Manaus is one of 12 Brazilian cities chosen to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup games next summer. Manaus, which means “mother of god,” is the capital city of Amazonia state and is the largest city in the Amazon with more than 2 million inhabitants. Celebrated for its natural beauty and preserved cultural traditions, the city boasts some of Brazil’s most popular natural wonders.
In the 19th century, Manaus quickly became one of the most prosperous cities in Brazil during the “rubber boom” when the Amazon region’s plentiful rubber supply was in demand. Unfortunately, this prosperity was short-lived as Manaus lost its grip on the rubber industry.1 However, today Manaus has grown again to be a prospering metropolis, with Manaus’ leaders and residents remaining optimistic about the city’s steady rise.2
Will a rush of game-goers to the Amazon lead to an increase in human trafficking?
With the World Cup on the horizon, Brazil’s leaders have big dreams for all of the host cities, and Manaus is no exception. In hopes of drawing tens of thousands of soccer fans, organizers in Brazil are building Arena Amazônia, a mega-stadium in Manaus with the capacity to hold over 44,000 spectators. The cost of this new, pristine stadium is estimated to be 550 million Brazilian Reais if it’s completed on time and on budget. That’s the equivalent of $225 million dollars in the United States.3
However, because past events have indicated a spike in human trafficking and increases in the sex trade during international sporting events, abolitionists are concerned about the adequacy of the Brazilian government’s efforts to protect potential victims during the 2014 games. With the sudden influx of international fans flooding into these largely poor4 and otherwise isolated cities, the demand for prostitution and the supply of victims for human traffickers has the potential to rise in unison with the walls of the new stadium.
Developing infrastructure and high tourism are said to contribute to human trafficking problem
Brazil’s Amazon region is known for it’s exquisite beauty and wide array of adventure and sporting activities. Unfortunately, as a result of its allure and position as an international attraction, the region has also become a prime spot for traffickers and a main contributor to Brazil’s growing struggle with human trafficking.
The United States Department of State says that Brazil is, “a large source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor,” both domestically and internationally.5 Additionally, Brazil is being ranked as one of the premier sex tourism destinations of the world.6
Several cases of human trafficking have surfaced in the region over the last few years. Two years ago, the United State’s Justice Department carried out a criminal investigation after a parallel lawsuit was filed in both Brazil and Georgia, United States. Four Brazilian women filed a claim stating that, they were coerced into prostitution as minors on American Amazon fishing expeditions operated by an Atlanta-area businessman. One of the women claimed to be only 12 years old at the time.7
The claim filed stated that the company Wet-a-Line, which is no longer in business, and it’s employees and customers were recruiting young girls at a social club in the Amazon region to join them on their fishing boat. Once aboard, the girls were said to be coerced into performing sexual acts with paying customers.8 The business’s owner denied all wrongdoing.
Brazil’s rise to “economic and political dominance”9 has also played an unexpected role in the rise of human trafficking in Brazil. In particular, large developments of infrastructure throughout the nation are said to have caused an, “explosion of violent crime and sex trafficking.”10
Just two months ago, news broke that a ring of sex traffickers was arrested in the country’s ltamira. The traffickers were exposed only after one girl managed to escape and reported the horrendous ordeal to local police.11
Brazil’s Congressional Investigative Commission on Human Trafficking is looking into the case, but this is not the first indication of these situations in the region. According to Amazon Watch, the commission was alerted to similar cases happening at other large construction projects, including stadiums being built for the upcoming World Cup.12 The Brazilian government is making many attempts to address the problem of human trafficking around construction sites and tourist destinations, though there is still a long way to go before they fully adhere to the international standards for fighting human trafficking.13
Join us in prayer
Unfortunately, with prostitution legalized in Brazil and the clear acceptance of prostitution as a profession by many Brazilians, the potential for an increase in human trafficking should be of real concern.14 If the perception of city officials and the general public places prostitution in the same category as taxi drivers, waiters, and other service-industry providers, then our cause for concern is even greater. As abolitionists, we must rev up our efforts. We must call upon our supporters and fellow abolitionists from around the world to pray for the host cities of Brazil and for the protection of the vulnerable women and children who live in them.
Please join us as we pray for the city of Manaus.
1Samantha Bresnahan, “Rise from the Rainforest: The Amazon’s World Cup Stadium Race.” CNN, Web. 25 July 2013. http://www.manaus.info/history-of-manaus.html
2“Manaus,” FIFA, Web. 2013. http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/destination/cities/city=2037
3Samantha Bresnahan, “Rise from the Rainforest: The Amazon’s World Cup Stadium Race.” CNN, Web. 25 July 2013. http://edition.cnn.com/2013/07/25/sport/football/football-brazil-world-cup-manaus/index.html.
4“Manaus Brazil,” Celebrate Brazil, Web. 2013. http://www.celebratebrazil.com/manaus-brazil.html#ixzz2hxgpKK8q.
5“2013 Trafficking in Persons Report,” US Department of State, Web. 19 June 2013. http://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/countries/2013/215408.htm
6Barry Meier, “Allegations Link U.S. Companies to Brazilian Sex Tourism,” New York Times, Web. 8 July 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/09/business/allegations-link-us-companies-to-brazilian-sex-tourism.html?_r=1&
9Astrid Prange, “Growth Makes Brazil a Hub for Human Trafficking,” Deutsche Welle, Web. 6 April 2013. http://www.dw.de/growth-makes-brazil-a-hub-for-human-trafficking/a-16855897
10Bianca Jagger, “Deadly Sins in the Brazilian Amazon,” Huffington Post, Web. 16 April, 2013. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bianca-jagger/belo-monte-dam_b_3076501.html
11Zachary Hurwitz, “Sex Trafficking Ringmaster Busted on Belo Monte,” Amazon Watch, Web. 3 September 2013. http://amazonwatch.org/news/2013/0903-sex-trafficking-ringmaster-busted-on-belo-monte
13Trafficking in Persons 2013 Report, “Country Narratives,” U.S. Department of State, 2013. http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/210738.pdf
14Melissa Farley,“Myths and facts about trafficking for legal and illegal prostitution,” Web. March 2009. http://www.prostitutionresearch.com/pdfs/Myths%20&%20Facts%20Legal%20&%20Illegal%20Prostitution%203-09.pdf.