Brazil’s sex trade: How the country’s one million prostitutes are preparing for the World Cup

Jun 1, 2014
Random Adult News
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According to the locals, it’s the bar capital of the world, with more than 12,000 catering for the five million citizens of Brazil’s third city. Others will recall Belo Horizonte as the scene of England’s most humiliating football defeat, when a hearse driver and teacher from the US stunned the national team at the 1950 World Cup. But if the 5,000 or so English ticket holders expected here for England’s final group game against Costa Rica in a few weeks’ time look a little more closely, they may remember it for something else. As is the case across Brazil, peer behind the mask and another reality stares back at you.

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In downtown Belo Horizonte are 23 brothels, known locally as zonas. They are hidden up narrow staircases between shops in the grim city centre, a place so grey, in parts, that you could be in the old Soviet Union except for the scorching sun above. Nearby, in an empty office on the top floor of a shopping centre, a handful of the 2,000 or so prostitutes who work the city are getting English classes from a volunteer in order to cash in on the six matches the city’s Mineirão stadium will host (including one semi-final). All the while, tucked away at the back of an indoor car-park, is Aprosmig – a union for those within the industry in the state of Minas Gerais (the name is a contraction of the “Minas Gerais association of prostitutes”). “For sure [the city’s prostitutes] will get more money with the World Cup,” says the fiftysomething woman working the desk. “In the nightclubs they’ll be earning a lot. It’s normal for foreign guys to look for them, they always do, and now there’ll be more foreign guys. They’ll do very well.”

Inside, pasted to a grubby wall are erotic photographs and charts of the body, notes about diseases, numbers for doctors and timetables for psychology sessions. As the woman potters about, she tells her story, a familiar narrative. Having become pregnant and seen the factory she worked in shut down, she took a job as a cleaner. But the family she worked for put pressure on, insisting they should adopt her child, and she felt she couldn’t keep both job and baby, but neither could she go hungry. There was one avenue to walk down. “I prostituted when my child was sleeping,” she sighs. “But it was weird, lying there in a room as guys looked in your door before deciding. I just remembered I had to bring food to my house and I had to pay bills so there was no choice. But I spent my life working in that room. I missed out on so much.”

Occasionally, she pauses to assist the union members coming in from the early morning to collect the unlimited condoms their £2.60 monthly membership allows them. Among them are two sisters in their thirties. At first they’re wary, but they agree to talk. “We started by ourselves, nobody came to us and offered us,” they say. “Since we started we can eat what we want, buy the clothes we want. That’s why we do it.

“But look, why feel bad? We’re not here because we like it, but it’s a profession and we’re not going to be grumpy and be treating people badly. If we’re there working, we’ll be smiling. In any profession you need to be like that. And the sex is pleasurable, honestly. So if people look down on us we don’t care. And when people ask, we tell them we’re prostitutes, although often they don’t really believe us. In fact the worst part of it is probably that we have to pay 130 reais [£35] per day for a room each. The owner makes the most money, so many girls rent an apartment so they make more, but for us that’s too dangerous. So we prefer to pay.”

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[…] sporting events such as the World Cup is supposed to be good for sex workers’ wallets. Tens of thousands of fans, most of whom are men with money to spare, travel from around the planet […]

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