The World Cup may be coming to an end, but some of the issues raised before and during the event must stay in the centre of our attention. The discussions over the level of government spending with the World Cup and its legacy for the Brazilian people are still valid, and the issues with child welfare and protection are also of grave concern as many young children living on the street are at risk of being exploited as sex workers.
Child protection is one of ChildFund’s priorities. Therefore, we are a proud supporter of the It’s a Penalty campaign, an initiative aimed at protecting Brazilian children from sexual exploitation and abuse during the World Cup 2014.
It’s a Penalty is directed at the thousands of fans travelling to Brazil this summer and is supported by campaign ambassador Gary Lineker, England manager Roy Hodgson, Alan Shearer and footballers including David Luiz, Frank Lampard and Ramires. It was launched by charities Happy Child International, the Jubilee Campaign and the A21 Campaign, with support from the National Crime Agency (NCA). It is backed by the Brazilian Government, the Foreign Office, Prime Minister David Cameron, the Football Association, Europol and the Metropolitan Police Service.
The campaign warns supporters of the risk of inadvertently having paid-for sex with children aged 17 and under, believing them to be older. Paid-for sex with children is a crime in Brazil which can result in a prison sentence, in Brazil or back home.
Sexual violence is the second most reported type of crime against children in Brazil, with the majority of victims aged between 10 and 14. In 2011, 10,425 children and adolescents were reported as having been the victims of sexual abuse – the vast majority (83.2%) are girls.
The It’s a Penalty campaign includes a short film highlighting the issues of child sexual exploitation (which was shown on British Airways flights from the UK to Brazil during the World Cup), and through the Football Association all 5,000 UK football fans travelling to Brazil are receiving information about the campaign. Additional advice and guidance are shared via Facebook and Twitter.
Last year the National Crime Agency’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Command warned in its annual threat assessment that an influx of visitors to Brazil for the World Cup is likely to expand the child sex market. Johnny Gwynne, Director of the CEOP Command said:
“The majority of fans travelling to Brazil for the World Cup finals would be horrified at the thought of causing harm to the nation’s children. However, we know there are significant risks to children before, during and after major sporting events and some people will sexually exploit children for profit. Brazilian children suffer abuse in the commercial sex trade and may have their appearance manipulated to look older. Do not make the mistake of thinking that because they approach you this must mean they are consenting and that you are not responsible. They are children, and they are being threatened and intimidated by unscrupulous people to make money. The law will not care whether you knew the person you had sex with was underage. You risk arrest and imprisonment in Brazil or on your return to the UK. If you are in any doubt – don’t do it.”
England manager Roy Hodgson continued:
“This campaign is an important one to raise awareness for something abhorrent that still occurs and as attention turns to Brazil, we support the campaign and the crucial work it is doing to stamp out the exploitation of children.”
Even after the World Cup fever is over, we must not forget about the vulnerable children in Brazil. The fight against the sexual exploitation of children is a continuous one, and ChildFund will always be in action to protect vulnerable children from exploitation.