Fuck Dams!Spurred by a recent scandal in which 18 girls and young women were found to have been imprisoned and forced into sex work at a construction camp for the Belo Monte Dam in Brazil, International Rivers has published an article about the connection between big infrastructure projects and violence against women. From the article:

This is not an isolated incident, just one dam, or a bad apple. It’s a widespread symptom of dam building. It’s happened at the construction of large dams throughout the history of Brazil and elsewhere. It happened at the Tucuruí Dam on the Tocantin River in the 1980s, it happened at the Santo Antônio Dam on the Madeira riRver in 2009. It is likely to happen at any of the over 60 more large and small dams that Brazil is planning to build in the Amazon. 

Since the Belo Monte Dam began construction in 2011, the number of victims of violence and sexual violence against children and adolescents in the area has tripled. New cases have increased from 15 to 40 per day. Authorities have already closed twelve boates in the area. They point to the explosion in migrants to the area of Altamira, a city that has grown from 90,000 to 200,000 in just one year.

Brazil’s Parliamentary Commissions on Human Trafficking and Violence Against Children and Adolescents have summoned the developers of Belo Monte to explain whether they knew about this and potentially other boates. Police continue to investigate, and the possibility exists that Belo Monte construction will be stopped.

Still, delays in construction, fines against the dam builders, and stronger mitigation plans are not enough. Construction will likely resume. More migrants will arrive. More boates could be built, and more women trafficked, enslaved and sold.

Violence against women in large infrastructure projects is systemic. It matters not how “green” or “clean” developers portray these dams to be. Where you build a massive new project that attracts hundreds of thousands of male laborers to an area with failing social services, massive gender inequality, engrained corruption, and a legal system politically pressured to move large development projects forward at any cost, you breed the conditions for violence against women to exist. (emphasis added)

In other Brazil dam-related news, NPR’s All Things Considered did a story on Brazil’s big dam push last month, and interviewed both International Rivers and Amazon watch. Listen here.