Highway to Hell: The road where childhoods are
Church Times Bookshop £7.20
AS THE World Cup host for 2014, Brazil will be showcasing itself
as a booming, picture-postcard country of sun, sea, and samba. No
better time then, considers Matt Roper in this terse and angry
book, to draw international attention to a parallel Brazil, where
child sex exploitation and prostitution is at its ugliest and most
blatant along the 2800 dusty and impoverished miles of the
country's BR-116 motorway.
Entire communities live off the proceeds, and that is the
biggest scandal that Roper, a journalist formerly with the
Daily Mail, and his travelling companion, Dean Brody,
unearth as they journey up the highway. Mothers rejoice when they
give birth to a girl, not only colluding in but instigating the
euphemistically called "pro-grammes" in which children wait on the
verges to be picked up by truckers.
Sending their daughter off for her first programme and waiting
for her to come back with the money "is as normal as her playing
with her first Barbie doll", Roper observes, describing the
epidemic of child prostitution as "an intolerable evil. . . where
men choose to use their power to abuse, enslave and exploit without
mercy, while other men invested with the power to stop it choose to
do absolutely nothing".
This is a society so used to child prostitution, he argues, that
it has lost any sense of how wrong it is. It is simply part of the
landscape, so that rescuing girls from it and restoring their
self-worth means tackling an entire culture that considers their
abuse and exploitation as an ordinary and acceptable part of
Roper and Brody are like terriers with a rat, determined not
only to raise awareness of the tragedy through vivid description
and hard facts, but personally to try and do something about it.
The Pink House for girls which they have set up in Medina, centred
on a dance studio, is to be replicated in other towns if they can
get enough support.
"Don't be the girl who fell down. Be the girl who got on her
feet again," the teachers there exhort, along with a quotation from
Jeremiah: "For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper
you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."