The World Cup is coming and that means that we have the usual orgy of headlines about how teenage girls are being trafficked into the sex trade to service all of those horny soccer fans. This now happens as a ritual surrounding every major world and sporting event. People tell us this happens with the Super Bowl, with the Olympics, with the World Cup, with just about every major gathering of people anywhere in the world. The only one it doesn't seem to be routinely applied to is when the Pope consecrates someone.
The problem is that there's never really any evidence that this does happen. And further, that if we have a look at the numbers being offered to us we can quickly see that they must be ridiculous. As in this case with a report that half a million children are being trafficked in to loiter around the stadiums where the world Cup will be played. Which, if we take those numbers seriously, will mean that fully 12% of Brazil's teenaged girls will be child prostitutes this summer.
Meaning, of course, that the original estimate is so overblown as to be ridiculous. Here's the story as presented:
Brazil faces a new epidemic of child prostitution and sex tourism in the run-up to this summer's World Cup, politicians and activists have warned. Traffickers are reportedly recruiting young girls to work as prostitutes in the areas around the football stadiums in anticipation of a booming trade over the next few months. Up to half a million children as young as 11 are abused with the consent of their families, and pimped out to tourists or lorry drivers. The country's government has launched a new drive to remind visitors that child prostitution is illegal - but tourists are in fact rarely prosecuting for having sex with minors.
This is simply ridiculous. The population of Brazil is 200 million or so. Assume that the population is equally distributed over age groups (it isn't, there will be more children than old folks but it's a reasonable simplifying adjustment) and that lifespan is 70 years. That means that there are 2.8 million people of any single age in the country. Half of those will be female. The age of consent in Brazil is 14. So, if we're talking about children as young as 11 then the potential population that the child prostitutes can be drawn from is 3 x 2.8 million x 0.5. Or 4.3 million teenage girls from which that population of child prostitutes can be drawn.
And if we say that there's half a million who will be trafficked in this manner then we are trying to say that 12% of all Brazilian teenage girls are in fact child prostitutes. Which is, I'm afraid to have to tell you, simply a ludicrous number and one to which we should pay no attention whatsoever.
Brazil is both a poor and highly unequal society. And there is undoubtedly prostitution there, as well as that repulsive and vile child prostitution. But it simply isn't true that there's half a million children being forced into it. The very claim itself is ludicrous.