By Julie Ruvolo · Red Light Rio
The vast majority of sex workers we spoke with in Rio de Janeiro considered the World Cup to be bad for business. Despite the presence of significant numbers of Brazilian and foreign tourists in Rio, there was a general decline in sexual commerce during the 32 days of the event. Of the 83 points of prostitution we visited, only six maintained a normal flow of customers during the games. Another 17 experienced an increase in business. Sixty points, including Vila Mimosa, where some 1,000 women work, experienced an estimated decline of 30-50%, in terms of the number of clients frequenting these points, during the 32 days of the games from June 12 to July 13.
We attribute this decline to six factors:
1. The closure of commerce in downtown Rio due to a series of government-declared holidays during the World Cup.
2. The dependence of prostitution in downtown Rio (home to the largest concentration of prostitutes and sex work venues in the city) and Vila Mimosa (the city’s only concentrated red light district) on local clients who work in city center and who did not circulate through downtown Rio during these holidays.
3. The absence of foreign clients, who did not replace local clients at these venues. Foreign tourists largely restricted their movements in Rio to the South Zone neighborhoods of Copacabana and Ipanema, to Lapa and to the Maracanã Stadium, avoiding downtown and Vila Mimosa all together.
4. The fact that many foreign tourists who visited Rio were from Latin American countries that are as poor or poorer than Brazil. These tourists had little money to spend in Rio.
5. The high prices throughout Rio and particularly in the South Zone, which prohibited many tourists from spending their money on non-essentials.
6. Many of the single men who visited Rio during the World Cup were much more interested in spending their time and money conversing and drinking with male friends than in purchasing sexual services.
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