World Cup 2014: Children at risk as sex gangs seek trade at Brazilian football stadiums
Minors are being forced into prostitution as authorities turn a blind eye
Girls as young as 11 are reportedly being targeted by human traffickers forcing them to work as prostitutes during the World Cup in Brazil.
Gangs are recruiting under-age sex workers to tempt foreign visitors watching the football tournament, The Times reported.
It is thought that around half a million minors – many from poor and rural areas - sell their bodies in the country. Many girls are pimped out by relatives to lorry drivers on the notorious 2,800 mile-long BR-116 highway.
But activists have warned that instances of this form of child abuse have reached epidemic levels because authorities consistently fail to product the children involved.
According to a study by a parliamentary commission of inquiry in Sao Paulo, there has been an increase in child prostitution and sex abuse in the vicinity of the Corinthians stadium, which will host the World Cup opening ceremony on 12 June.
And additional reports suggest that girls are being placed around other sporting arenas, including the Maracana stadium in Rio.
Matt Roper, who runs the Menina Danca charity, which helps victims in the town of Medina off the BR-116, told The Times there is “a real culture of silence” surrounding the issue.
“Mothers of family members have no problem taking their daughters to a roadside brothel,” Mr Roper said.
“It’s just seen as completely normal.”
Girls are sold for as little as £10 and drugs are rife, with violence often erupting between rival gangs.
The Menina Danca house provides a refuge to help girls escape from a downward spiral of abuse and drug use. But Mr Roper, who has so far helped around 60 girls in Medina, faces a long uphill battle.
One girl told the Sao Paulo inquiry that she had fallen pregnant after being harassed by a stadium worker until she agreed to his advances.
“After a while he said he would take me. My father did not care much.
“It seems that for him it was good, because it was one less mouth to feed, but not for me.”
The darker side of Brazil has frequently been highlighted in the lead-up to the World Cup. Earlier this month, Sao Paulo police issued guidance to tourists, advising them “not to react” if they are mugged during the football tournament, at the risk of losing their lives.
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