Step aside, Thailand, and make room for Brazil, the fastest growing hotbed for child sex tourism. Sex-hungry tourists are flocking to South America in droves for the promise of cheap, young, and easily accessible prostitutes. Not only that, but they have their choice of young kids (cheaper than the price of an older girl, according to one taxi driver), teens, and transvestites, and all for under $5. Quite the deal, eh? Many young girls and boys in the country's growing sex industry are forced to sell their services by by pimps, and sometimes even their parents. The BBC's Chris Rogers headed to Brazil to investigate, and found many young kids selling sex because of their parents' demands and families' needs. He encountered one 13-year-old girl, Pia, who was forced into prostitution to support her mother's (and her own) crack cocaine addiction, and two other young boys — dressed as girls — who used their earnings to buy food for their hungry and impoverished families. And their stories are not uncommon; many desperate kids, teens, and young women from Brazil's favelas are left with no choice but to enter the prostitution industry, and others are forced into it with the typical promises of money, a better life, and happiness.
According to UNICEF, there are an estimated 250,000 child prostitutes in Brazil, and that number is growing. Sex tourists from all over the world, particularly the United States and Europe, head to that country for the promise of cheap, pleasurable sex in the countless "love motels" that can be purchased by the hour. Classy.
But Brazil is scheduled to host the World Cup in 2014, and I wonder if we are going to have the same issues and concerns about the safety of the country's young and vulnerable when we start to gear up for the largest sporting event in the world. It will be up to Brazil's police force to crack down on forced prostitution, trafficking, and other forms of exploitation long before talk of the World Cup even begins.
So how have they been doing so far?
According to Chris Rogers, some cities, like Ceara — which is set to be one of the World Cup's host towns — have begun scaring away the sex tourists that used to frequent the region. Driving through in armed cars, showing off AK-47s, and looking altogether bad-ass, the government is sending a clear message. Or trying to. Rather than decreasing the instances of abuse in the country, though, they are just pushing the sex tourism hotspots to other cities, like Recife. And when the sex is young, fresh, cheap, and available in one of the world's most naturally beautiful and magnificent regions, what's going to stop the foreigners from heading south for a leisurely and pleasurable vacation?