This post comes from an article originally posted on news.com.au.
by Candace Sutton
Around a bend on one of Brazil’s longest highways, only a 50-minute
drive from Rio de Janeiro’s Olympic village, girls as young as nine are
selling their bodies to truck drivers for money.
Just a few miles from the glittering new stadiums where the world’s
elite athletes are gathering to battle it out for Olympic gold is a
shabby world of poverty, violence and child exploitation.
The BR-116 runs for 2800 miles between the World Cup stadium host
city Fortaleza in the far north of Brazil to Brazil’s largest city Sao
Paulo, where the Arena de Corinthians will stage Olympic soccer games in
The road is nicknamed the Highway of Death (Rodovia da Morte) for its
mortality rate due to many accidents and unstable weather and
conditions along the route.
But its real misery occurs at 262 truck stops along its way, where
female children are sold for sex, often by their own families, sometimes
as part of a town’s unofficial bartering system.
As more than 10,000 athletes and spectators fly in from around the
world for the $10 billion 2016 summer Olympics, local activists are
drawing attention to the reality of the young girls drawn into a life of
prostitution and drug addiction.
an organization established to stop the exploitation of at-risk girls
in towns along the BR-116, the real life stories are mind blowing.
When a Meninadanca team visited the remote town of Candido Sales,
which is bisected by the BR-116, they discovered that underage girls in
the town were regularly offered to men as prizes in raffles.
Trucks and heavy goods vehicles clog the road lined with bars and
brothels through the town, just miles away from the dirt brick homes
where Brazilian families live in poverty.
Sex trafficking gangs target the town and poor families are vulnerable to offers of money for their little girls.
But even the Meninadanca workers were surprised when a town council
psychologist told them raffles were held regularly with the winning
ticket holder’s prize being the right to abuse a particular girl being
The psychologist Gleyce Farias said “Candido Sales is a small town, but every day we hear of another girl who has been sold.
“I had to stop a mother from allowing her 12-year-old daughter to ‘marry’ a 60-year-old man, for money of course.
“Another 13-year-old girl ended up in hospital because of the abuses
she suffered. She told us how from the age of nine she was made to watch
pornographic films, and men would pay her to touch them.”
As the Rio Olympics are now underway, Meninadanca is attempting to
lure the world media’s attention away from the excitement of the games
to the confronting scenes beyond.
Matt Roper, a journalist and author, has held a walk of the BR-116
and Meninadanca’s Facebook page has an “adopt a kilometer” program on me
for each section of the highway to raise money for the non-government
As the final preparations are made on Rio’s 32 sporting venues, and
last minute concerns centre on the Zika virus, Russia’s doping ban and
pollution at the Guanabara Bay sailing ground, Meninadanca is tying pink
ribbons along the highway.
Roper has helped establish ‘pink house’ refuges for girls rescued
from the highway, although he admits many times it is too late.
In the case of 12-year-old Jessica, from a small town on the BR-116
in northeastern Brazil, she was drugged by a female pimp at a party and
kidnapped in a truck. She was then taken with another young girl off to
the northern coastal town of Fortaleza, Jessica was forced to “pay” for
the trip by having sex with the truck driver. In exchange for food, the
girls were forced to sell themselves to tourists on Fortaleza’s
beaches. The pimp only took them back home after Jessica’s desperate
family made phone calls, but the woman went unpunished.
It was a different case for a nine-year-old called Emilly, who was
taken from her family and raped and murdered in 2014. Roper and
Meninadanca took up the murder case after they learned that the accused
had been acquitted on a similar charge just days before Emilly’s death.
The Pink House held public protests and the man was eventually tried and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
During the 2015 World Cup soccer in Brazil, which was a forerunner
for the soccer venues in the 2016 Games, Roper and fellow Pink House
activists found young girls selling their bodies in streets just miles
away from the showpiece World Cup stadium in Fortaleza.
“The venue is just half a mile away from the BR-116 highway, and in
the middle of a destitute area where vulnerable children have seen
nothing of the stadium’s $330 million cost,” Meninadanca said in a media
“Fans should enjoy (the soccer) but they should also know of the
injustices and abuses being suffered by this country’s children.
“Most of all, of the BR-116, where thousands of girls are trapped in a
nightmare of abuse and exploitation a long way from the crowds and TV
In another tragic case, Ana Flavia, an 11-year-old who had fallen
into prostitution, was picked up by a truck driver whose distraction
with the young girl in his cabin results in him crashing into a heavy
goods vehicle on the BR-116. The little girl was trapped in the wreckage
and the driver ran off, leaving Ana Flavia to die at the scene. The
driver still plies the highway in his truck.
The Meninadanca Pink House group has reached out to girls, but is not always successful in saving them.
By the age of 13, Lilian had been sold to truck drivers by her
mother, handed to neighbors in exchange for cigarettes, and sold by
family members for $4 a time.
She moved in with a 30-year-old man who held her captive and beat her
up. The sad girl told Meninadanca she dreamed of being a lawyer when
she grew up so she could “do justice”, but was being beaten and abused
daily by her “husband”.
Matt Roper has written three books of harrowing tales about the girls along BR-116: Highway to Hell, Remember Me, Rescue Me, and Street Girls.
Three years ago, Roper retold the sad tale of Leidiane, a skinny
11-year-old whose parents sent her out each night to the highway near
Governador Valadares, 370 miles north of Rio de Janeiro. She wore a
skimpy sun dress to sell her body to truck drivers for $12 so her family
could eat. Encountering her on the highway, Roper could still see the
innocent little girl in Leidiane, despite the fact she was selling
herself amid the dust and the diesel fumes. She told him that sometimes,
when they’d finished with her, the truckers would push her out the long
drop down from the cabs of their car-carriers or semi-trailers.
When Roper later returned to the city, he took the time to track down
Leidiane who by then was 12-years-old and now addicted to crack
cocaine. The innocence she had projected during their highway meeting
was gone. When he refused her request for money, arguing she would only
spend it on more crack, Leidiane became sullen and angry.
“We were too late,” he said.
Meninadanca is now establishing a new Pink House in Candido Sales to
combat the local practice of raffling girls off for money, and have a
sponsorship and donation program on their website for anyone wanting to
help rescue young girls in Brazil.
We couldn’t be more saddened (and sickened) by the extreme sexual
exploitation of young girls happening in Brazil. Sex trafficking is a
global issue, and it is only made worse by pornography. We want to call
attention one more time to this part of the article:
“Another 13-year-old girl ended up in hospital because of the
abuses she suffered. She told us how from the age of nine she was made
to watch pornographic films, and men would pay her to touch them.”
Pornography is inseparably connected to prostitution and sex
trafficking. Any form of sexual exploitation only fuels the demand for
the sex trade as a whole. By speaking out against these harms and
raising awareness on the issue, we can make a change.
What YOU Can Do
The facts show that porn and sex trafficking are inseparably connected. SHARE this article to raise awareness on what’s happening during the Rio Olympics and to stop the demand.
Check out the following nonprofit organizations to learn more about
how you can get directly involved in the fight against sex trafficking:
This Washington D.C.-based nonprofit is one of the most
recognized organizations in the global fight to eradicate modern
slavery. Named after the North Star that guided slaves to freedom in the
U.S., Polaris systemically disrupts the human trafficking networks by
helping survivors restore their freedom, preventing more victims, and
leveraging data and technology to pursue traffickers wherever they
Rescue: Freedom International
Based in Seattle, Washington, this nonprofit has partner sites
in 8 countries, that support sex trafficking victims and gives them
“anything and everything a survivor needs to experience long-term
healing and restoration.” While local partners are working on the
ground, Rescue:Freedom is the supply line for that work by providing
operational funding, scholarships, training, best practices,
infrastructure, and other essential resources.
Operation Underground Railroad
O.U.R. takes a boots-on-the-ground approach to combatting sex
trafficking by gathering trained extraction operations specialists to
bring an end to child slavery. O.U.R.’s Underground Jump Team consists
of former CIA, Navy SEALs, and Special Ops operatives that lead
coordinated identification and extraction efforts. These operations are
always in conjunction with law enforcement throughout t
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