Humanitarian Logistics Task Force for the State of Roraima, Lieutenant Colonel Rodrigo de Lima Gonçalves, explained that the main challenges in relation to dealing with refugees “are of all kinds” by the fact that these people drop everything to go to Brazil in search of a new life.
“The military, aware of this situation of vulnerability and already trained … they can contribute to the prevention of these acts, exploitation and abuse, slavery itself, and xenophobia that happens in many cases,” said the lieutenant colonel.
Commenting on the receptivity of Venezuelan refugees to the activities of the Brazilian military, Rodrigo de Lima said that the response of the immigrants is “very good”. “At a time when these people are vulnerable and marginalized, they find themselves destitute on the streets and are the target of coordinated, organized actions, finding a friendly hand in our military, giving them, when we have a vacancy in shelters, a roof , food, providing a safe service so they wait to begin a new life … the receptivity is very good,” he explained.
“The Venezuelan people look at the military, the soldiers of the Armed Forces, in a very positive way. This is the impression I have … They have a great expectation that we will continue to provide this support, and this support will be given if the Brazilian State stays determined,” added the lieutenant colonel.