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Prevalence of commercial sexual exploitation in Recife, Brazil

February 15, 2024

Despite strong civil society and political interest in the issue of commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) in Recife, Brazil, there has historically been a knowledge gap on the true magnitude of the problem, which is believed to be more severe than elsewhere in Brazil and the world. This study estimates the size of the population of female children and adolescents less than 18 years of age involved in CSEC in the Recife Metropolitan Area, in the state of Pernambuco, Brazil. It also explores sociodemographic and behavioural characteristics of CSEC.

The present study—led by researchers from the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation and Gestos—used the Successive Sampling Population Size Estimation (SS-PSE) method via Respondent-Driven Sampling (RDS) among young women sex workers between 18 to 21 years of age, who began exchanging sex for money, favours, or goods or were otherwise commercially sexually exploited at least once before their 18th birthday. Key results included the following:

  • The best estimate for CSEC was 22,500 victims, equivalent to over one-in-six (16.7%) girls in the Recife Metropolitan Area having experienced CSEC between ages 14-17
  • Approximately one-in-five girls were under 15 years old when they were first involved in CSEC
  • Approximately one-in-three girls faced some sort of physical abuse during their time involved in CSEC
  • Nearly all respondents cited some sort of economic pressure or need for consumer goods as the key reason they initially became involved in CSEC

This abridged report includes a list of recommendations for primary and secondary prevention of CSEC, including to improve and develop CSEC prevention methodologies in schools and communities, and identify effective practices that can become a model for broader implementation throughout the child and adolescent protection system.

To meet demand for evidence on the prevalence of CSEC in Recife, Brazil, an abridged report of the research results has been prepared in Portuguese. An English-language version of the full report is anticipated in 2024. The Freedom Fund also presented the results of the full report in a public presentation on 19 January, 2024, available here.

Click below to read the abridged report (Portuguese)

Written by
The Freedom Fund