On June 12th the world’s attention focused on Brazil, the host nation for the month-long 2014 FIFA World Cup—the largest sporting event in the world. To many, this comes as no surprise given the close association between “Brazil” and “soccer”—and for good reason, no other country has won the World Cup more than Brazil and its citizens are some of the most ardent and dedicated soccer fans in the world. But behind its beautiful beaches, perfect weather, and the glitz and glory of soccer, is Brazil’s rampant problem with child prostitution. In 2012, the National Forum for the Prevention of Child Labor estimated that Brazil had half a million child sex workers, second only to Thailand.
There are numerous reasons why a country has a problem with child sexual exploitation, including poverty and economic and social inequality—key factors in Brazil’s widespread exploitation. Though specific numbers are hard to peg, it is widely held that major sporting events—especially those of an extended nature—tend to compound and exacerbate pre-existing problems like child prostitution. In a CNN interview, Antonia Lima Sousa, a state prosecutor in Brazil said that major sporting events like the World Cup compound the problems of child sexual exploitation because “it involves a whole tourist network, from agencies, to hotels, to taxis…. With these mega events, [it’s] going to be organized much more via the internet.”
Leading up to the 2014 World Cup, Brazil has been in overdrive working to curb and combat the expected rise in child sex trafficking resulting from the World Cup related tourist influx. Its numerous government-funded initiatives include social media campaigns like the #itsapenalty hashtag aimed at raising awareness of the coercive and exploitive nature of commercial sex in Brazil and its direct link to trafficking.
So what does all this have to do with you? Plenty. If you’re reading this piece, you’ve taken the first step—learn.
The next step is to act. Activate your knowledge by turning your awareness into action. Events like the World Cup draw a world-wide viewing audience. Make the issue of child sexual exploitation in Brazil unavoidable to everyone you know; share this article; tweet using the #itsapenalty hashtag; use the tools at your disposal and do your part to raise awareness of the plight of the 500,000 trafficked and exploited children in Brazil.
Lastly, give. Become a monthly donor or make a one-time gift to Freedom 4/24 to help bring freedom and do justice around the world. Give so that today’s exploited children are tomorrow’s restored survivors. Give today to make a difference tomorrow.
-Tim Spaulding, Freedom 4/24 President