Child prostitution is a multimillion-dollar industry that is often overlooked when it comes to major sporting events around the world. According to UNICEF, about 250,000 children are selling sex, whether they like it or not, in order to provide for themselves. And that’s just a regular count in Brazil alone. For the 2014 World Cup, which will be held in 12 cities throughout Brazil, the number of child prostitutes will almost double that! That is a staggering number of underage girls who not only live but also are brought to Brazil for the purpose of providing sex to tourists, fans, and Brazilians. The city of Fortaleza has the reputation as the country’s capital of sex tourism and the sexual exploitation of children. With thousands of foreign fans expected to arrive, and Brazilians travelling to matches throughout the country, child sex trafficking is becoming a rising concern. Last Tuesday in London, the charity, Happy Child, which works mainly in Brazil, launched a campaign called “It’s A Penalty.” The United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency and soccer players including England’s Frank Lampard and Brazil’s David Luiz, have taken an active stance in support of the campaign. Its aim is to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation and warn fans that paying for sex with anyone under 18 is a crime for which they will face prosecution in the UK or Brazil. The campaign also highlights how criminal gangs and pimps encourage impoverished Brazilian girls to alter their appearances to look older in order to profit from them. In addition, videos warning soccer fans against paying for sex with children at the World Cup will be played on Brazil-bound flights from England. “Please help to protect our kids,” Brazil defender David Luiz says in the film to air in June and July on British Airways. The warning messages will also be played on the big screens around the stadium at England’s games in Brazil.
After reading a combination of articles related to the topic of child prostitution during the World Cup, organizations and charities are beginning to create awareness of the problem. It is absolutely heartbreaking to know that girls are willing or forced into such a degrading job as an answer to child poverty. I believe that first step is to raise awareness of child prostitution so that more and more efforts can be made to eventually eliminate child prostitution. It will take a great amount of time, cooperation, and power since this would require reducing poverty and increasing education, especially for young girls. At least for now, people can be informed of what really happens among fans, tourists, residents, and even players during long term sporting events and hopefully agencies can create programs toward reducing child prostitution.
Personally, I never realized that child sex-trafficking was a huge deal during sporting events. I would cheer for Team U.S.A. in the World Cup and Olympics, or the Baltimore Ravens (Superbowl XLVII), and enjoy all the commercials and advertisements but had no idea what was happening in between game days or championship week. Thousands of fans come to these events to watch their team win and party hard. I was shocked to read how child prostitution is a blooming industry, particularly for athletic events, that is silently marketed. I think “It’s A Penalty” has a powerful campaign to initiate the awareness of child prostitution worldwide.