Sex Tourism and Child Prostitution in Brazil

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Photograph: alobos Life on Flickr

Brazil is a beautiful country, with a diverse culture and much to recommend it to travellers.  However, some travellers and tourists have more sinister aims in mind when visiting Brazil.  Politically and economically, Brazil is one of the most stable countries in South America, with democratic principles, a successful economy, and a female president.  However, like all countries, there are social issues, and a terrible and prevalent issue in Brazil is that of child prostitution.

Brazil is second only to Thailand in the number of children in prostitution, with half a million estimated (UNICEF).  Child prostitution is not only a problem in remote rural areas of the country, but in large cities like Rio de Janiero child prostitution continues despite the law.  Child prostitution is a serious issue in Brazil, not only among street children in towns and cities.  The BR-116 motorway stretches for 2,700 miles from the North to the South of Brazil, through the most populated regions and it is the most active road in the world for the sexual exploitation of children.  The BR-116 is used constantly and there are many towns and villages along its breadth where children as young as 9 years old are ‘working’ on the side of the motorway selling their bodies to passing truck drivers.  Some families even open their homes as brothels.  Every 10 miles a child is sold for sex (Meninadança).

The human rights of the children in child prostitution are being completely ignored; destroying education, mental and physical health, a future and autonomous choice.   The environment these children live in is almost impossible to leave; many children are forced to prostitute themselves by their own parents or guardians.  Sexual abuse within families and communities, and the common abuse of street children is a continuing problem.

The Olympics is a great international event, and in 2016 it will be held in Rio de Janeiro, the first host city from South America to hold the Olympics. This is an exciting experience for Brazil and the eyes of the world will be on the country. However, the expected tourism and money that will come into Brazil with the Olympics is being exploited by both those organising child prostitution and those who use child prostitutes.

The Olympics in 2016, combined with the Football World Cup of 2014 which is also to be held in Brazil, will exacerbate the already prevalent issue of child prostitution.  ‘Sex tourism’ is expected to increase, and is already being advertised online, and many children will be brought into the big cities from more rural areas, to work as prostitutes.  The age of consent in Brazil is already lower than other countries, at 14 years, but the prostitution of minors up to the age of 18, is illegal.  The increase of tourists coming into Brazil for these two international sporting events will include many sex tourists, putting the children and young people of Brazil who are already at risk or involved in prostituition in more danger.

Child prostitution in Brazil is a difficult challenge seemingly outside the boundaries of law and morality.  There are certainly serious issues with the system of how the law deals with this. The court case covered by The Economist (April 7th 2012) is an example of this, where a man who had sex with three 12 year old girls was cleared of all charges, because the children were prostitutes.  The Economist reported the judges as saying that the girls were, ‘far from innocent, naive, ignorant or ill-informed about sexual matters’.  But clearly, that is the very problem.  Children should not be forced into prostitution at all.

The Brazilian government plans to crack down on child prostitution before the Olympics, though does this imply they were not taking such stringent measures to deal with this problem before? There are also charities working to prevent the increase of child prostitution in the run up to the 2014 Football World Cup, and even more significantly, the 2016 Olympics. Child prostitution in Brazil is a problem that needs to be exterminated.

Published by The Globalist – Epiphany Term 2013

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