Brazil is famous for many things; its colourful festivals, its famous actors, its Formula 1 drivers … and its legal sex workers.
With this year’s World Cup taking place in São Paulo, the largest city in Brazil, many women working in ‘the oldest profession in the world’ have been preparing for the mass arrival of tourists, and they hope; customers.
It’s been reported that many prostitutes have been attending English classes and have even set up systems with the bank in order to receive credit card payments, as they clearly see this event as a big and serious opportunity to make a lot of money.
With over 120,000 women prostitutes working in the State of Rio alone, many women turn to this way of life, as they can earn much more money than they can on the country’s minimum wage, and of course, many dream of being whisked away to a life of luxury by their clients; à la Pretty Woman.
There is also a much darker side to this world. Legal brothels mean that the women have a safe place to work, with bouncers guarding the doors. This provides a safer option than being out on the streets. However, although the legal age of prostitution, known in Brazil as the ‘sex tourism’, is 18, many parts of the country suffer from extreme poverty.
There have been many reports of underage girls being forced onto the streets to make money for their families. Child prostitution is illegal in Brazil but many fear that, amidst the chaos of the World Cup, the rules will be very hard to enforce.
The country’s liberal attitude to sex workers may seem in contradiction to its religious beliefs. Brazil is actually the largest Catholic country in the world and yet the advent of the internet and of international events such as the World Cup means that prostitution and therefore exploitation, is not going to go away anytime soon.
However, it is important to note that exploitation tragically occurs in every country, whether prostitution is legal or not.