Page last updated at 09:53 GMT, Thursday, 11 February 2010

Rio carnival parade to have dancing queen aged seven

Julia Lira with her father Marco in Rio, 10 February
Julia Lira will be the youngest ever drum corps queen

A Brazilian judge has overruled objections from a child rights agency and allowed a seven-year-old girl to lead a Rio de Janeiro carnival parade.

The Viradouro carnival drum corps queen is a coveted role normally reserved for sultry models, correspondents say.

The artistic director of Julia Lira's samba school said there was no question of "turning her into a woman" and her costume would emphasise her innocence.

Rio's state child protection agency is to lodge an appeal against the ruling.

I feel it's very inappropriate for a child to be involved in a very explicit, obviously adult event
Gordon Sherriff-Smith, Melbourne, Australia

According to Brazilian media reports, the judge handling child welfare matters in Rio found no objection to Julia becoming the youngest dancing queen ever to appear in the parades.

She is now scheduled to lead the Viradouro samba parade in the packed Sambadrome stadium in Rio on Sunday night, with millions of people around the country watching her on live TV.

Child's rights advocates have argued it is inappropriate for a young girl to be put in what has been an erotically charged role.

Marco Lira, the girl's father and president of Viradouro, said concerns about Julia's well-being were being exaggerated.

He said his daughter would wear a costume that was not too skimpy for a seven-year-old, and that both he and his wife would watch her closely to make sure she did not get too tired during the 80-minute parade.

"She is my daughter, any father knows what I'm talking about," he added.

"No one wants to exploit their child, she does not need that and I don't need that."

Carlos Nicodemos, director of the Rio de Janeiro state council for the defence of children and adolescents, said the court ruling set a "negative precedent" for Brazil.

He asked what message the decision sent to a nation that has long had a problem with sexual exploitation of children.

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