Outside of the crowded, spirited World Cup stadiums, life in Brazil looks pretty different.
While we gather in bars to cheer for our respective countries, we’re probably not thinking about the huge number of kids selling sex on the streets of Brazil.
Roughly 600,000 people have flooded into the country to celebrate the tournament, and with them comes an influx of child prostitutes being exploited all over the country at the World Cup host cities.
Prostitution is legal in Brazil for anyone over the age of 18, but many of these children — some as young as 10 — are accepting as little as fifty cents for sex.
This documentary from the 1Real campaign is exposing the darkness of Brazil’s trafficking industry:
“These girls come from extreme poverty, a culture of social exclusion and tradition of profound disrespect for women,” Antonia Lima Sousa, a state prosecutor, told CNN.
Along with prostitution comes the use of drugs, specifically glue, which the children sniff to help them endure their devastating work and ignore their hunger pangs.
“Sniffing the glue makes me feel dizzy and numb and it stops me feeling hungry so I don’t need to eat. It helps me cope with the violence and danger on the streets,” Lorissa, a child sex worker, told the Daily Mirror.
Lorissa went on to tell of the extreme violence that comes with sex work. One of her friends, a 14-year-old girl, was recently murdered.
She told the Mirror, “A man picked her up by the Metro train station and she had sex with him. But afterwards he refused to pay, killed her and dumped her body.”
Unfortunately, some of these girls reportedly decide to sell their bodies — but it’s often out of desperation for food and money, and many of them are sold into trafficking by their parents.
Furthermore, if they’re under 18, they can’t legally decide to prostitute themselves. So it’s not really a choice at all.
Thiago, a former pimp and trafficker, revealed to Time that he convinced parents to hand over their daughters for between $5,000 and $10,000 — a low price for a human life that traffickers can exploit again and again.
“I sought the girls in Recife because there is so much poverty there. It makes it way easier to convince the girls to come down and prostitute themselves,” Thiago said.
This isn’t the first time the World Cup has drawn such abuse of children. CBS News reports that child exploitation increased by 30 to 40 percent during the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, which took place in Germany and South Africa.
And these crimes aren’t limited to the World Cup. Other sporting events are dangerous breeding grounds for sex trafficking, too.
In fact, 16 juveniles were rescued from being forced into prostitution at the 2014 Super Bowl.
Michael Osborn, chief of the Violent Crimes Against Children unit at the FBI, told the AP, “Large sporting events draw a lot of people into a compressed area with a lot of disposable income and as part of that you attract a certain criminal element.”
The U.S. State Department has estimated that 250,000 children are currently involved in prostitution in Brazil. Sadly, the World Cup merely makes an existing problem worse — and that problem will continue to destroy lives once TV crews and soccer fans leave the country.
“[The police] aren’t worried about these children growing up in a healthy environment, with jobs and housing, health and education. They’re worried about hiding them,” a nun who assists pregnant teens in Brazil told CNN.
Many organizations are starting campaigns to expose the truth about the exploitation of children for sex in Brazil, but the real issue comes down to getting real police support behind the issue.
As Sister Carmen Sammut, the president of the International Union of Superiors General, told CBS, “Without awareness, without acting together in favor of human dignity, the World Cup finals may turn out to be a terrible shame instead of a feast for humanity.”
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