Maid, now 25, says she was enslaved from 11 in Brazil

June 12th, 2008 - 6:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Rio de Janeiro, June 12 (DPA) A maid told authorities in Brazil that she had been kept as a slave for 14 years by a married couple and had not been allowed to leave their house since she was 11 years old. She also had not received any wages for her work in Salvador, the capital of the north-eastern state of Bahia, the now 25-year-old Gabriela de Jesus said, according to Brazilian media reports Wednesday.

Police charged 55-year-old teacher Maria Helena Silva and her businessman husband, Jose Carlos Silva, 57, with deprivation of liberty.

Police freed de Jesus Tuesday after receiving an anonymous tip, they said.

“I was beaten with brooms and belts and hit in the face by Maria Helena and her husband,” de Jesus said.

The teacher disputed the charges against her and said that she never paid de Jesus for her work because she had treated the younger woman “as a daughter.”

De Jesus said her impoverished parents, who live in a rural area 350 km north-north-west of Salvador, handed her over to the Silvas when she was 11 in the hopes of giving her a better future.

But her “new parents” sent her to school for only three months and after that made her work daily from 4 am until late at night, she said.

“Now I’d like to make up for the lost time - make friends, go to school,” de Jesus said.

Child maids are not uncommon in large Brazilian cities. Experts estimated that more than one million girls aged 5 to 17 work as maids in Latin America’s largest country.

Most receive no vacation and receive salaries below the minimum wage of 415 reals ($253) per month. Many are also sexually exploited.

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