Impacts of mega-events on human trafficking in Brazil

The article was written by Tereza Kubistova, Tourism Concern volunteer and student at the University of Northampton. She is looking into doing her master’s in social impacts of Tourism, which will lead her career towards focusing on human rights, economic leakage and human trafficking. This article was primarily used as an academic paper and then rearranged in order to meet its informative purpose. It consists of secondary research from the United Nations, specialised publications and media.

Do mega events affect prostitution in the hosting country? The answer is Yes. Let’s look at Brazil, which recently hosted two biggest sporting events in the World – FIFA World Cup in 2014 and Olympic Games in 2016.

Impacts of tourism and mega-events have been a known issue but there is not much research done on controversial topics such as human trafficking and child prostitution. Defined by United Nations, human trafficking is recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat of use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving of receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of .

The generic benefits of a hosting a mega-event in cities include global exposition, economic dividends and urban transformation, however, mega-events also have negative impacts such as money spent on the event, could have been used on education or healthcare; creating disadvantages for the poor; creating only short-term job opportunities and the rise of living costs. Events also attract investors, which can lead to inequity in investment and negative impacts on urban areas.
Mega-events have a negative impact on human trafficking too. For example, during the 2010 increase in prostitution in Brazil FIFA World Cup in South Africa, prostitution not only grew but was also legalised.

Countries with highest rates of prostitution are Thailand with 45 sex workers per 10 000, Brazil with 53 sex workers per 10 000, South Korea with 110 sex workers per 10 000 and Venezuela with 119 sex workers per 10 000.

Due to the history and economic situation of the country prostitution is not new phenomena in Brazil and become part of the culture over the years. Interestingly, nowadays, the country is more popular for sex tourism than Thailand. And when Brazil won a bid for the Olympic Games and FIFA World Cup, prosperity and economic growth for the whole continent was promised.
However, the reality was different. The country got into severe economic debt because of the money spent to develop and build facilities to host these events. In order to prepare the city for the Olympic Games, many people were evicted to favelas (housing areas in Brazil for people with low income), which forced many into prostitution, which at the end was legalised 2 years prior FIFA World Cup and 4 years before the Olympic Games. It is still questionable if prostitution was not legalised because of these events. The country was also pressured by FIFA to lift their alcohol ban, which made prostitution even worst during the World Cup. Before the event, red-light city district (Vila Mimosa) was supposed to be demolished, however, the number of people working there grew by 9 thousand (from 3 thousand to 12) including underage girls.

During the FIFA World Cup, the sexual market developed further, and the police was bribed to leave illegal brothels opened. Despite several attempts to raise awareness including Don’t Look Away Campaign from ECPAT, the growth of the sexual market did not stop. Girls used the FIFA World Cup to meet a rich man and run away from Brazil and their life. The approximate rate for one intercourse was £16.

Child prostitution during both events was an enormous problem and children were often sold on the road from Rio to Sao Paolo on the way to the football stadium. Furthermore, there were several brothels in Rio specialising in children. There are data from several sources about a number of child prostitutes which differ from 200 000 to 2 000 000.
Currently, prostitution in the country is still on growth as there is usually no other way to earn money for families and facilities built for the Olympic Games are remaining unused.
However, not all mega-event brings negative impact to communities, to give an example, mega events had a positive impact on the City of Manchester, which hosted Commonwealth Games in 2002. Prior to the event, there were lots of events an investment in the regeneration of the city. However, is it possible to compare England, which is one of the most developed countries in the World, with Brazil? Maybe there were similar problems during Commonwealth games, but nobody talked about them.

In the future, there are plans of introducing robots into sex businesses during mega-events, which could potentially reduce human trafficking and sexually transmitted diseases. Despite that there is still a risk of exploitation in the nearest future within events like Qatar 2022, where a first problem already occurred – slavery. Organisations of these events should recognise what impacts they have on the country and should help to raise awareness and take responsibility for the wider issues caused.

• Armstrong, 2014; Armstrong, 2016
• 2010, Monterrubio and Bello, 2012
• Holt and Ruta, 2015; Herrington, 2008; Long, 2017
• Silvestre 2009; Smith, MacLeod and Robertson, 2011
• United Nations, 2000 (Palermo Protocol)

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