The Freedom Fund intends to launch a new hotspot in Brazil seeking to better understand and address the commercial sexual exploitation of children in Brazil.
An estimated 500,000 children in Brazil are forced into situations of commercial sexual exploitation. Despite the staggering scale of the problem, the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) remains almost invisible in the country. There is little official data recorded by law enforcement or government agencies. This lack of reliable data makes it virtually impossible to develop effective public policies. Further, the invisibility of CSEC is compounded by widespread community attitudes that either trivialise the problem or regard it as “normal” practice.
Minors who fall victim to CSEC almost exclusively come from the poorest and most vulnerable communities in Brazil. The pathways that lead to CSEC vary. In some cases, families living in extreme poverty encourage their children to provide sexual services for food or other goods. Minors may also be lured by men – often connected with their local school – into exchanging sexual “dates” for gifts, such as shoes, clothes or mobile phones. Other adolescents leave their community and move to the city in search of a better life. Because of their extreme vulnerability, many end up exploited and engaged in street-based sex work or trafficked by CSEC networks and saddled with a “debt” they can never repay. According to experts, CSEC can be found in all major cities in Brazil, and there is also a high prevalence of CSEC in many regional and rural centres across the country.
In 2018, a Freedom Fund commissioned scoping study found that the commercial sexual exploitation of children is a vast but invisible problem in Brazil. The combination of severely underfunded local government structures and civil society organisations, together with a broad misconception and cultural acceptance by the Brazilian public about CSEC and a limited understanding of the full extent of the situation, have led to a lack of commitment to tackling this problem.
A Freedom Fund hotspot program seeks to bring increased attention to and a better understanding of CSEC in Brazil. The hotspot would work in direct partnership with local civil society, as well as in collaboration with local government and businesses to address the supply and demand that drive this issue.
The Freedom Fund’s Brazil hotspot will:
The Freedom Fund would also seek to fill the knowledge gap around CSEC by commissioning research to better understand the root causes and drivers of CSEC in the hotspot as well as the motivations of those who sell or buy sex from minors. Findings will not only inform the program’s behaviour change campaigns but also shape advocacy messages and help better target service provisions to minors at risk of and those suffering from CSEC.
The Freedom Fund is seeking investors for a multi-year program to combat CSEC in urban centres of Brazil.
Photo: Natália Corrêa / Instituto Aliança / Freedom Fund