|SocialismToday Socialist Party magazine|
Remember Me, Rescue Me
By Matt Roper
Authentic Lifestyle Press, 2004, £5-99
"I STORMED over to the blue police cabin and entered without knocking. Inside, an inspector was lounging, watching football on a portable TV.
"‘Have you any idea what is going on out there? A ten-year-old child is being sold to the tourists!’
"He waved me towards the door, not unkindly. ‘There’s nothing I can do, you see, senhor. My job here is to protect the tourists’."
Matt Roper dropped out of a journalism course... in order to become a first class journalist recording the lives of street girls in Brazil.
The book accurately records the grinding poverty which drives these girls into prostitution and the attitude of the authorities. ‘Protecting the tourists’ includes those tourists who have come to Brazil for the sole purpose of picking up underage girls. This is a pattern which emerges in one country after another. As the authorities crack down in Thailand the ‘sex tourism’ trade moves to other areas where the police will ‘protect the tourists’.
The result is that ‘working girls’ will go to great lengths to appear younger. The economics are simple: the gringos come to Brazil for underage sex which is illegal in their own countries... and the gringos will pay the highest prices. The prices are still much lower than in their own countries and they do not risk prosecution.
The very real risk of AIDS is the price these children pay. Many also end up addicted to drugs as a matter of deliberate policy on the part of the rich men who control them.
In cases which he documents girls are enticed from Brazil with promises of marriage only to find they are virtually imprisoned in European countries and forced to work as prostitutes there – never seeing the money which changes hands. About 75,000 girls are estimated to be ‘imprisoned’ in this way in Europe.
All too often books and TV programs about child prostitution are either voyeurism or they attempt to patronise the victims. Matt Roper’s book does neither of these things. He places the blame clearly enough: "Once Recife was the centre of the Brazilian slave trade. More than one hundred years after the abolition of slavery very little seems to have changed. At Boa Viagem dark-skinned girls are bought and sold on the marketplace, taken from their homes and locked up in foreign countries. And the people who are operating this immensely profitable trade are white Europeans".
As a journalist, Matt Roper is not required to provide a political solution to the evils which he brilliantly exposes in this book. However, he does make clear in the book that he believes the answer is Christian charity.
Socialists believe in freedom of religion but recognise the role of the church in the past in defending slavery. This is exemplified by Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America "[Slavery] was established by decree of Almighty God... it is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation... it has existed in all ages, has been found among the people of the highest civilization, and in nations of the highest proficiency in the arts".
Likewise the Christian church remains an important ideological pillar for capitalism, supporting the very system of exploitation which Matt Roper is exposing. Far from rescuing the victims of exploitation its main role has been to add to their burdens a further burden of guilt for their ‘sins’. The Catholic church has also directly assisted in the spread of AIDS by banning condoms.
Indeed Matt Roper himself recognises the fact that for every child who is saved from prostitution by charity – another one or two are recruited by iron economic necessity. He instances a rural village where people can either work in a factory producing farinha or by selling their bodies at the border post.
The wages at the factory are so low that when there is a drought a day’s wages will not buy a litre of water. The dangerous and degrading ‘work’ of prostitution is better paid.
He concludes: "It is always children who bear the brunt of Brazil’s unjust society. Girls like Adeidiane, with her scarred and roughened hands and troubling chest pains, are forced to choose between twelve hours of backbreaking work in a sweatshop, and selling her young body in the street. It is a choice no eleven year-old should ever have to make".
Remember Me, Rescue Me is compelling reading and the reader is certain to remember these smallest victims of exploitation. It is a tribute to those who, often at considerable personal risk, are trying to stem the tide in Brazil and around the world. In the end the victims will only be rescued when the working class take power into their own hands... we can build a better world.
Remember Me, Rescue Me is available from Socialist Books