Brazil is a Tier 2 nation in the fight against human trafficking mainly due to their high child prostitution and forced labor within their country. There are an estimated 161,100 slaves living in Brazil, according to the Global Slavery Index.
According to the 2016 Trafficking in Persons report, “The government did not report progress on 2013 cases involving a judge in Bahia state allegedly involved in sex trafficking and police officers in Rio de Janeiro allegedly involved in operating a brothel.”
The country reported “459 potential sex trafficking and 700 potential labor trafficking victims in the latter half of 2015,” but that is not including children, in which there is no estimated number for. Rio De Janeiro is a known sex tourist destination, yet no conviction cases went through last year in Brazil involving child victim cases. The convictions that did go through in regards to human trafficking were house arrests rather than prison time.
Prostitution is legal in Brazil, but brothel operations and “pimping” is illegal. The people are to sell only themselves if in prostitution. Many times that is not how it happens there though.
Fight the New Drug stated that just fifty minutes away from the Olympic Village is place called “Rodovia da Morte” or “Highway of Death.” Throughout this stretch of highway (the BR-116) are 262 truck stops where little girls can be bought for sex, some who are only nine years old. There is a high poverty level in the area filled with street kids, gangs, and poor families trying to figure out how to feed their families.
Journalist Matt Roper wrote a book about the highway a few years ago called Highway to Hell but he also wrote two other books about this same area and the girls rescued off of the highway called Remember Me, Rescue Me and Street Girls.
Matt Roper has spent some time with an organization called Meninadanca. They have been rescuing girls off of this highway and teaching them how to dance as a form of therapy as well as having a pink safe house for them to stay at during their recovery process. The organization has been tying pink ribbons on trees throughout the highway to let people know about the sex trafficking there during the Olympics.
A woman escort from Rio was recently interviewed as the Olympics were beginning. “‘Why should I worry about the police?’ she asks, ‘They are among my clients.’ She continues: ‘To girls in Brazil, this (prostitution) is accepted by everyone and it is an easy way to make money when it is very tough…there are few jobs in the city, everything is expensive and the economy is falling apart in Rio.
‘Many, many girls here do it because it is the best way to earn fast money and often hard currency. (The US dollar is her favorite)
‘All the girls I work with are very excited about the Olympics, it is an opportunity to make money and maybe find a way out of our life by meeting a boyfriend or a husband – I dream of meeting an athlete who could take me away.'”
Other prostitutes from the area are worried that they will not be making much money, simply because law enforcement is growing and they didn’t make much at the World Cup in 2014, where they decreased their cost to $18 an hour, when normally they charge much higher. One said, “It’s never been this bad, and most of the women here are desperate. We’re all worried that business will grind to a halt like it did during the World Cup. The clientele has decreased and competition’s increased.”
Reading about such things makes you know that times in Rio are not good at all economically. Families that have to sell their own daughters for sex for as low as $12 so they can feed their family for a night and women having false hopes for another life by finding boyfriends to take them to a better place. This shows the sadness amongst the excitement of the games.
In preparation for these games, many street children were “removed” though we are not so sure what that removal meant. Where they sent to places where they can thrive? Were they just placed on other neighborhood streets? Were they put into labor trafficking? Were they put into brothels for sex trafficking? Were they murdered? Many have already been trafficked, are drug addicts, gang members, and do what they can to survive while sleeping on the streets. This is the side of Rio that has been hidden, and we must know that human trafficking victims may continue to be exploited and harmed during these Olympic games, even if business is lower.
According to the TIP Report, “In 2015, labor inspectors rescued 11 trafficking victims from northeastern Brazil who were hired for the construction of the Olympic Village.” They were then awarded $5,700, but there were no arrests made in regards to their traffickers.
In July, Rio De Janeiro law enforcers were making crack downs on sex trafficking. On the beach near the Olympics, a trafficking ring was busted and eight victims were rescued (a few young teens included).
As education about human trafficking has increased in many countries, perhaps we are seeing a decline in the demand for sex at large sporting venues. We hope the police force in Brazil continues to work towards ending human trafficking during and after these Olympic games.