On June 12, 2014, the FIFA World Cup will start its soccer matches in several venues across Brazil. This tournament, which claims to be the most widely watched world sporting event – using numbers as high as 1.3 billion – again has everyone’s attention as 32 men’s teams compete for the 2014 World Cup title. As the tournament draws closer, so does a heightened concern among human rights workers, men and women religious and churches about the potential for human trafficking.
“Both [of the last two] World Cups have given evidence of thousands of women especially brought into the [host] country,” Holy Cross Sr. Aline Steuer wrote in an email to Global Sisters Report from her home in Salvador, Bahi, on the northeastern coast of Brazil. “We fear this will occur here. There are cities in Brazil known for human trafficking due to the predominance of harsh conditions, male workers hired by the hundreds for labor – a good recipe for trafficking.”
Steuer, a sister from Notre Dame, Ind., has lived in Brazil since 1959 and has worked on human trafficking issues since 2011, when women religious as a whole and the International Union of Superior Generals began the Talitha Kum campaign against human trafficking.
The Brazilian government denied last week that an increase in human trafficking is expected as the tournament begins. In a story appearing on several news sites, Brazil’s National Justice Secretary Paulo Abrao claimed that there is no evidence to support claims that trafficking will increase in the next few weeks and pointed to efforts by the government to get victims to report trafficking so offenders can be turned in to the justice system.
Steuer claims that it is more complicated for victims to report the crime because of how trafficking is carried out.
“Victims of trafficking usually are teenage girls from poverty levels that do not provide enough money for studies, decent jobs, etc. They fall into offers of well-paid jobs, usually in other countries, and accept these offers in order to help their families financially,” Steuer wrote. “Once they move to another country, all money and identification is taken from them and they become prisoners, generally in brothels.”
In her work and the work of others in Brazil, the focus is on education and awareness to prevent young people from entering situations in which they could be victims.
“In Brazil, the Conference of Religious [men and women] joined this effort giving the name ‘A shout for LIFE’ in Portuguese: Grito pela Vida. All through the country groups of religious have been working, along with other like-minded groups to educate the public, especially young teenagers, to the danger of falling for false offers for employment in other countries for large salaries.”
[Colleen Dunne is a former NCR Bertelsen intern in editorial and marketing and a contributor to Global Sisters Report.]