Articles on Modern Day Enslavement - Zola M Dube

Harvesting organs from Brazil’s street kids – fact or fiction?

In 13 National Profiles, Brazil on July 7, 2010 at 11:38 PM

Many of the babies that were taken were very sick, or were very ethnically Afro-Brazilian, some of them had AIDS… People started questioning, why do they want these babies? …maybe it can be seen as a sort of inchoate testifying by illiterate people on the margins, who don’t have other discourses to fall back upon, but who recognize that their bodies are not safe under these regimes, where there’s torture, disappearances and so forth.

Nancy Scheper-Hughes, Organ Watch (University of California)

In 1994 Nancy Scheper-Hughes and Daniel Hoffman wrote an article about street kids that provided extensive information about the nations social attitude and treatment of children. Veja (1991), the magazine with the largest circulation in Brazil, reported that the public morgue in Recife received approximately 15 bodies of dead children and adolescents a month. People of color outnumbered white bodies 12 to 1, and boys outnumbered girls at a ratio of 7 to l.  Damaged or mutilated bodies accounted for 80 percent of the cases. The article goes on to state that the local human rights organization GAJOP characterizes the routine assassinations of poor adolescents as an unofficial death penalty that is carried out “with chilling cruelty and without any chance of defense whatsoever.”

From 1964 to 1985 Brazil was governed under military rule. Disappearances, tortures and deaths of suspected “subversives” at the accused hands of civil and military police was rampant. During this period the underclass residing in the “favela” meaning “shantytown” were kept apart from Brazil’s social classes. With the collapse of military rule, people have become free to roam.

Since the emergence of democratization in 1982 Brazil’s security forces have not been transformed. Extraordinary power exerted to enforce apartheid-like codes of separation continues over impoverished populations. Those most at risk are Brazil’s children of impoverished and often single or abandoned women; largely Afro-Brazilian. In a book journalist Gilberto Dimenstein, entitled The Children’s War, the author explores middle class apathy. Regarded as thugs, hustlers, murderers and thieves; disappearances, murder by death squads, torture, police brutality, and harassment is commonplace and hardly challenged.

For a number of decades since the 1990s accounts of Brazilian child abductions and organ theft were regarded as urban legend.

Brazilian street children live in daily fear of the police, state children’s asylums, anonymous kidnappers, death squads, and (more fantastically) imagined child-and-organ stealers.

While popular story-lines regarding organ theft have not been proven, self proclaimed “militant anthropologist” Nancy Scheper-Hughes provides compelling evidence that, to the contrary, there is reason to acknowledge organ trafficking is a real phenomena. The premise of her argument lies in the culmination of variables including the vulnerability of marginalized and “invisible” people amongst the poorest in the world, the advancement of technology to support organ and human tissue transplants among “strangers”, unregulated and/or criminal agents that work as brokers, and the demand for body parts by wealthier peoples in America and Europe.

As explained in a Newsweek article published on 10 January 2009:

…international organ trafficking—mostly of kidneys, but also of half-livers, eyes, skin and blood—is flourishing; the World Health Organization estimates that one fifth of the 70,000 kidneys transplanted worldwide every year come from the black market.

Social attitudes about Brazil’s street children of shantytown origin and the history of human rights abuses against them, fit the description of those most vulnerable to traffickers – “threat to safety”, poor, invisible, abandoned, expendable.

– Zola Dube


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