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.
- 4 #JeSuisEd: People share photos of themselves eating awkwardly in solidarity with Labour leader
- 5 Women think Irish men are the sexiest, survey finds
Italian police 'reveal' what Jesus looked like as a young boy
Mysterious 'X-Files' sounds heard miles above the Earth
Florida couple forced to register as sex offenders for having sex on public beach
Who should I vote for in the general election? Take The Independent's interactive quiz to find out which party is the right choice for you
General election: Conservatives mocked online over Boris Johnson's claim of SNP 'jockalypse'
In defence of liberal democracy
General Election 2015: Post-election 'shambles' looms as 70 per cent of voters say SNP 'should not be able to veto UK government policies'
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...
£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...
£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...
£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...