By Huga Gye on May 24, 2014—
“Brazil faces a new epidemic of child prostitution and sex tourism in the run-up to this summer’s World Cup, politicians and activists have warned.
Traffickers are reportedly recruiting young girls to work as prostitutes in the areas around the football stadiums in anticipation of a booming trade over the next few months.
Up to half a million children as young as 11 are abused with the consent of their families, and pimped out to tourists or lorry drivers.
The country’s government has launched a new drive to remind visitors that child prostitution is illegal – but tourists are in fact rarely prosecuting for having sex with minors.
Fears: The World Cup is set to bring an epidemic of child prostitution to the streets of Brazil (file photo)
This week, a parliamentary commission found that child prostitution had soared in the areas around the Corinthians stadium in Sao Paulo, where the first game of the World Cup will take place on June 12.
One 13-year-old girl told the inquiry that she had been abused by a construction worker at the stadium who impregnated her, according to The Times.
Other young girls sell their bodies along one of Brazil’s main highways, the BR-116, where truckers stop for sex while transporting goods on journeys which can last days.
Industry: The government is trying to crack down on prostitution but with mixed success (file photo)
Matt Roper, a British journalist, has set up a charity to help victims of trafficking on the road – many of whom are sold into prostitution by their own relatives.
‘Mothers or family members have no problem taking their daughters to a roadside brothel,’ he told The Times. ‘It’s just seen as completely normal.’
The government is attempting to crack down on the practice, with child prostitution even featuring as a major storyline in a popular soap opera.
‘Every tourist who arrives in Brazil will know that the exploitation of children and juveniles is a crime,’ a spokesman said earlier this month. ‘He’ll see it in airplanes, airports, bus and train stations and hotels.’
Threat: A report this week revealed that child prostitutes were common in the area around the Corinthians stadium in Sao Paulo, pictured
But charities are still worried that the World Cup will set the campaign backwards by increasing the number of potential customers for underage prostitutes.
‘While the World Cup is a joyful time, it also exposes vulnerable young children and adolescents to violence and sexual exploitation,’ said Anette Trompeter of Plan International.
‘Unfortunately tourism is often linked with the sexual exploitation of children, due to an increasingly permissive atmosphere and the use of hotels at this time.’
Adriana de Morais, an activist who patrols the bars of Natal – a north-eastern city which will host four World Cup games – trying to help child prostitutes is also concerned about the effect the competition will have.
‘It’s a singular event that brings many people from outside, and we really worry about sexual tourism,’ she told AFP.”
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