Country report and updates: Brazil

Last revision: 06 May 1998
06 May 1998

1 Conscription

conscription exists

Conscription is referred to in art. 143 of the 1988 Federal Constitution which states that military service is compulsory. [1] [5]

Conscription is regulated by the Military Service Decree. [5]

military service

According to the Military Service Decree all 19-year-old citizens are liable for military service. [5]

But in practice it seems that men are called up at the age of 18. [3] [7]

Military service lasts for 12 months, and may be extended to 18 months. [3] [2]

It is not known in which cases the duration of military service is extended.

postponement and exemption

Postponement is allowed in the case of students. [3]

A conscript may be exempted

- if he is the only son;

- if he is the sole family breadwinner;

- if he is an orphan;

- if he lives outside a recruitment-area (fora da area de recrutamiento);

- if he is a cleric;

- or if he is declared medically unfit. [3] [1]

Many not wanting to perform military service employ other means of avoiding conscription, such as:

- getting the support of those with useful connections;

- supplying false medical information in order to get exempt;

- simply not turning up at the barracks;

- enlisting in an area where recruitment does not take place. [3]


All men aged 18 must present themselves to the military junta for the compulsory military registration. [3]

To get a work permit or any other state provided service or benefit, all men of over 18 must show proof of military registration. [7]

Those who do not register are considered dead and have no civil rights. After registration a selection procedure establishes whether or not an individual is enlisted into one of the three branches of the armed forces. In 1989 only 103,970 conscripts, out of a register of 1,437,297 18-year-olds, were recruited, the vast majority getting exempted on medical grounds. [9]

2 Conscientious objection

legal right

The constitution refers to conscientious objection. Art. 143, para. 1 states:

"It is within the competence of the Armed Forces, according to law, to provide an alternative service for those who, in peacetime, after being enlisted, claim grounds of conscience, understood to be based on religious faith and philosophical or political beliefs, for exemption from purely military activity.". [6]

The 4 October 1991 Decree No. 8.239 and the 28 July 1992 Regulation 2.681 further specify the regulations for these cases of conscientious objection. [5] [6]

Conscripts who are COs may in peacetime be required to perform substitute tasks - what they are being decided by the armed forces. [4]

COs' lawyers in Brazil have noted that the present system is deficient in that the option of substitute service outside the armed forces is unavailable. Many COs oppose any connection with or service in the armed forces. [4]

procedure and practice

All conscripts who are called-up may apply, but there is no known application procedure for the 'Alternative Military Service'. [3]

At a meeting attended by 50 people on 31 March 1996 the Movement of Conscientious Objectors (MOC) was founded. Its aim is to achieve recognition of the right to conscientious objection and non-military substitute service.

Jehovah's Witnesses COs, who refuse to perform military service and 'Alternative Military Service', are imprisoned. [3]

substitute service

No civilian substitute service is available, only so-called Alternative Military Service. This is unarmed military service with the same duration as normal military service (12 months). [3]

The 'Alternative Military Service' entails administrative work and civil protection duties. Conscripts performing Alternative Military Service get the same pay as those performing military service. [1] [6]

3 Draft evasion and desertion


Failing to register for military service is punishable by a fine. [7]

No information is available on penalties for disobeying call-up or for desertion.


Jehovah's Witnesses who refuse to perform both military service and Alternative Military Service are sent to prison and lose all civil and political rights. [3]

5 History

When the new constitution was being drafted in 1987 and 1988, SERPAJ-Brazil and several churches proposed, via federal deputies, enshrining the right to conscientious objection in the constitution. This prompted the inclusion of the above mentioned art. 143, para. 1. [3]

6 Annual statistics

The armed forces are 314,700 strong, which is 0.19 percent of the population. The reserve forces consist of 1,340,000 trained troops, 400,000 of whom are liable to face immediate recall. [2]

Every year approximately 1,600,000 men reach conscription age. [2]

In 1989, out of a register of 1,437,297 only 103,970 conscripts were recruited, suggesting only 7 percent of registered conscripts actually performed military service. [9]


[1] Abecassis, L., P. Duong, S. Perrier, N. Watt, 1994. Conscription Militaire ou Service National a Option Civique, rapport de l'enquête préliminaire effectuée auprès d'une vingtaine d'Etats membres de l'UNESCO. CCIVS - UNESCO, Paris. [2] Institute for Strategic Studies 1997. Military Balance 1997/98. ISS, London, UK. [3] ROLC 1994. Informe del taller de formacion para la objecion de consciencia i encuentro latinoamericano de objecion de consciencia. Serpaj, Asuncion, Paraguay. [4] Toney, R.J. 1996. Military Service, Alternative Social Service, and Conscientious Objection in the Americas: A Brief Survey of Selected Countries. NISBCO, Washington DC, USA. [5] UN Commission on Human Rights 1992. Report of the Secretary-General prepared pursuant to Commission resolution 1991/65 (and 3 Addendums). United Nations, Geneva. [6] UN Commission on Human Rights, 1994. Report of the Secretary-General prepared pursuant to Commission resolution 1993/84 (and Addendum). United Nations, Geneva. [7] Amnesty International 1991. Conscientious objection to military service. AI, London, UK. [8] US State Department 1996. Human rights practices for the year 1995. Country reports. USA, New York. [9] Clark, Howard 1993. 'Military service and conscientious objection in Brazil', in: Peace News, November 1993.

Recent stories on conscientious objection: Brazil

02 Jan 2009

The New York Times reported on
18 December that Brazil is planning to modernise its military.
According to the report, this will include a national debate on
conscription, with the aim to enforce the countries existing
conscription laws.