Child protection campaigners have warned tourists about strict criminal penalties for anyone travelling to Brazil and sexually exploiting children at the World Cup this summer.

Last week, Bharti Patel, CEO of UK-based children’s rights charity ECPAT UK, told Sky News Sunrise that British authorities should be prepared to respond to the risks posed to children trapped in the child sexual exploitation epidemic in Brazil by an influx of tourists, some of whom may be known sex offenders, to the country.

Ms Patel discussed the efforts made by campaigners to assist in the prevention of child sex tourism at the World Cup, most notably the Don't Look Away campaign, which aims to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation in travel and tourism, particularly in Brazil, by educating the general public, tourists and the travel industry about this phenomenon and its consequences. 

While there is no direct evidential link between major sporting events and an increase in trafficking and exploitation, the Don’t Look Away campaign, a partnership initiative of ECPAT International, has highlighted the scale of child sexual exploitation in Brazil to demonstrate the need for a unified child protection response at the World Cup.

In 2011, there were more than 250,000 child victims of commercial sexual exploitation in Brazil, with almost 75% of the offenders originating from and travelling within the country. Sexual violence is the second most reported type of crime against children in Brazil, with the majority of victims aged between 10 and 14.

The charity Happy Child, which works mainly in Brazil, launched a campaign last Tuesday called It's A Penalty, backed by the UK's National Crime Agency and footballers including Frank Lampard and Brazil's David Luiz. A year ago, the National Crime Agency’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Command warned in its annual threat assessment that an influx of an estimated 600,000 visitors to Brazil for the World Cup is likely to expand the child sex market. 

“The UK has a responsibility to protect children wherever its citizens may travel," said Ms Patel. "Authorities should be aware of the acute risks to vulnerable children in Brazil. Likewise, anyone travelling to Brazil should be aware of the strict penalties for engaging in this type of criminal abuse."