Prostitution has increased during the World Cup as Brazilian women are turning to prostitution for the lucrative duration of the competition, which takes place June 12 – July 13 throughout 12 cities in the host country. Five to 6 of Brazil’s top cities are the targets of these workers, many of whom took up prostitution just before the tournament started.
The women are reported to be taking English classes to converse with clients from English-speaking countries. Interviews with some of the prostitutes revealed that many of them, especially the younger women, have high hopes of being swept off to another country and a more comfortable lifestyle as the result of a transaction.
Maria, an 18-year-old student, stated to a journalist, “I’m here to find a gringo to take me away and give me a quiet life. I do not want luxury but just to live with a little more dignity and to help my family.”
England fans seem to be the biggest target for the girls who can be seen in brothels, near the beaches and amongst street vendors near the football stadiums, some even wearing English football team shirts.
While some of the women have dreams of being whisked away by a wealthy foreigner, all the women have their own reasons for taking up the profession, whether temporarily or permanently. Some women have seen an opportunity to earn extra money; some have a more severe need for the income.
One woman, according to social worker Cleide Almeida in Vila Mimosa, took on prostitution as a second job due to financial necessity after her husband passed away. It is legal for women in Brazil to sell sex if they are over the age of 18, but women as old as 77 are reported to work in the industry. Many foreign clients are looking for something they can’t get legally, however, and underage workers are often available by delivery to various hotels.
There are 120,000 sex workers in the state of Rio, and Almeida expects trade to double to 10,000 serviced men per day during the World Cup. Women are charging the equivalent of about $27 for a half hour of their time and $44 for an hour.
The World Cup is one of the world’s most celebrated occasions, and for good reason. Through competition, the football tournament unites nations for a month of good sport and excited nationalism. Whether increased prostitution can provide access to money for these women or not, the trend reflects bigger issues concerning demand for sex work and lack of other opportunities.
— Edward Heinrich