Brazil: Poverty and Child Prostitutes

July 10th, 2011 by LaRae Quy
little girls

Image by chloé.ophelié via Flickr

In desperation, a mother asks social workers to intervene. Her thirteen-year-old daughter is being raped every night by her live-in boyfriend, but when the case is taken to the authorities, their question is, “Are you sure she isn’t fourteen?” You see, in Brazil, sex with girls fourteen and older is considered consensual if they are living under the same roof.

The social workers are forced to admit that in three months, when the girl turns fourteen, it will no longer be their problem. When asked why the mother doesn’t leave the abusive boyfriend, she admits that she’s afraid he will kill both her and her daughter if she does.

City of Hope

This case was documented by Hope Unlimited Brazil, a non-profit organization working with the shantytowns in Brazil known as favelas. Watch this video by Capriole Productions, “City of Hope: A Children’s Story,”

According to Hope Unlimited Brazil officials, this case is not unusual because the age of consent in Brazil is fourteen years and older.

Prostitution is not illegal so many young girls—especially those with no education and living in slums—turn to the world’s oldest profession to make a living.

The Age of Consent

The question that haunts human rights activists and social workers familiar with this situation is this: are fourteen-year-old girls capable of making mature, adult-like decisions? The answer is no. Even in other modern countries where prostitution is legal, the youngest age of consent is usually eighteen.

Sociologists and psychologists agree that the low feelings of self-esteem that result from prostitution are very difficult to overcome. While sexual exploitation and trafficking is illegal in Brazil, pedophiles find they can sexually violate children with impunity because of the arcane prostitution laws that allow children to fall into bondage.

The poverty in which these girls live makes them particularly vulnerable to exploitation.

There is a great disconnect in Brazil. It is estimated that 60% of the people in Brazil live in poverty, and yet it is the world’s 8th largest economy. Bridging the gap between its incredible wealth and abject poverty remains one of Brazil’s greatest challenges.


Image by David Michael Morris via Flickr

Laws Need To Be Changed

The law should protect all citizens, but if Brazil’s own justice system is lacking, it is overwhelmingly the poor who bear the burden of these abuses. Lack of adequate infrastructure and lack of education are the two primary brakes on Brazil’s emerging economy.

While organizations like City of Hope are on the streets trying to make a difference in the lives of the children living in the shantytowns, real change must begin at the top. Social justice groups need to find ways to work alongside the Brazilian government to change laws that stand up for the rights of children.

Join In

A well-trained and equipped police cannot enforce change if the courts do not have the laws to protect the most vulnerable citizens.

The 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro are excellent opportunities to create awareness of this situation and find ways to let others know, too. Fourteen-year-old girls should be giggling and playing with friends, not working as prostitutes with the blessing of their government.


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5 Responses to “Brazil: Poverty and Child Prostitutes”

  1. Osama Eltony says:

    I couldn’t imagine it is a crime, this is human trafficking those girls are victims

  2. Why not be wwith his old lady a lil early because why America keep there butts over here and worry about hit and runs from terrerists, refugee’s and Im not just talking erbics it could be any one.

  3. Self-reinforcing poverty is a major problem in the world. Judging from what I know of Brazil, it is likely that substantial portions of their population suffer from both moderate poverty and extreme poverty. (Definitions for those that don’t know, can be found at this link:

    Addressing different levels of poverty requires different government strategies. Also, depending on the location of the people, the strategies must often change yet again. Fixing (or at least helping with) rural poverty tends to require very different investment strategies than fixing urban poverty.

    Brazil certainly has their work cut our for them as they try to address their burgeoning inequality as well as many levels and types of poverty. Thanks for the informative post.

  4. steve says:

    There’s a movie called “Born Into Brothels” about children born to prostitutes in Calcutta’s Red Light district. Many of them end up becoming prostitutes.

  5. daniel says:

    There are lots of poor people out there. They think that the easiest way to earn money is though prostitution. That’s why even minors are engaged with this.

    The government must do something about this!

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