“It’s not a good life.”

My last blog touched on how statistics about the sex industry during large sporting events are exaggerated. Human trafficking and sex working, however, are still issues in need of attention. Several organized social justice advocates have collaborated to create the It’s A Penalty Campaign. The initiative is to reduce sexual exploitation of children during the World Cup.

The campaign takes a legal approach. The main message is to fans and foreigners, reminding them that sex with a minor (under 17 years old) is illegal, or offside. Prosecution can take place in Brazil and in an offender’s home country.

Although the campaign is backed by: the Metropolitan Police, the Football Association, the British Prime Minister, the UK and Brazilian Governments and the Brazilian Federal Police, I’m not convinced it will be effective. Legal backing is necessary. A lack of legal intervention is often a significant contributor to the prosperity of the sex trafficking industry.

The campaign is just another Band-Aid solution. It doesn’t reach the problem at the root but at a fast-paced, high-energy event like FIFA, I think it is a good approach.

The campaign raises awareness about sex trafficking. This is a warning to foreigners looking for a “good time”, it encourages strict legal enforcement and focuses its attention on the offender rather than the victim, as I mentioned in my last blog.

Susan Ormiston of CBC News says that some food vendors at the World Cup sell more than just food. Some have resorted to putting their children in the sex industry to make a quick profit. The situation gets more complicated when children become victims at the hands of their own parents – where they should be the most safe. While I don’t believe any parent would want to do that, they do. There is something very wrong with the economy (and I don’t mean how much it is or is not growing) when this is how people are making a living.

To add to the objectification of human beings, taxi drivers in Brazil have a menu of girls where buyers can take their pick based on size, age and hair colour. A counselor with Happy Child International (one of the organizations partnering to operate the It’s A Penalty Campaign), Rubia Uchoa says, “It’s sad. This is a system.” Hopefully one that is weakened by a more strongly enforced legal system.

Economic activity and tourism have evidently increased in Brazil, but with all problems development, the vulnerable population remains the most vulnerable. Their opportunity at economic activity is a few new faces to turn tricks for – hardly an opportunity.

Susan Ormiston was talking to people working in the sex industry. One girl, called Jeanne, was originally too timid to share any of her story. She did have something she felt was worth sharing at the end of the interview however, “tell the girls in Canada not to get into this. It’s not a good life.”

Pregnant teen smoking in one of Brazil's favelas.

Pregnant teen smoking in one of Brazil’s favelas.

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