Protecting Brazilian children from child labour as the World Cup begins

Today marks the start of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, taking place in Brazil. The World Cup should be an enjoyable, safe and fun time for all fans – both children and adults alike. Today also marks another important and relevant date, the World Day against Child Labour. What’s the link?

Child labour is a violation of children’s rights that can leave children exposed to other violations such as physical and psychological violence, abuse and sexual exploitation. Although children and adolescents younger than 16 are not permitted to work in Brazil, there are approximately 3 million Brazilian boys and girls, aged 10 to 17 years, who are victims of child labour.

A girl plays football in a schoolyard in the city of Olinda in Brazil. © UNICEF/NYHQ2006-1337/Versiani

A girl plays football in a schoolyard in the city of Olinda in Brazil. © UNICEF/NYHQ2006-1337/Versiani

Child labour is sometimes downplayed as a serious violation of children’s rights in Brazil. Yet, child labour was the form of child exploitation most often registered on the Brazilian government’s Secretariat of Human Rights hotline during two major events in Brazil held in 2013.

So, the concern with protecting Brazilian children and adolescents from child labour during the World Cup is both justified and necessary, especially when it comes to protecting children who already belong to vulnerable groups such as girl domestic workers, boys recruited by the drug trade, as well as Afro-Brazilian and indigenous children.

Considering that schools will be on holiday for the duration of the World Cup, Brazilian children may be even more vulnerable to different forms of child labour, of which there are many. Some of the worst forms include the use of children for sexual exploitation purposes, pornography, forced labour and all forms of work that are likely to harm the safety, health or morals of children.

Brazil has been strengthening its child protection system’s ability to prevent and respond to all forms of violence and child exploitation – including child labour – by raising public awareness, mobilizing law enforcement agencies and the Justice branch to act against criminal networks, reinforcing specialised services, and more recently approving a new legislation that qualifies the sexual exploitation of children and adolescents as a heinous crime.

Projeta Brasil

The ‘Projeta Brasil’ app allows people to report cases of abuse, violence or exploitation of children.

A further step was taken when the Government of Brazil, UNICEF and partners recently launched a campaign calling smartphone users to download the ‘Projeta Brasil’ application that allows them, with a few taps on their smartphone or tablet, to immediately report cases of abuse, violence or exploitation of children, including child labor. With the ‘Projeta Brasil’ app, witnesses as well as victims of child exploitation can report the time, location and circumstances to local child welfare authorities by telephone or in person. The report triggers reactions from the appropriate law enforcement and child protection authorities.

In addition to being a reporting tool, the ‘Projeta Brasil’ app also raises awareness and understanding of the different forms of violence against children, including definitions of child labour, discrimination, and sexual violence. The app can be downloaded from Google Play and the Apple Store, and is available in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

Today marks the start of the World Cup. Let’s also make it the start of the end of all forms of child labour, so that the World Cup can be an enjoyable, safe and fun time for all fans – both children and adults alike.

Gary Stahl is the Representative of UNICEF Brazil.

Note:
Over the last months, there have been several articles and op-eds published by influential media outlets stating erroneously that according to UNICEF, 250,000 children are sexually exploited every year in Brazil. Please note that this is not UNICEF’s data and the number quoted has been erroneously attributed not only to UNICEF but to other institutions since 1999, without being updated in over a decade. The most recent and accurate statistics available on sexual exploitation come from the Brazilian government’s Secretariat of Human Rights hotline. In 2013, 10,668 reports to the hotline were related to sexual exploitation. A recent report showed that in the 12 cities hosting the World Cup, there were some 27,600 reports to the hotline of sexual exploitation over a seven year period between May 2003 and March 2011.

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