We can’t allow that discussions on children’s rights, particularly on the issue of sexual exploitation, will ever fall silent again, but we need to generate calls for change in the world like we have never done before. Now we need governments, NGOs, the media, the private sector, local authorities and many more adolescents to join us in the fight against sexual exploitation and to help children who are at higher risk and who are victims1 .
People who have suffered from the enduring societal scourge of sexual exploitation of children (SEC)2 have urgently and tirelessly campaigned alongside advocates to eradicate SEC and the sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism (SECTT) while never forgetting the devastating impact the phenomenon reaps upon nations, communities, families and the children themselves. In Brazil, modern-day slavery and child labour are rampant. Many have raised concerns as to the effects of mega sports events on the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) in a country already facing such challenges. As is well-known, Brazil was home to the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and is about to be host to the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games this year. With the surging number of tourists and travellers – tourism in Brazil tripled in June 2014, when the World Cup took place -, members of civil society organisations feared that more children would be at a greater risk in certain areas of the country. Despite acknowledging that perhaps no increase in CSEC was registered, improvements in this area have not been achieved either3 . Furthermore, the development and expansion of the internet has facilitated travel while granting anonymity to a growing number of sexual exploitation networks, enabling them to develop new ways to escape identification by existing protection systems.
In the Third World Congress against Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents (WCIII), hosted in Rio de Janeiro in November 2008, government leaders urged a review of Brazil’s National Plan to Combat Children Sexual Violence4 in order to tackle new forms of propagation of SEC. The 300 children and adolescents who participated in the Congress stressed the need to engage the public, as well as private and nongovernmental organisations, to create and strengthen joint commitment to eradicate this heinous crime, with the 200.4-million strong country estimated to have some 100,000 child sex workers in 20015 .
Since this historic meeting, where the Rio Action Plan was signed by 140 countries, efforts of civil society and government bodies against child exploitation has made key achievements, such as creating a legal framework on child rights that is now being prioritized. But a number of barriers to efficient, collective action are still in place, including the persistent lack of robust data and coordination between actors. Attempts to eradicate SECTT are slowed by these weaknesses, which hinder knowledge production on how best to fight the problem, thereby leaving at least hundreds of offenders per year to commit heinous crimes with impunity.
Recognizing the severity of the problem on a global scale, ECPAT International (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography, and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes) took the initiative to conduct a study on SECTT in 2014-2016 at the global level. The aim is to produce an evidence-based research that can guide and mobilise targeted efforts between the government, civil society and the tourism sector, counting on the guidance and contribution of a “High-Level Global Taskforce” composed of senior members from governmental, non-governmental and private sectors. The Global Study, among other components, comprises national research produced by the international ECPAT Network, including the present report.
To address the challenge launched by the Global Study, ECPAT Brazil proposed to analyse child sexual exploitation networks in travel and tourism. This decision was taken based on the conclusion of a study conducted during the Brazilian World Cup 2014 by the National Network in Defence of Children’s Human Rights (Redes Nacionais em Defesa dos Direitos Humanos de Crianças e Adolescentes), which found that in order to combat the crime of sexual exploitation of children, a better understanding how exploitation functions is needed.
The cities of Manaus and Fortaleza were selected for the field study based on three findings. First, data from the Secretariat for Human Rights of the Presidency of the Republic (SDH-PR) in 2013 had noted five of the 2014 FIFA World Cup host cities as having the highest prevalence of SEC. The northern Brazilian state capitals of Manaus and Fortaleza were mentioned, along with urban hubs Rio de Janeiro, Salvador and São Paulo.6
The second contributing factor is linked to the implementation of the child protection system in Brazil through the Convergence Agenda7 , which mobilizes institutional cooperation across government agencies from the federal to the provincial level to protect children during mega events.8 The context in which grave SECTT violations take place in these two cities is more complex and serious than in other areas due to the neglect by authorities and the absence of a structured protection service network. A final reason for the selection of Manaus and Fortaleza is owing to the affiliates of ECPAT Brazil, which are located in the two state capitals, enabling the research to be executed in a timely manner respecting the deadlines for the studies.
The general objective of this research is to analyse the dynamics of SECTT networks in these cities based on the information provided by the participants in the study. The specific objectives are: to identify aspects that make children more vulnerable to SECTT networks; to observe the existence and functioning of the child protection system for the protection of these very children and; to map actions of SECTT networks in Manaus and Fortaleza.
The report is divided into nine chapters. After this Introduction, Chapter 2 describes the methodology used for the research, as well as the constraints encountered during the completion of the research. Chapter 3 presents a brief overview of the literature on SEC in Brazil and Chapter 4 details the contexts of SECTT in the two cities. Chapter 5 is on the scale of the problem. Chapter 6 deals with components that make children vulnerable to the sexual exploiters’ networks. Chapter 7 features the current child protection system, highlighting the challenges that institutions face to tackle the problem.
Chapter 8 proceeds to identify the characteristics of SECTT networks, categorising each of the exploiter networks to deepen existing knowledge of their various modes of operation. Finally, in Chapter 9, considerations and recommendations are presented in order to address the issue of SECTT in Brazil overall, as well as detailing ways to specifically respond to the problem in Manaus and Fortaleza, both of which are destinations for trafficked children and adolescents.
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