The Seedy Underbelly of the World Cup

BY ALEX CALLE—As the 2014 World Cup quickly approaches, about 600,000 foreign fans are predicted to visit host nation Brazil during the tournament. [1] While most people will visit Brazil for the Soccer festivities, many will go in search of underage prostitutes. [2] Currently, between 250,000 and 500,000 child prostitutes are estimated to be roaming the streets of Brazil, many of them young girls under the age of 14. [3] Many girls are forced into this practice because of the rampant extreme poverty in Brazil; some girls are even sold to pimps by their families for as much as $10,000. [4] Fearing a mass arrival of tourists looking to have sex with underage girls, Brazilian authorities and a number of charities have teamed up to warn tourists against having sex with underage girls. [5]

Under Brazilian law prostitution is currently legal for those 18 years or older. [6] However, in Brazil, the age of consent is only 14. [7] What this means is that while a 14 year old girl cannot legally advertise herself as a prostitute on the streets, she can legally consent to have sex with an older man and ask for money on the side without any criminal liability to either party. These young girls normally serve local truck drivers and local businessmen, sometimes for as little as $9. [8] However, with the World Cup rapidly approaching many young girls see the opportunity to make more money from tourists. [9] For example, in Sao Paulo, underage girls can sometimes make as much as $24 from a client, almost triple what they would make from local clientele. [10]

The exploitation of young children during the World Cup is not an imagined threat. During the last two World Cups, approximately 40,000 sex workers traveled to Germany in 2006 and approximately the same amount traveled to South Africa in 2010. [11] Recognizing that the World Cup will attract an influx of wealthy tourists, young prostitutes have opted to take English classes in order to better communicate with potential clients. [12] Brazil has already seen an increase in the amount of young girls on the streets due to another major sporting event that it hosted. Last year the Confederations Cup, which is considered to be a sort of mini-World Cup, attracted many underage prostitutes to the streets. [13] The situation became so bad that local Brazilian authorities had to round up the underage prostitutes and take them to a shelter outside of the city. [14]

In their fight against child prostitution during the World Cup, Brazilian officials have set aside $3.3 million. [15]  Part of this money is going towards the “It’s a Penalty” campaign, which seeks to warn tourists about the legal consequences of paying underage prostitutes for sex. [16] The It’s a Penalty campaign is a run by three charities, Happy Child International, the Jubilee Campaign, and the A21 Campaign. [17] One part of the campaign is to release advertisements that feature popular soccer players such as Brazil defender David Luiz, England’s Gary Lineker, and Ramires. [18] In one advertisement Luiz pleads with viewers to “[p]lease help to protect our kids.” [19] In another advertisement Lineker makes it clear that “[p]aying for sex with anyone 17 or under is illegal.” [20] The advertisements will air on Brazil-bound flights from England and on stadium big screens during the World Cup. [21] One can hope that these advertisements dissuade at least some tourists from engaging in sex with young children.

Unfortunately, with child prostitution occurring mostly in the shadows of Brazilian cities, and with a large amount of resources allocated to providing security during the World Cup, it will be difficult for Brazilian authorities to enforce laws against child prostitution. One immediate act that the Brazilian government can take to combat child prostitution is to increase the age of consent to 18. Doing this may remove underage girls from the sights of tourists because the tourists will know that not even consent will be able to vitiate any criminal liability. This is just one of many possible steps that can be taken. While the Brazilian government is taking good first steps in the fight against child prostitution with their campaign, it will take the combined efforts of local Brazilian authorities, charitable organizations, and other nations to ensure that Brazil’s children are protected from exploitation.

[1] See Shasta Darlington, Rio’s slums the hot World Cup destination, Cnn (Feb. 26, 2014),

[2] See Girish Gupta & Olivia Crellin, Brazil’s World Cup Raises Fear of Rampant Child Prostitution, Time (Dec. 12, 2013),

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] See Rob Harris, Brazil Child Prostitution Warnings To Air On World Cup Flights, Huffington Post (Feb. 4, 2014),

[6] Brazil, U.S. Department of State, (“While adult prostitution is legal, various associated activities, such as operating a brothel, are illegal.”).

[7] See World Cup 2014: Brazil Attempts To Crack Down On Child Prostitution Before Games Begin, Fox News Latino (Apr. 3, 2014),

[8] See Shasta Darlington, Brazil tackling child prostitution for World Cup, Cnn (Apr. 2, 2014),

[9] Id.

[10] Gupta, supra note 2.

[11] See Jordana Timerman, It’s Not Just Justin Bieber: Travel Websites Are Fueling Sex Tourism in Latin America, Atlantic Cities (Nov. 25, 2013),

[12] Brooks Peck, Brazilian prostitutes are learning English for the Confederations Cup and the World Cup, Yahoo (Jan. 8, 2013),–sow.html.

[13] Id.

[14] Darlington, supra note 8.

[15] Id.

[16] See Harris, supra note 5.

[17] Id.

[18] See supra note 7.

[19] Harris, supra note 5.

[20] Darlington, supra note 8.

[21] Id.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *