The 2016 Rio Olympic Games have already copped a fair amount of negative press and the games haven't even started.
From fears of the Zika virus to delays in building and some Olympians deciding not to attend due to the possibility of contracting illnesses, one can only hope the games will go smoothly.
But now there are reports of a 'supermarket sale' for sex.
Fox News Latino reports prostitutes in Rio de Janeiro's red light district were disappointed by the low number of customers during the 2014 World Cup, so they are offering visitors sex as low as $18 an hour in an 'early bird' special ahead of the games. One prostitute interviewed said, "Just like any supermarket, we've now got some great deals and we're cutting our prices."
Another woman said, "It's never been this bad, and most of the women here are desperate. We're all worried that business will grind to a halt like it did during the World Cup. The clientele has decreased and competition's increased."
I admit this kind of news can be uncomfortable to read and I am sure everyone has an opinion on this subject. But when I read the article which led to reading more articles and seeing pictures of some of these women in their working cubicles, my heart ached.
It ached for these 'desperate' women, it ached for the degradation of sex, it ached for the invisible faces of the families these women are trying to support. It just ached.
Is a decline in prostitution a good thing?
Are we to be happy to read there is a decline in people frequenting these places? On the surface it seems like we should be. Is it due to a changing moral awareness? Are people more educated on sexually transmitted diseases? Are awesome campaigns and organisations like A21 and Destiny Rescue making some serious ground? They all may definitely be doing so and I thank the Lord for this. But I also can't help but think that people may be going to other places.
Fox News states many of the prostitutes blame the decline of business on the rise of escort services that deliver girls to hotels and beach areas—being more popular than their red-light district, which has a reputation for criminal activity.
These beach areas are reportedly notorious for child sex tourism.
ABC news online reports eight young women, three of whom were 15 or 16 years old, were being forced to work in a sex-trafficking ring at the beaches near the main Olympic hub and were rescued by the Rio de Janeiro police.
The rescue was part of a larger sweep before the Olympics to prevent child prostitution. Wonderful news indeed.
Pray for Brazil
I wondered what good I would be doing writing about this and pondered and prayed about what I should write in response. Is raising awareness enough? Is briefly stating some good organisations that we can choose to support helpful? I do not pretend to have the answers and acknowledge prostitution is a complex social issue.
Women Support Project UK states women become involved in prostitution for a variety of reasons such as homelessness, child sexual abuse, mental ill-health, trauma, drug and alcohol misuse, money pressures and poverty. They state these factors should not be mistaken for the cause of prostitution itself, which is the demand from others to buy sex: "If men were not prepared to buy sex, then prostitution would not work as a survival behaviour."
All I know is that if my heart is aching about this situation, then our Creator's heart must be bleeding. I am going to purposefully pray about this situation, the women, men and children involved, and research further into human rights organisations as to how people can help support further rescue missions.
...call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honour me.
Jo Fuller is a primary school teacher with degrees in journalism and education. She currently lives on the Sunshine Coast with her husband and young son.
Jo Fuller's archive of articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/jo-fuller.html