Brazil's child sex trade thrives as World Cup looms

Brazil's child sex trade thrives as World Cup looms

BRAZIL - With Brazil hosting the World Cup next year, officials fear an explosion in child prostitution as sex workers migrate to big cities and pimps recruit more underage prostitutes to meet the demand from local and foreign football fans.

"We're worried sexual exploitation will increase in the host cities and around them," said Joseleno Vieira dos Santos, who coordinates a national programme to fight the sexual exploitation of children at Brazil's Human Rights Secretariat.

"We're trying to coordinate efforts as much as we can with state and city governments to understand the scope of the problem."

Child prostitution is driven mostly by local demand in Brazil, with more than 75 per cent of clients coming from the same or nearby states as their victims, according to estimates from the secretariat. Sex tourism targeting children is active in larger cities along the coast and increases at times of big events such as Carnival or New Year's Eve festivities.

It won't be different with the World Cup, and authorities face a big challenge as sex workers of all ages, and the people who control them, look to cash in.

The Minas Gerais State Association of Prostitutes, an organisation that represents sex workers in one of Brazil's largest states, is even offering free English lessons to prostitutes in Belo Horizonte, another World Cup host city.

"There'll be a lot more people circulating in this area during the games for sure and the city will be full of tourists," said Giovana, a 19-year-old transvestite working a corner near Fortaleza's Castelão stadium.

"I know there'll be more work for everybody - women, girls, everybody."

BIG BUCKS

The World Cup tournament is expected to attract 600,000 foreign visitors to Brazil and they will spend an estimated 25 billion reais (US$11 billion) while traveling in the country, said the Brazilian tourism board, Embratur.

The championship as a whole could inject 113 billion reais into the Brazilian economy by 2014, FIFA has said, citing an Ernst & Young report.

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