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The fight against sex exploitation in Rio

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bola

What was I up to when I was five years old?

I was in my early years at school, I rode my bike around the park with mum and dad at the weekends, built things out of Lego, watched kids TV and played football in the garden.

Most of these are probably what a lot of us did at five years of age.

Some kids however are living a very different reality, especially here in Rio de Janeiro.

I am talking about those who are the victims of sex exploitation and sadly quite a few are young children.

For many the World Cup is a time to celebrate but for others it is time to cash in and the sex trade is one of them.

bola2Myself and Tommy met up with Davina Castro (left) who helps run a project called Ball in the Net, a campaign against sex trafficking.

She told us some pretty stark and harrowing facts.

Boys and girls as young as five are being sold for sex. Child prostitutes are included in ‘holiday package deals’ to satisfy tourists. Parents often sell their children for sex as it pays well and keeps the family going.

Parents get paid 50R (around £13) to loan their kids to clients and up to 80R (£20) if the clients can have sex with penetration. £20.

Those statements alone were enough to make me feel pretty disgusted.

I knew this was not an issue which just affects Brazil, it happens all over the world including my own country England.

But to think tourists are coming to the World Cup not to enjoy the football but to pay for sex with children (they may of course do both) was disturbing.

Davina told us: “We encourage tourists to enjoy the city, to enjoy the beach, to enjoy the natural beauties such as Sugar Loaf and enjoy the football. But don’t harm our children, do not exploit them, we will do our utmost to protect them.”

From the first moment you meet Davina you can tell she is someone who cares deeply about making things better, a heart for fairness and a heart for making sure kids are not abused for the twisted pleasures of individuals.

Only a few months ago, Davina said, a group were arrested in one of the airports in Rio as it was proven they had a package which included kids and teens.

It shows at least that there is willing from the government and police to crack down on this problem.

But as a lot of you will probably know, arresting people is fine but how do you prevent it from the grass roots?

bola3We were invited to Minha Deusa (My Goddess) one of Rio’s low income communities, where Davina helps runs a non-governmental organisation.

The building, financed by the church, runs several programmes from football for kids to IT classes for the elderly.

We had a chance to see the football project, run by former Botafogo player Jocimar.

The hall where they play was packed, probably around 50 kids, aged between five and 17.

Davina tells us some of these kids have parents who are sex traffickers, some of them have parents who are drugs traffickers, others are brought up by their mothers as their dad is in prison or not there.

Jocimar (pictured below) later explains that through his project the aim is to encourage the kids to make better choices.

bola5Some of them are exposed to violence from a young age especially if their family is involved in the drug trafficking trade, therefore the way they know how to play football at first is to assert their authority by violence.

Installing discipline is a key feature but also showing love, caring for them.

In that sports hall it was obvious to see this was a safe haven, a place of hope and perhaps most importantly a place of peace and love.

There were six year olds in that room who have been through more crap than I will ever go through in a lifetime.  You wouldn’t have guessed it though, all of them were either engrossed in the football or wanting to be interviewed by me and Tommy for the radio show. All of them smiling and joking.

Jocimar says: “Some kids will go and have a better life and that moves us. Unfortunately others have made different choices and got back involved with crime and trafficking.

“It is a choice the kid has to do, we cannot make it for them, we cannot force them to go a certain way. Our project is guided so the kids and their family can have a better life, if they stick with us then that moves us.”

As we look out the window we spot a small lime green building (pictured below), a bright bit of colour amongst the sand coloured homes.

Davina tells us this is a house which the project has just bought. It used to be a sex trafficking den but it is now being turned into a safe house for young mothers.

It was fitting that this colourful building we could see in the distance was going to be transformed from a den of iniquity to a place of care.

With projects like these hopefully more five year olds will get to have the same fun I had as a kid, it is a tough challenge but one that needs to be won. 

bola4

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  1. Alhagie F. Fatty

    IS SAD STILL SOME BAD ELEMENT ARE STILL FOLLOWING OUR YOUNG KIDS JUST TO DISTRO THEM FOR THERE OWN SELF INTEREST AND ALWAYS WILLING TO PAINT OUR FEATURE WITH BAD IMAGE THIS ARE PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT FIT TO LIVING IN THIS WORLD IF FOUND SHOULD BE JAIL FOR LIFE SO THAT OTHER WILL NOT FOLLOW THEM IN DOING THIS MADNESS LIFE.

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  2. Agnes Olawo

    Its so sad that people of age, literate adults take advantage of tournaments like FIFA World Cup to exploit children. Tournaments like this are meant to unite people and share around culture amongst other things. Kudos to those who are working round the clock to curb such acts. Wish you well in your commitments.

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