Soccer stars join fight against child prostitution in World Cup

by Adriana Brasileiro | @Adribras | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 15 May 2014 16:40 GMT

Brazil's Neymar (R) celebrates with his teammate Dani Alves after scoring a goal on a free kick during their Confederations Cup Group A soccer match against Italy at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador June 22, 2013. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

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Authorities and human rights campaigners fear an explosion of child prostitution in Brazil during the World Cup

RIO DE JANEIRO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Neymar and Daniel Alves, two of the world’s top soccer players, have joined a campaign against the sexual exploitation of children in Brazil during the FIFA World Cup.    

Authorities and human rights campaigners fear an explosion of child prostitution in Brazil as demand from local and foreign soccer fans is expected to jump during the tournament.

The two Brazilian athletes appear in a video that’s expected to reach at least 4 million local and foreign tourists during the soccer championship, scheduled to take place in 12 Brazilian cities from June 12 to July 13.

“We all need to come together to protect children and teenagers from sexual exploitation,” Neymar says in the video, shot next to a soccer field. Alves urges viewers to report cases of sexual violence to a Brazilian hotline called “Disque 100”, managed by the country’s Human Rights Secretariat.

The video is part of a campaign organised by Childhood Brasil, the local branch of the World Childhood Foundation. It will be broadcast in hotels, São Paulo’s international airport, and by the airline Tam Linhas Aéreas SA, among others.

The tournament is expected to attract 600,000 foreign visitors to Brazil, who will spend an estimated 25 billion reais ($11.3 billion) while travelling in the country, according to the national tourism board Embratur.

“Large events such as Carnival and the World Cup mobilise a lot of people, and when people are on the move – tourists, workers – and there is a party, anything-goes atmosphere, the risk of child abuse soars,” said Ana Maria Drummond, executive director of Childhood Brasil.

Despite years of campaigns and government action to eradicate the sexual exploitation of children in Brazil, the number of underage sex workers is estimated at as many as half a million, according NGOs and child-protection agencies.

“It’s not easy to quantify child prostitution in a country where many see the worst forms of child labour as a part of life,” said Antônia Lima Sousa, a state prosecutor who works on children’s rights in Fortaleza. 

Among the 12 host cities, three are beach destinations known as child prostitution centres and magnets for sex tourism. Fortaleza, Natal and Recife, in Brazil’s sunny northeastern coast, have some of the highest numbers of calls to the government’s child abuse hotline, according to the Human Rights Secretariat.

The Secretariat is coordinating campaigns against child prostitution in World Cup host cities to raise awareness and strengthen child protection networks. 

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