By Amanda Kloer
Next year promises to be a big one for sports fans, with the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada and the World Cup in South Africa. But will those same events make it a big year for pimps and traffickers as well? Do major sporting events boost forced prostitution?
There are competing answers, with both sides using statistics from former world-wide sporting events to support their position. The Future Group recently released a report stating that there was a significant risk of increased trafficking into prostitution in Vancouver during the upcoming Olympics. They cite the comparison of the 2004 Athens Olympics, during which the number of trafficking victims identified in Greece doubled. On the other hand, a different report from Vancouver’s Sex Worker Safety Action group says that there will be no significant increase in women forced into prostitution during the Olympics. They cite the 2006 World Cup in Germany, which had no significant increase in the number of trafficking victims identified, despite the high estimates from advocacy groups. It seems very little data is available from the 2008 Beijing games, due to the Chinese government’s data censorship.
The logical basis behind the argument that major sporting events pose a threat to increase trafficking of women and children into commercial sex is that these events draw massive numbers of men into one place. Sometimes these men are single, traveling without their families, or in a group of friends; sometimes they are drinking. It stands to reason that some of these men might demand commercial sex as entertainment during their trip, and traffickers will supply the women to meet that increased demand.
It’s logical, yes, but does it happen? Athens saw a spike in human trafficking, but Germany did not. Was the difference the prevention campaigns which were conducted in Germany? Was the Olympics perceived as more profitable by the traffickers than the World Cup? Were men at the World Cup in Germany less interested in buying sex than the men in Greece? We may not know for sure, at least not until we have better information.
Both Vancouver and South Africa, as well as a number of international organizations, are preparing for the possible increase in human trafficking in 2010. I hope that other groups are also preparing to collect better data at these events as well, so we can continue to better understand what sorts of events motivate traffickers to force women into prostitution and how we can prevent them from doing so in the future. It would be a true celebration if 2010 were known only for excellence in athletics, and not in exploitation.