Amid the events surrounding the 2014 World Cup showcasing Brazil's dynamic culture, food and other assets, and the memorable plays on the soccer field, with perhaps the best so far being Robin Van Persie's masterful header against Spain on the second day of play, there's a dark side: deep-rooted problems simmering just below the surface in South America's largest country with child prostitution an especially grim reminder that all is not football and Carnival.
In the first decade of the 21st century, Brazil emerged as one of the world's economic powerhouses, only to see its ambitions undermined by the ravages of the global financial meltdown. Now the country is struggling to come to terms with divisive inequality, a burgeoning slum problem and the civil unrest that often accompany such woes.
One of the saddest reminders can be seen at night on streets within walking distance of the country's World Cup stadiums: child prostitutes looking to sell their bodies to tourists, often for little more than just a few dollars.
It's not easy to talk about, nor is it simple to stop, but child sex workers are unfortunately a part of life in Brazil, as they are in many other places around the globe. And during the World Cup, awareness of them has spread as people are appalled at stories of exploitation coming out of cities like Recife and Rio de Janeiro.
Recife is known as a ground zero for child prostitution and sex trafficking in Brazil. Located on the South American nation's northeast coast, its streets serve as a base for literally thousands of child sex workers as young as 10, an investigation by the U.K.'s Mirror newspaper indicates.
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Children and teens have flooded the city -- often forced to do so by pimps who ply them with crack cocaine, toxic glue and other drugs -- where they sell sex for as little as $2 or a pack of cigarettes, Time reported.
Lorrisa, a 13-year-old prostitute in Recife, told the Mirror she sniffs glue to deal with her dangerous life.
“Sniffing the glue makes me feel dizzy and numb and it stops me feeling hungry so I don’t need to eat," she said. "It helps me cope with the violence and danger on the streets.”
Rampant poverty provides pimps with a constant supply of young, desperate kids looking for a way out of the favelas and into economic prosperity. But instead they find themselves forced into having sex with as many as eight men a night, and struggling to fight against the diseases and pregnancies that come with such a life.
In Brazil, adults over the age of 18 can legally sell their bodies, but prostitution by younger teens and children is illegal. Still, CBS News reports authorities and experts anticipate a 30 to 40 percent increase in child prostitution during the World Cup, which will bring hundreds of thousands of people to Brazil in the next month. This World Cup is the most expensive in history at more than $11 billion, has exposed.
A Brazilian pimp and sex trafficker identified as Thiago told Time magazine he bought girls away from their parents for $5,000 to $10,000 each.
“I sought the girls in Recife because there is so much poverty there," he said. “It makes it way easier to convince the girls to come down and prostitute themselves.”
Brazilian authorities attempted to crack down on prostitution in the months leading up to the World Cup kickoff, generating controversy when some prostitutes allege police arrested, robbed and perhaps even raped about 100 prostitutes on the streets of Niterói in May, Citylab reported.
But prostitution, often referred to as "the oldest profession" will likely remain a fixture of life in Brazil as long as the favelas are filled with destitute children with few options for survival. And the World Cup only exacerbates the problem,
A 20-year-old prostitute in Rio de Janeiro told the Mirror she "became a prostitute three weeks ago" to capitalize on the influx of Britons and other foreigners for the tournament.
"I know there will be a lot more customers for the World Cup. I use the money to support my family, pay the rent, the bills," she said. "We are waiting for the English, I cannot speak their language, but I will communicate with the way I know best.”