BY CASAUNDRA JOHNSON – In just a couple of months, the 2014 FIFA World Cup will take place in 12 different cities in Brazil. Thousands of people around the world will flock to the country to compete, watch, and celebrate the events. However, such a high profile event comes with the risk of an increase in human trafficking. Like many other countries around the globe, Brazil has been battling human trafficking for years and the country’s fight continues in the months leading up to the global sporting event.
Human trafficking takes on different forms, with sex trafficking and forced labor being the most prevalent forms of abuse. The United Nations estimates that 2.4 million people are victims of human trafficking at any given time, with 1.8 million trapped as sexual slaves. Since the heightened international attention focused to the issues surrounding human trafficking before the 2006 World Cup in Germany, host countries of global sporting events have made efforts to combat human trafficking. Both Germany and South Africa implemented a myriad of proactive measures to combat human trafficking during the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, and their efforts were seemingly successful.
Sex trafficking in Brazil appears to be centered in Fortaleza in the northeast, with more reports of sex trafficking coming from Fortaleza than any other Brazilian city per capita. But Brazil does not have just sex trafficking to worry about, forced labor is a major human trafficking concern in Brazil as well. Children, adolescents, and adults from poor socioeconomic backgrounds are often exploited through forced labor, as seen most frequently in Rio Grande do Sul, Paraná, Pará, Amazonas, Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul. Some children and adolescents are taken from their homes and often forced to beg or sell products on the streets and turn over money to their traffickers, while others are exploited through the pretext of adoption and forced to play soccer or engage in criminal acts. The form of exploitation may vary, but the many of Brazils women and youth are at increased risk for exploitation during the months leading up to the World Cup.
Brazil, a Tier 2 country according to the U.S. State Department’s 2013 TIP report, promised to take significant action to prepare its country for the upcoming battle with human trafficking during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. In February 2013, Brazil announced its Second National Plan to Combat the Trafficking of Persons and pledged the equivalent to $3 million to fight against sex trafficking. In addition, Brazil made plans to increase efforts and man power on the ground to prevent, combat, and prosecute trafficking. However, it is unclear if those efforts have come to fruition, and whether the measures will be successful come June. Some non-profit organizations worry that officials are not allocating enough money or attention to human trafficking problems and are now taking a stand and getting involved in campaign efforts to raise awareness about human trafficking throughout Brazil. Time will tell whether Brazil has done enough to address human trafficking concerns in light of the global events taking place within its borders. But unlike Germany and South Africa, Brazil is a unique position; the country will also host the 2016 Olympics.
The United Nations has taken a firm stance against human trafficking with its 2007 Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Human Trafficking in Persons especially Women and Children, which has 140 signatories. With two worldwide events taking place in the country so soon after each other, Brazil’s human trafficking efforts for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and the effectiveness of those efforts, may have social and political repercussions. It is important for Brazil to pay close attention to human trafficking for its upcoming events, but it will also be very important for Brazil, in the months and years after the World Cup, to also take the time to reassess the effectiveness of its strategies in determining how to handle an even greater influx of athletes and spectators for the 2016 Olympics. Every person exploited by human trafficking ploys matters, and Brazil has the opportunity over the next two years to set precedent for other countries and make a significant impact in the efforts to combat human trafficking.