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Girl, 7, gets OK to be samba queen in Rio

By Associated Press
February 11, 2010

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RIO DE JANEIRO - A family court judge ruled yesterday that a 7-year-old girl should be allowed to samba before a crowd of thousands as a Carnival drum corps queen, a coveted role normally reserved for sultry models.

Little Julia Lira is scheduled to perform for the packed Sambadrome stadium - and for millions more around the country via live television - early Monday morning when the Viradouro samba group parades.

“We received the news this morning that the judge will let Julia parade,’’ Viradouro said spokeswoman Joice Hurtado. “The group is ecstatic that she will be able to samba.’’

The Rio state agency for child protection confirmed the ruling and said it would appeal to the Justice Ministry. Calls to Judge Ivone Caetano, who decided the case, were not returned.

Viradouro’s plan to make Julia its Carnival queen has created a stir in Rio and made headlines around the globe, with some child’s rights advocates saying it’s inappropriate for a young girl to be in such a traditionally sexualized role.

“The decision sets a negative precedent that will have implications across Brazil,’’ said Carlos Nicodemos, who as director of the Rio de Janeiro state Council for the Defense of Children and Adolescents had asked the court to block Julia’s participation.

Julia’s father, Marco - who is also the president of Viradouro - has said concerns about the girl’s well-being are overblown. He says the girl will wear a costume that is not too skimpy for a 7-year-old.