There’s a dark side to the 2014 World Cup. And then there’s this.
Metres away from a Sao Paulo stadium packed with fans pumped on World Cup fever, girls as young as nine are selling their bodies to survive.
They’re prostituting themselves for the price of a soft drink, lured in by pimps addicting them to crack cocaine, toxic glue and other drugs.
This startling reality was presented in a Four Corners report last night, which looked into Brazilian Parliamentary reports, confirming some children have even been trafficked to World Cup host cities to meet the demand from an estimated 600,000 tourists.
Some of the children are living – and working – just blocks from the major World Cup stadiums.
The World Cup is a celebration. A time when countries come together. It’s about passion, jubilation, equality. Hidden beneath this veneer lies the underbelly of Brazil, where child prostitution and drug cartels are booming.
During the World Cup experts have anticipated a 30 to 40 percent increase in child prostitution – despite it being illegal.
Fifteen-year-old Gabriella was lured to Rio with the promise of a better life – a job in a coffee shop. When she arrived, she was forced into prostitution: “They threatened me. They said if I refused they would beat me.”
Another 13-year-old girl who is working on the streets, revealed that she is HIV positive. She said that she’s been selling her body for drugs, for drinks, for money and to make a living since she was nine. All in a desperate attempt to earn money.
Liliam Sa, the Chair of the Parliamentary Inquiry into Child Exploitation, revealed many tourists would be travelling to Brazil to actively seek out minors for sex. She said, “we’re going to have millions of tourists throughout Brazil … but we have these sexual exploitation gangs who are going to try and use the tourists, some of whom come with pre-conceived ideas that were sold to them about Brazil, that here having sex with children is easy”.
The Brazilian economy is now in the top 10 in the world, but still 25% of Brazilians live in extreme poverty.
Desperate families are forcing young girls into multiple sexual encounters a day – for as little as $2 a customer. The girls are left to deal with the onset of diseases and pregnancies that come with unprotected sex.
One mother, whose daughter is prostituting herself to support the family, said, “each seat in each stadium means another child remains in the slums”.
Local authorities claim they’re making attempts to address the issue, but say events like the World Cup only exacerbate the problem. One said, “We have been fighting with this. Frequently fighting against this crime of sexual exploitation of children”.
It cost $15 billion for Brazil to kit themselves out for the World Cup – could it have been better spent on solving this epidemic? Or more importantly, do authorities plan to use some of the $3.03 billion of revenue generated by the World Cup to put an end to child prostitution?
Liliam Sa says it must end. “Sexual exploitation of children and adolescents is a cruel way to take away a kids childhood and dreams. It’s a life lost.”
Here’s hoping something changes. Soon.
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–Originally published here on MamaMia