Rio De Janeiro -- A teenage girl was locked up on theft charges in an Amazon jail for weeks with 21 men who would only let her eat in return for sex, authorities say, setting off a national scandal over the treatment of women by Brazil's justice system.
The 15-year-old said she was required to have sex with at least two inmates, police spokesman Walrimar Santos said by telephone Thursday from Belem, at the mouth of the Amazon River, where the victim was transferred after nearly a month living with male inmates.
By her account, officials did nothing until the story erupted in the national media and outraged Brazilians demanded her transfer.
"Throwing a 15 year-old girl into a cell with 20 men was a heinous and intolerable act," Brazilian Bar Association president Cezar Britto said in an interview.
"It is a serious case of criminal negligence against women, who in Brazil continue to be victims of prejudice."
Santos said the girl was not beaten or injured. But the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo, which said it had access to private testimony after her transfer from the jail, reported she was tortured with lit cigarettes on her fingers and bare feet to force her to have sex. Her cellmates cut her hair to make her look more like a boy and difficult to recognize, Estado said.
She said her only reprieve from obligatory sex was on Thursdays when intimate visits were allowed and things "calmed down," Estado reported.
Police and human rights officials said the girl was out of touch in Belem and would not speak to reporters.
The girl was arrested October 21 on accusations of breaking and entering a house and jailed with male inmates in Abaetetuba, a city of 78,000 outside the Para state capital of Belem.
She was transferred to a jail for women in Belem on November 17, although police claim they requested her transfer earlier but were ignored.
Santos said separate jails for men and women do not exist in most towns in Para a sprawling, largely lawless state twice the size of France.
Days after the case was divulged, the Brazilian Bar Association announced that a 23-year-old woman had been obliged to share a cell with 70 men in a police detention center in Parauapebas, in southern Para. It was not clear if she was forced to have sex.