Brazil has launched an investigation into allegations that an American fishing tour operator used his boat excursions to facilitate sexual activities with underage indigenous girls.
Brazil's ministers for women's rights and human rights met with police investigators and prosecutors Monday to discuss the sex tourism allegations, the Associated Press Reports. The minister for women's rights, Iriny Lopes, has proposed increasing vigilance over tourism in the Amazon region to prevent such activities.
"The country cannot stand idly by before allegations of this sort," she told the AP.
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The investigation comes after four Brazilian women accused a fishing operator of luring young indigenous girls onto his boat with promises of jobs. Once the girls were on board, they were allegedly drugged and forced to perform sexual activities with tourists on the boat.
The women, who were between 12 and 17 years old at the time of the alleged acts, filed a lawsuit in the United States against Richard Schair, a former operator of a fishing tour company, last month.
Schair has denied the charges and has accused a competitor of using the charges to ruin his business.
Kristen Berg, an official with the advocacy group Equality Now that helped bring the lawsuit, told the New York Times this was the first time a federal law is being used to seek damages related to sex tour operators. She said she hopes the case sets precedent for overseas child sex tourism cases.
“Brazil is taking over from Thailand as a premier sex tourism vacation” spot, she told the Times.
The U.S. Justice Department is also conducting a criminal investigation into the use of sports fishing expeditions as covers for sex tourism in the Amazon, it reports.
Schair filed a motion Thursday asking the lawsuit be stayed given the criminal investigations in Brazil and the United States.