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Court to rule on risque Rio Carnival role for samba girl, 7

She is the Shirley Temple of samba, a seven-year-old named to a coveted Rio Carnival role normally reserved for barely clad models who have undergone more plastic surgery operations than Julia Lira has seen birthdays.

Naming the girl drum corps queen for the Viradouro samba group is raising eyebrows even in a city that has seen everything during the annual mega-party.

A judge is considering blocking Julia’s participation in the event which begins next week.

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A state agency says she’s too young to take on a traditionally sexy role but the girl’s father, president of the Viradouro group, says Julia can easily samba through the 80-minute parade.

“Any man who looks at a seven-year-old child and feels any sort of excitement should go see a doctor,” Marco Lira said. “She has the aptitude to be a drum corps queen … she has a seriousness inside of her when she is on the stage.”

At the delicate core of Julia’s case is the queen’s traditional role in Rio de ­Janeiro’s carnival: that of sexy muse. Unlike other participants, she is usually not bare-chested and wears more than just glitter. But queen costumes would be considered revealing by any estimation.

Brazil has long had a problem with sexual exploitation of children. Allowing Julia to be a drum corps queen “would increase the treatment of children as sexual objects in society,” said Carlos Nicodemos, head of the state Council for the Defence of Children and Adolescents.

“We’re not against kids participating in Carnival,” he added. “But what we can’t allow is putting a seven-year-old girl in a role that traditionally for Carnival has a very sexual focus.”

The competition among the 12 top-tier samba groups is fierce, and the winners are hailed by fans across Brazil. Viradouro is no stranger to controversy. In 2008, a judge blocked the group’s use of a dancer dressed as Hitler on a float loaded with naked people representing Holocaust victims, after the display caused an international outcry.

Julia’s fate is now in the hands of a family court in Rio. The judge examining the case has declined to comment.

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