How is prostitution in Brazil

Girl prostitution and sex tourism

Brazil is increasingly becoming a popular travel destination for sex tourists. As the well-known tourist cities such as Rio de Janeiro and Recife lose their attractiveness due to media reports about urban violence, the tourism industry has conquered the quiet beaches in the northeast of the country in the last three years: Natal, Fortaleza, Joao Pessoa. For a year now there has been a weekly charter flight from Recife to Natal. Since then, the city has been visited by 20,000 tourists in the high season, mainly Germans, Italians and Argentines. In Natal, proportional to the size of the city (600,000 inhabitants), there are the most travel agencies in Brazil.
Tourism - a development strategy recommended by the IMF - is propagated as a solution to social problems, is supposed to increase tax revenue and bring in foreign currency to repay debt. A well-organized cartel has created a tourism infrastructure in Brazil and is also making high profits from the prostitution business with minors. After Thailand, Brazil has the highest proportion of underage prostitutes in the world and is about to dispute Thailand for first place. It is feared that AIDS is more widespread there, and secondly, the prostitution market is more expensive. (Defloration of a girl costs US $ 200 in Brazil and US $ 400 in Thailand.) According to the Ministry of Social Affairs, 500,000 minors are prostituted in Brazil.

The girls prostitution cartel

How the sex tourism empire works is presented in a dossier that CEBRAIOS prepared for the commission of inquiry into the prostitution of minors. The owners of hotels, travel agencies, entrepreneurs and politicians are involved in this lucrative business. While this small group can increase its wealth, the tourism business offers the rest of the population at best poorly paid work. For women and girls, prostitution is often the only way to work. It is expected that more minors are now working in prostitution than adult women. In the tourist town of Mossoró, according to the dossier, half of the female population earns their income in prostitution.
The Coletivo Mulher Vida, a women's organization in Olinda / Recife, describes that black girls between the ages of 14 and 18 usually enter prostitution. They come from the lower social class, earn 50 to 100 US dollars from a tourist and are placed through luxury hotels. The girls' hope is to use prostitution to marry a wealthy, white foreigner.
In Natal, influential people such as entrepreneurs and politicians are involved in expanding the ring of organized child prostitution, for example the owner of the De Ville motel, Antonio Melo, brother of the ex-governor of Rio Grande do Norte. In addition to tourists, politicians and members of parliament are among the clients of various “agencies” that let minors work as prostitutes for them.
This scandal became known after a 15-year-old was severely threatened by her pimp and turned to a newspaper with her parents. After she refused to provide sexual services to MP Cipriano Correia (PMDB), she was pressured.
Girls' recruitment often starts right before school. There the pimps (in Brazil, many women are traditionally active in this profession) choose the girls, make them suggestions to go out with men and give them the prospect of being able to stop again at any time. However, if one does decide to exit, the threats begin. Girls who often do this job without their parents' knowledge are threatened, for example, that their parents will be informed.
In Natal, pimps have photo catalogs of young girls (“ninfetas”) that are offered to MPs and entrepreneurs for “programs”. Research shows that the prostitution trade is organized directly from the office of MP Manoel do Carmo. His employee runs her agency from there as a pimp. According to reports by the girls, their clients include married men between the ages of 40 and 50 from the upper class.
Breaking the silence on this subject is dangerous. The journalist who published this information was so threatened that he had to leave Natal and now lives in an undisclosed location. Dilma Felizardo, who was informed by young prostitutes and employees of the hotels and bars about who is getting rich from the prostitution business in Natal, was the only one who was ready to testify before the commission of inquiry on September 15 this year. The following day, phone calls began to threaten death that her days were numbered and that she should leave the young prostitutes alone. She only got protection from the local police station after eleven days - only after the campaign against child prostitution and the Third World House in Bielefeld had sent protest letters to judicial and government agencies and announced their concerns in the local press.
However, the problem of organized sexual exploitation of minors is denied by Security Senator Manoel de Brito. He criticized those who dare to “drag the names of venerable people in the dirt”. Such denials and the certainty of not being punished are the best guarantees for the sex business to spread.
“Those who use the girls and force them into prostitution get away with it. You don't dare to talk about them, you don't even want to investigate the allegations that are made against them because they are the ones who pay. Girls and women are denied all rights - even the most minimal conditions to be able to protect their bodies, ”writes Dilma Felizardo in the dossier.
So far only two people who are less prominent have been arrested, a photographer and a Swiss illegally living there who recruited children for prostitution, supplied them with drugs and traded photos of them.

Prostitution - the only open job market

Half of the population in Rio Grande do Norte lives in absolute poverty. Hunger, misery and the lack of other job opportunities are the reasons why many girls work in prostitution. Often they are children of poor inland families who have come to the cities in search of a way to survive. The majority of them belong to the black population of Brazil. Girls start prostitution early. According to a study by the University of Natal, 13 percent prostitute themselves between the ages of 8 and 11 and 61 percent between the ages of 12 and 14. 72 percent of the girls support their families with their earnings. Half of the girls surveyed do not know anything about the health risks.
Entering prostitution takes place in different ways. Many girls try to earn money with “decent” work first, selling fruit or sweets or trying to beg. But they quickly realize that they can hardly survive with this work and so end up in prostitution. Other girls come from the interior of the country to the cities, where they work as domestic servants for wealthier families. Aside from being poorly paid, they are often victims of sexual violence by the family fathers or their sons - a way of driving them onto the streets.
Sometimes the girls are lured into the cities with false promises and then find themselves in a brothel. In other cases it is reported that it is the parents themselves who leave their daughters in bars and brothels because of their miserable situation.
But not only girls from the poorest classes work as prostitutes, but also girls from the middle class. In contrast to the girls of the poor class who prostitute themselves in order to survive, to support the family and / or to be able to pay for their drug use, they need the money more in order to be able to afford a better standard of living - such as branded clothing and expensive perfumes .
Often the girls who work in prostitution have suffered sexual violence within the family. According to a study by a Center for Young People (CBIA) in Fortaleza, 80 percent of underage girls who prostitute themselves were abused by family members such as father, stepfather, brother-in-law, uncle, brother, grandfather. Sexual violence is the control and discipline that assigns girls the typical female role and forces them to adapt.
The girls flee the violent families and hope for a self-determined life. On the street, they learn more about the violence they fled from. What began as a rebellion ends in more abuse and injury. Trading in one's own body may then appear to be the only possibility of determining one's own body, of owning it.
Dilma Felizardo explains: “Against the background of a lack of job opportunities, a door suddenly opens: the world of prostitution, which at first appears to be a great temptation. A fascinating world full of adventure, money, music, men, cars, luxurious motels and drugs. Sex for sale is seen as a way out and a solution to social problems. Family morals also contribute to girls entering prostitution. In general, when a girl “loses” her virginity, a new name is given: that of a “lost one”. If they become pregnant, the family demands a quick marriage or they are driven out of the house. The step into prostitution is then often not far. "
The girls themselves earn the least from prostitution. As a rule, they only have 20 percent of the income, most of the profit (60 percent) is collected by the pimp, and 20 percent by intermediaries such as tourist guides or hotel porters. At the age of 20, the girls have achieved nothing of their dream - married, children and a house of their own - and in prostitution they are already considered old. Most of them are then addicted to drugs, infected with AIDS, depressed, and many commit suicide.

Casa Renascer - the desire for a different life

Dilma Felizardo has been working with street children for ten years. In Recife she saw the special situation of the girls who live on the streets. In addition to any problems they share with the street boys, the girls experience further violence. “They menstruate on the street and have their children there, they have abortions on the street in life-threatening conditions and are raped on the street. An eight year old boy is considered a child. But when a girl is eight years old, she is already seen as a woman - i.e. the men claim the right to use her sexually, ”explains Dilma Felizardo. Because of this experience, she and Ana Vasconcelos founded the “Casa de Passem” in Recife in 1989, a house that offers support, advice and accommodation to street girls who work as prostitutes.
For a few years now, Dilma has been working with street girls in Natal and has founded a refuge there for girls who live on the street - the “Casa Renascer” (House of Rebirth). There is room for 30 girls between the ages of eight and eighteen. They are offered an environment of refuge and support and given the opportunity to plan a new day-to-day life. You learn not only to live in, but also to live with the community.
The girls are responsible for their own food, ensure that the rules are adhered to and discuss together what happens if a girl violates them. Due to the limited financial resources, there are only limited childcare options. Relationships with relatives are sought, girls who have no family connections can then live in a small group in another house.
During the day, the girls visit the alternative school on the upper floor of the house and learn to read and write using Paolo Freire's method. In the afternoons there are three different working groups: a theater group, a tailoring project and a workshop that makes hammocks. An experience that Dilma had to make in her many years of activity, namely “that one always offers poor things to the poor”, she tries to break through with a competitive project. Sewing machines were purchased with the support of the Canadian government. Now the employees of CEBRAIOS intend to set up a cooperative and use the income to cover part of the costs for the house as well as to give the girls and their mothers an opportunity to earn money. The aim is to show the girls how work in a cooperative can be organized so that they can determine their own work in the future.
The employees of Casa Renascer have unsuccessfully asked the Brazilian government for money for their work. Their work is just as defamed as the girls who are admitted - both from the official government side and from the immediate neighborhood. Since the opening in October 1992 there has been a list of signatures against the “House of Prostitutes”.
Dilma Felizardo knows that support for so few girls is a drop in the ocean, given the magnitude of their problems. However, she understands Casa Renascer as a model which, on the one hand, is intended to show the Brazilian government that support work for street power is very possible, and which is intended to put them under pressure. On the other hand, the Brazilian society is to be made aware of the taboo topic and made to live up to its responsibility - lectures are also given at schools and universities and student interns are accepted to work in the girls' house.
The lease for Casa Renascer expires at the end of January. It is still unclear how the house can continue to function and where sufficient support will come from.

Hope for support and cooperation

Dilma Felizardo expects more cooperation and exchange in the fight against girl prostitution and sex tourism from her stay. With her reports on how sex tourism is organized in Brazil and how the lives of girls are being destroyed, she hopes for more activities against prostitution tourism “on the other side of the world”.
An international campaign against child prostitution has been running since 1990, initiated in East Asian countries. In the FRG, a change in the law came into force in September 1993, which now also makes sexual abuse a criminal offense abroad. The campaign against child prostitution is now demanding that the federal government conclude legal aid agreements with the target countries for sex tourism so that the change in the law has a practical effect. Dilma Felizardo hopes that a corresponding agreement will be concluded with Brazil.

Additional Information:
Street Children Committee
c / o FDCL
Gneisenaustr. 2
10961 Berlin
Financial support option:
Post current account Berlin (sort code 100 100 10)
Account No. 176966-104
Keyword: Casa Renascer

Box 1:

CPI - Comissao Parlamentar de Inquérito

The parliamentary commission of inquiry (CPI) on child prostitution was convened by the Brazilian federal parliament this year. She will summon the accused politicians to Brasília to testify about their involvement in the sexual abuse of girls.
According to the research so far, according to the chairwoman of the CPI, Marilu Guimaraes, there are nationwide differences in the form of sexual violence against children:
In the Amazon region and the central west, gold diggers and truck drivers in particular benefit from the enslavement and sexual exploitation of girls.Torture and the most brutal violence are the order of the day in this terrain of absolute lawlessness, as the journalist Gilberto Dimenstein researched. Girls who are no longer willing to serve an endless number of customers on a daily basis are killed, visible and as a deterrent to other girls. Anyone who has contracted a venereal disease is not treated, but thrown into the river.
Prostitution tourism predominates in the northeast. There is a regular exchange of underage prostitutes between the different cities of the northeast. The “Rota do Sol” developed by the government is the profitable “route of girl prostitution”.
In Rio and Sao Paulo, child prostitution is mainly organized through “agencies for photo models”. In Sao Paulo, the military and civil police are particularly brutal with violence against girls who live on the streets. Julio Lancelotti from the Pastoral for Minors in Sao Paulo speaks of a symbiosis between child prostitution, drug trafficking (especially crack) and police violence.
The CPI report will be published in February. There is, however, a risk that names will be kept secret, as was the case recently in the report of the commission of inquiry into violence against women. Despite protests, the report has still not been fully released because it named an influential person by name.

Box 2:

The women / girls / health project CEBRAIOS in Natal

Casa Renascer is a project by CEBRAIOS (Centro Brasileiro de Informacao e Orientacao de Saude Social), a social health education center that was set up in 1990 on the initiative of Dilma Felizardo. The aim of the center is to carry out training courses on topics such as sexuality, AIDS, sexual violence for parents, schools and trade unions and to create studies on individual problem areas. In addition to Casa Renascer, other projects of the center are a women's health project and a project on women's rights. CEBRAIOS has a total of nine permanent employees (including a teacher for literacy, a social worker, two street teachers who visit bars and brothels and make contact with young prostitutes, a teacher for tailoring and a teacher for the theater group, a consultant for women's health) and other volunteers Employees. CEBRAIOS is a non-governmental organization that, depending on financial help from abroad, receives support from the Third World House in Bielefeld, Campo Limpo and Arche Nova in Munich.