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City in Focus: Recife, Brazil

Recife, Brazil

Recife, the capital of the northeast state of Pernambuco in Brazil, is a bustling port city of almost four million people, and named after the coral reefs that closely line its Atlantic shore. Widely viewed as a popular tourist destination, Recife is known for its substantial infrastructure, golden beaches, and 17th-18th century Dutch and Portuguese architecture that lend to its reputation as the “Venice of Brazil.”1

Historically, Recife was a center for the import of African slaves during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. From 1501-1867 it is estimated that 854,000 Africans were taken from their homes and brought to the Recife region.2

As in many nations, modern-day slavery is alive and well in Brazil through the legalization of the purchase of sex. According to the Yale Globalist, “In the midst of Brazilian society, the truth is that prostitution is an open secret, opposed by few, enjoyed by some, and endured by all.”3


Recife is a hub for promiscuous activity and tourism, with direct flights from Europe and an infamous reputation as a locale for young Brazilian girls who are readily available for sex with little legal ramifications.4

Going out to the beaches a night holds a much different experience than what occurs during the day. Once the sun sets, the beachfront avenues are soon lined with girls and transgendered of all ages who sell sexual services.  One-manned cars troll slowly through the area and packs of foreign men casually stroll through the nightlife hot spots.  In the midst of the booming music and enticing women, child prostitution is an undeniable reality.5 Local anti trafficking organizations paint a common picture that characterizes the process of recruitment: At first, young impoverished children, 5-6 years old, are often sent to the tourist spots to sell gum and other commonplace items.6 Alone and vulnerable on the streets, the children are easily pinpointed by traffickers who coerce them into the underworld of prostitution, teaching them what they must do to make money for their families. In order to eat, avoid beatings, or feed drug addictions, the street children must comply and are enslaved into lifestyles of systematic abuse.7

In general, there is an attitude of complicity and indifference towards prostitution. Because of the legality of adult prostitution, many lawmakers and law enforcement agencies look the other way in denial as the illegitimate prostitution of children is taking place in the northeast region of Brazil.8

Prayer Points

  • Pray for law-makers, judges, and civil servants in Recife, that their eyes would be opened to the plight of children and young women in their city caught in the cycle of trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation and that they would respond decidedly to fight this injustice.
  • Pray for the light to breakthrough like the dawn in Recife and dry up the sex tourism market.
  • Pray for favor, protection, and grace to be upon the Christ-centered organizations who are going to the streets and brothels to reach these women and children, who are seeking to provide housing, and those who are mobilizing the church to pray and act in Recife.

Read more about the national crisis of sex trafficking in Brazil and join our newest action initiative, Liberdade.

1. “Metropolitan Region of Recife is the 6th most populous of Brazil, IBGE says,” Globo, 31 August 2012,
2. Eltis, David and David Richardson; Foreword by David Brion Davis; Afterword by David W. Blight, Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, Yale University Press, 2010, Print.
3. “Sex for Sale, from Pavement to Penthouse,” The Yale Globalist, 23 May 2010,
4. “Brazil’s sex tourism boom,” BBC, 30 July 2010, “Sex for Sale, from Pavement to Penthouse,” The Yale Globalist, 23 May 2010, Sao Paulo, “Prostitution in Brazil, The Wrong Signal,” The Economist, 7 April 2012,
5. Shores of Grace Ministries (Anti trafficking Organization based in Recife In discussion with the organization’s leaders, 2012.
6. Sao Paulo, “Prostitution in Brazil, The Wrong Signal,” The Economist, 7 April 2012,
7. Stephanie Church, “Violence by clients towards female prostitutes in different work settings: questionnaire survey,” BMJ, 3 March 2001, Farley, Melissa, “Prostitution and Trafficking in Nine Countries: An Update on Violence and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder,” Journal of Trauma Practice, Vol. 2, No. 3/4: 33-74, “Prostitution, Trafficking, and Traumatic Stress,” (New York: The Haworth Press. 2003), “The Link Between Prostitution and Sex Trafficking,” Bureau of Public Affairs, U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC, 24 November 2004,