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Operation Blessing International (OBI), a non-profit humanitarian organization is currently making efforts to bring awareness and fight human trafficking in Brazil, where the 2014 FIFA World Cup is taking place. They are using their documentary 1 Real, as a means to achieve their goal.
40,000 children disappear in Brazil each year, and although an estimated 34,000 of them will be found, 6,000 of these children are gone forever. The human trafficking “industry” produces 32 billion dollars yearly, mainly from sexual exploitation. Most of those who enter the trade are inclined to do so due to poverty and financial hardships. It is not unusual for families to push their children, regardless of their age, into sex trafficking as a means to generate income. Many of these victims face abuse in their homes and continue to endure it while they are working on the streets. Children as young as six years old have been reported to sell sexual services.
In the documentary, parliamentarian Damares Alves, recalled a time where she and a colleague were at a gas station and an 8-year-old girl approached her colleague offering him oral sex for one real, which is equal to 50 cents. One victim whose identity was not revealed for protection purposes, stated that men as old as 50 would pay to engage in sexual acts with girls as young as 14 years old.
Alves stated that sexual exploitation exists even among Brazilian folk stories. Furthermore it has become somewhat of a norm to see young girls with men who are obviously engaging in these acts, and as a result of this desensitization, these crimes go unreported. During the World Cup, it is expected that many of the men coming to Brazil from outside of the country will be seeking sexual services.
Fatima Santos, a former victim of human trafficking uses a disposable cup as a metaphor to describe prostitution. She explains that when one is thirsty they will drink from the cup and afterward they will simply throw it away, much like how the girls in these situations are used. Santos said that of the money she would make, the pimp would be the one to profit most; he would take 60 percent, leaving her with 40 percent of which half of that she would have to spend on the room fee.
In Brazil, it is legal for women over 18 to become prostitutes if they choose to do so, however, it is illegal for a person or group of people to force someone into prostitution. Roberto Ferreira, a former pimp, said that he would use social media to find girls to work for him and by learning about their financial hardships he would lure them in by giving them the promise of a better life. He would go as far as convincing the girls’ parents by telling them they could make thousands of dollars if they allowed for their daughter(s) to work with him. Ferreira stated that his clients consisted of wealthy politicians, law enforcement officials and doctors.
Soccer games, especially larger ones such as the World Cup, drive up the demand for human trafficking as a large majority of those attending these events are men. Journalist Priscila Siqueira, stated that in Germany, girls were brought in containers to the game site and would perform sexual acts inside of these containers.
Brazil is known to be one of the largest human trafficking countries where victims are “shipped” to foreign clients in the United States, Europe, United Arab Emirates and Japan. The high number of people who are involved or forced into human trafficking is a result of the large demand for the services. Once this demand drops, the industry will too fall.
Bill Horan who is the president of OBI, describes the World Cup as one of the largest “magnets” for human trafficking, especially in young girls. In order to spread awareness of this issue in Brazil, OBI is showing their documentary 1 Real in tourist areas, as well as handing out flash drives that contain the film. They are providing food and “Hope Bags” to the girls in the red light districts so they may become aware of where they can seek help. Also, OBI is distributing thousands of stickers and red card flyers that referees use in soccer, with the phrase “No to sexual exploitation,” and a phone number to report such crimes.
By Sarah Temori