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Spotlight: Dark Side of the World Cup 2014

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With the World Cup kicking off this week, all eyes are focused on Brazil.  The international media coverage of the event is not only on sport, though, but also on the dissatisfaction of Brazilians with the World Cup.  

Gary LinekarProtests have  occurred due to factors like the World Cup expenses and the potential impact on the Brazilian economy.  Another concern which is being highlighted in the media is the sexual exploitation of children in Brazil.

Last week, BBC Panorama aired the documentary In the Shadow of the Stadiums. Investigative reporter Chris Rogers was joined by Matt Roper, a journalist and charity worker. The BBC interviewed children involved in prostitution, members of the police, and government researchers. Roper’s charity, Meninadança, works to prevent the sexual exploitation of children along the BR-116, one of the longest highways in Brazil, and Roper has been raising awareness of the issue for years.

The BBC report raises the issue which NGOs had warned could occur - that the influx of tourists supporting the World Cup would exacerbate the problem of the child sexual exploitation of boys and girls in Brazil. Recent reports suggest that the trafficking of children to World Cup cities is occurring, and NGOs are concerned about the consequences of the World Cup for vulnerable children.

Another recent documentary by Sky News, Brazil’s Children: Traded Innocence, looked into the issue, and Channel 4 have also reported from Brazil. The sexual exploitation of children in Brazil is certainly not a recent problem, but due to the World Cup the problem is expected to worsen. The current media coverage of this issue is bound to shock some people as the extent of the problem is uncovered - the children involved in this sexual exploitation are often the victims of criminal networks which involve prostitution, drugs, trafficking, and violence. Clearly, for the children involved, it is a flat-out denial of their human rights, and one in which football fans could become unknowingly complicit.

In this context, the work of It’s A Penalty is particularly important. The It’s A Penalty campaign is supported by various charities who work full-time in Brazil, as well as footballers including David Luiz, Alan Shearer and Gary Lineker. The campaign is asking football fans to be aware of the prostitution of minors in Brazil, which is illegal.

A similar Brazilian campaign is Bola na Rede (Ball in the Net). The organisers of Bola na Rede have the same concerns about the sexual exploitation of Brazilian children, and are fighting for change. Other national and international NGOs are also campaigning against the issue. With the 2016 Olympics, also to be held in the country, rapidly approaching, it is hoped that the Brazilian government will continue to target social issues like child sexual exploitation, poverty, and violence.

Whilst the World Cup and the Olympics are sure to provide the world with much entertainment and inspiration, awareness of the issues of child sexual exploitation and trafficking are important. Hopefully the awareness being raised by the media and NGOs will have a long-term positive effect on the prevention of the sexual exploitation of minors in Brazil, not just during the World Cup but also afterwards.

For more information see www.itsapenalty.com

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