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WHEN the anonymous truckie is done with Leidiane, 11, he will simply push her out of the cab before she looks for her next client. She is a skinny year-old whose parents send her out each night to the highway in a skimpy sun dress to sell her body to truck drivers so her family can eat. Often, when they've finished with her, the truckies just push her out the door of the long drop down from the cabs of their car-carriers or semi-trailers.
Then it's back to the Rio-Bahia, nicknamed "highway of death" for the truckies due to its many hijackings and accidents. The km truck stop which has brought misery for Leidiane and thousands of girls aged as young as nine is now being called "the highway to hell". The "highway of hell", Brazil's km truck stop of underage prostitution. Brazil's major highway, it brings everything from food, electronics, cigarettes, and pharmaceuticals to Brazil's wealthiest cities including Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.
It also passes through scores of poverty stricken villages and towns, to which it brings misery, drug addiction and an epidemic of child prostitution. Mara, now 16, a former street girl from the town of Serrinha, almost halfway along Brazil's sex highway.
On the BR, young girls are regularly kidnapped and taken to brothels where they are enslaved into an existence of beatings and sex with hundreds of adult men. The story has gone largely unreported, but Matt Roper, also a journalist and author, is campaigning to rescue the girls and end the trade which is supported and covered up by police officers, businessmen and government officials as high as deputy governors in regional states across Brazil. Some of them share the profits with gangs and sex traffickers who supply human trade to paedophile rings.
Rebeca, 15, and Milena, 12, child prostitutes rescued from the town of Salgueiro. Picture: Matt Roper. From Leidiane on the motorway near the industrial hub of Governador Valadares, Roper journeyed north. In town after town, young girls who came from the poorest of squalid tin shacks emerged to stand amid rows of seedy motels along a constantly rumbling stream of traffic, waiting for a paid encounter which they euphemistically called a "program".