Monday, June 18, 2012

No Paraíso: Child Prostitution in Brazil

How Brazil Is Becoming a Top Destination for Child Prostitution

Brazil is an exotic country of lush forests in the Amazon, stunning colonial establishments in the Northeast, and breathtaking beaches along the coastline of Rio de Janeiro.  But inside the nation lies many sights that are far from idyllic.  Brazil, a country of roughly 190 million inhabitants, has the largest income disparity in the world aside from Sierra Leone.  There are over 20 million destitute Brazilians and 40 million orphaned children.  Only 20,000 families rule Brazil.

Out of desperation, some Brazilian women have children with the specific intent of turning them into child prostitutes and drug dealers.  This shocking trend has led to a highly controversial push to sterilize impoverished Brazilian women, most of whom are afrodescendente (afro-descended) and indio (Amerindian), which may constitute genocide.  Since 1994, Roland Lavigne, a Brazilan congressman and physician, has pushed for the sterilization of poor women, especially those belonging to the Pataxo Ha-Ha-Hae tribe, a small indigenous group. Years later, Sonia Muniz, a Pataxo Ha-Ha-Hae Indian and mother of four, had her Fallopian tubes tied. “I didn't want to do it, they made me. They had my name on a list”, she told American journalist Michael Astor. While forced sterilization has reluctantly reduced the birth rates of poor Indigenous women, it still has not proven to be effective against preventing child prostitution.

One positive note is the refusal of Brazil signing The Anti-Prostitution Pledge, a mandate from the US government that NGOs receiving HIV funds adopt a pledge against the legalization of prostitution and sex trafficking. The pledge requires that no funds may be allocated to provide contraception and testing services to sex workers, with forty-percent being children.  However, the Brazilian government in turn created a very effective organic anti-AIDS campaign. The country's AIDS commissioner Pedro Chequer commented, “Sex workers are part of implementing our AIDS policy and deciding how to promote it. They are our partners. How could we ask prostitutes to take a position against themselves?”. As a result, Brazil has been praised as having one of the most successful anti-AIDS programs for sex workers by the United Nations.

Despite this triumph, Brazil has earned one of the worst reputations for child prostitution, second only to Thailand.  The Brazilian government finds the problem baffling and works relentlessly to eradicate the predicament, especially within the tourism industry.  As one can clearly see by now, Brazil is no paraíso.