Exciting is the word that comes to mind when I think about the Olympics. Watching the best athletes in the world compete for Gold is nothing but exciting. It’s fun to watch and cheer for our favorites.
This year, the spotlight is on Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A beautiful city where the mountains meet the sea and the famous Christ the Redeemer statue brilliantly towers above. But what is hiding in the shadows of the Olympic stadium? A dirty little secret.
The famous Copacabana area is a sparkling beachfront, home to celebrities and tourists, but it also boasts high end brothels where women are purchased daily. Nearby, the famed Ipanema is home to what is arguably the most legendary brothel in Brazil, the Centaurus. Justin Beiber was recently seen there, among other famous clientele. The exploitation that is widely accepted here spills over to Rio’s favelas, or slums, where poverty drives violence and sex trafficking.
Prostitution is legal in Brazil, so women who have no other means of providing for themselves are often driven to “survival sex.” These women find themselves in less glamorous accommodations or end up trafficked, forced into prostitution in truck stops or brothels throughout the city. Parents see no other option but to sell their children into sexual slavery in order to survive.
Exploitation spills out of Rio to neighboring cities and along highways. According to a recent article by Fight the New Drug, near Rio lies the highway nicknamed “Highway of Death” due to its high mortality rate. Girls are trafficked in truck stops all along this highway. Journalist, Matt Roper, has written several books including Highway to Hell detailing the exploitation along the route.
While we watch the glamorous and exciting Olympic games, remember those who are walking the streets, hoping to survive and praying they might meet a rich tourist or olympian to rescue them and bring an end to their nightmare. Think of them, remember them, pray for them.