A Brazilian court's ruling that sex with a 12-year-old does not necessarily constitute statutory rape has outraged human rights activists, the Associated Press reported.
Amnesty International has slammed a ruling this week by Brazil's Superior Court of Justice that a man accused of having sex with three 12-year-olds could not be convicted of rape because of extenuating circumstances, including the fact the girls had previously worked as prostitutes.
It called the verdict an "affront to the most basic human rights."
"This shocking ruling effectively gives a green light to rapists and if it prevails could dissuade other survivors of sexual abuse from reporting these crimes," the AP cited Atila Roque, head of the group’s Brazil branch, as saying.
Brazilian law forbids sex with anyone under the age of 14, but that law was adopted in 2009. The court said the fact that the alleged crime happened in 2002 was another extenuating circumstance and upheld the rulings of lower courts in Sao Paulo.
"It is of extreme concern that the protections provided by Brazil’s legislation in cases such as these have not been implemented," the Amnesty statement said.
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According to a 2005 report by the LATimes, underage prostitution was proving a draw card for European men engaging in sex tourism in Brazil.
Travel agencies in Italy, Germany and other countries openly market tour packages to Brazil that included the services of female escorts, "sometimes girls barely into their teens," the Times wrote.
It cited the arrest in Italy of a travel agent who allegedly arranged trips to Brazil for customers interested in having sex with underage girls.
Ahead of the 2014 World Cup, Brazil has begun started distributing posters and ads warning that sexual exploitation of minors is a crime, according to a report in the Washington Post.
The posters have been distributed in countries from where most tourists to Brazil come from — the United States, Germany, Italy, France, the Netherlands and Spain, the paper reported.
And Brazil's Tourism Ministry this week said it had identified 2,169 websites promoting Latin America’s biggest country as a sex tourism destination in 2011.
The ministry said the websites, many of them hosted in the United States, showed photos of women in sensual poses and invitations for sexual encounters with minors.
Meanwhile, Brazil’s human rights minister, Maria do Rosario Nunes, pledged to try to get the appeals court verdict overturned, the AP reported.
The court’s president, Ari Pargendler, has said it is open to revising the decision.
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