Brazil’s Alarming Number of Child Prostitutes Will Soar When the World Cup Starts

The Brazilian government has pledged for the past decade that it will eradicate child prostitution. In 2001, 100,000 children were found to be working in the sex trade, according to estimates by Unicef. In 2012, that number had swelled to an estimated half a million, says a non-governmental organization, the National Forum for the Prevention of Child Labor. With the 2014 World Cup nearing and social workers anticipating the number of child sex workers to soar in Sao Paulo and other cities, the Brazilian government has yet to take adequate steps to protect thousands of children from being sexually exploited.

Sex tourism occurs across Brazil but is centered in Fortaleza in the northeast, a region of beaches and nearly year-round sunshine. Cecília dos Santos Góis, who works for Cedeca, a children’s rights organization, says that Brazil’s “culture of machismo,” along with with extreme poverty and drug use, means that the country is the “perfect environment” for sexual exploitation of minors. As she explains:

“Women in the north-east have traditionally been treated as second-class citizens, as objects even. Many fathers see their young daughters as a source of income and that is a cultural attitude that’s hard to change.”

Fortaleza is the source of more phone calls to a nationwide a hotline to report child sexual exploitation than any other Brazilian city on a per capita basis. “Organized rings” of pimps, hotel managers and taxi drivers recruit young girls. Antônia Lima Sousa, a state prosecutor who advocates for children’s rights in Fortaleza, says that foreign tourists are able to “order the underage prostitutes before they arrive in Fortaleza” and have them “delivered directly to their hotels.”

When child sex workers are brought to shelters, it is “very hard to convince these girls to lead normal lives. Most of them think abuse and selling their bodies is just a fact of life,” says Leonora Albuquerque, a worker at one if Fortaleza’s four shelters for underage prostitutes.

The Governments Response About Children Being Sexually Exploited Is Lacking

600,000 visitors are expected in Brazil for the 2014 World Cup. It is anticipated that they will spend 25 billion reals and add 113 billion reals into the economy. By the time the World Cup is held, the Brazilian government will have spent 33 billion reals on stadiums (in the construction of which two workers have died), transportation and infrastructure and an additional 6 million on advertising.

Despite its vow to end the child sex trade, the government has dedicated only 8 million reals to give to host cities to set up projects to fight child prostitution. It is more than uncertain about how these funds will be used as some cities do not even have a program in place.

Joseleno Vieira dos Santos of Brazil’s Human Rights Secretariat, says: ”[W]e’re worried sexual exploitation will increase in the host cities and around them. We’re trying to co-ordinate efforts as much as we can with state and city governments to understand the scope of the problem.” But he also acknowledges that the government’s efforts will only touch the “tip of the iceberg” of a vast problem.

As Denise Cesario, executive manager of Fundação Abrinq, a local partner of Save the Children International, states, “this subject isn’t really part of the government’s agenda and we don’t see a willingness to combine efforts or increase resources to address the sexual exploitation of children.”

Child Sex Traffickers Are Rarely Prosecuted in Brazil

To too many Brazilian teenagers, working in the sex trade is seen as the only option to escape poverty and, in more than a few cases, abusive households. Pimps and clients are rarely prosecuted and, when a case is built against them, “survivors often change their testimonies and the cases are thrown out,” according to Francisco Carlos Pereira de Andrade, a criminal prosecutor who specializes in child exploitation. Of the 2,000 cases that his department, which handles sexual violence against children, is involved in, only about 20 are related to child prostitution.

Already, reports have surfaced of workers at an England World Cup venue using prostitutes as young as 11. The huge influx of tourists into Brazil will only exacerbate an entrenched problem.What could be called a minimal effort to address a burgeoning number of child prostitutes shows where the Brazilian government’s priorities are — or rather are not.

Photo via Thinkstock


Nils Anders Lunde
PlsNoMessage se3 years ago


Laurence Wuillemin
Past Member 3 years ago


Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla3 years ago

Yet another problem when an event like this comes, so sad.

Donna Ferguson
Donna F3 years ago

very, very sad

Eleonora Oldani
Eleonora Oldani3 years ago

This is in line with Karen’s comments – maybe some of you feel inclined to sign his petition and forward it to their friends?

“Put an End to Super Bowl Sex Trafficking” Newsletter&utm_campaign=edb0984772-NL4291_7_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_600a6911b9-edb0984772-296650873

Virginia Abreu de Paula

Susan, soccer is not the cause of prostitution. :) Big events only bring more people...and some of the visitors just want to fool around. But prostitution exist with or without worlds cups. By the way, I happen to know two girls who started selling themselves at early age. One of them, a very nice woman, by the way, told me she just choose it. No pimp. She was only fourteen when she discovered she could have money visiting the hotels see the new men in town. She was not a poor girl. But she wanted her own money. Besides, she enjoyed sex too much. Her words, "Nobody forced me", she told me. And she has no regrets. I am not in favor of it, sure not. I am only showing a fact people usually don't talk about. Some girls seem to enjoy it...when they are able to choose their partners, sure. The other one was 13 when se started, This case is more terrible because I think ( not sure) their parents were involved. Now this is just unnacepetable. She would go for the oldests. She would offer herself. When they were asleep, she would steal them and run away. Sounds like a Tarantino movie. Her father was a drug dealer. If police would find the guy he would go to prison. She would remain free for being a minor. But...what if their parentes were her mentor? Nothing would happen either. So, I think to get things better it's important to consider all situations. And it would be nice if some men try not to appreciate prostitution so much. Here in Brazil they are fascinated by red light

Keith H.
Keith H3 years ago

So sad

Berny p.
Berny p3 years ago

Those who should be punished are the pimps and the johns, as well as jurisdictions that allow this exploitation.


Bryna Pizzo
Bryna Pizzo3 years ago

Thank you for the news. We must have petitions demanding international laws to protect children from prostitution and strict laws concerning the prosecution of those who exploit children.

Erika M.
Erika M3 years ago