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If you build it, they will come…


Big sports events = trafficking (or so the perception would have us all believe). Campaigns in anticipation of the Olympics in Athens (2004), World Cup in Germany (2006), Winter Olympics in Canada (2010) and the World Cup in South Africa (2010) have all highlighted this issue.  This has also been the accepted position of the UK Government, some NGOs and the media in the run-up to the London Olympics.  In 2009 the Metropolitan Police Authority warned that the Olympics would lead to a rise in sex trafficking and prostitution.  The following year, Tessa Jowell, then Minister for the Olympics, commented: ‘Major sporting events can be a magnet for the global sex and trafficking industry; this is wholly unacceptable.  I am determined that traffickers will not exploit London 2012.’  Out of this landscape emerged the Human Trafficking and London 2012 Network (henceforth, the Network) which included stakeholders such as Metropolitan Police, the Human Trafficking Foundation and Anti-Slavery International.  According to their website, the Network aims:

to build on lessons learnt from previous sporting events and work with all the relevant agencies to avoid duplication, identify gaps and emerging issues and work together to tackle them. [… and they] have delivered a series of outcomes including securing the commitment of LOCOG and the GLA City Operations Team to give prominence to anti-trafficking messages within promotional materials, ongoing engagement with various sectors to raise-awareness of human trafficking and producing a set of indicators to help identify victims of forced labour.

But is there actually any evidence of a correlation between sporting events and trafficking? This has been the subject of extensive debate.  For example, in a robust examination of this alleged link GAATW, in their report What’s the cost of a rumour?, argued that there was no empirical evidence to back up claims that trafficking for prostitution increased around large sporting events.  Similarly, looking at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Marlise Richter and Wim Delva concluded that their research did not ‘show an increase in the demand or supply of sex work during the 2010 World Cup’ and made a number of recommendations with an emphasis on the need to respect the human rights of sex workers.  In contrast, the Network claimed that their literature review (which drew on publicly available data and reports from 2000 with a primary focus on female sex trafficking) surmised that ‘there is sufficient evidence to be concerned about a potential increase in trafficking and to act now to respond to identified risks of trafficking in all its forms.’  A more conservative position was taken by London Councils, in their 2011 report on this issue.  They concluded:

it is difficult to come to a definitive conclusion on the impact of the 2012 Games on trafficking for sexual exploitation…However, what we can be certain of is that trafficking for sexual exploitation is occurring in the UK, and will continue to happen, irrespective of the 2012 Games.

If no one can really agree on whether there is a correlation between sporting events and trafficking, perhaps it is time that the debate was reframed.

The London Olympics offers a number of significant opportunities for anti-trafficking work.  Firstly, as highlighted in a recent briefing by the Institute for Public Policy Research, the Olympics provides: ‘the political and public impetus for the implementation and funding of much-needed measures to prevent, identify and deal with trafficking.’  This is surely to be welcomed in these financially constrained times, though little detail is provided on the nature of these measures.  Awareness of human trafficking can encourage public funding and increase the profile of individual organisations currently undertaking anti-trafficking work.  It can also provide an opportunity for public discussion on trafficking and an increase in stakeholder engagement.  An example of this can be seen with a leaflet produced by the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility on the role which can be played by hotels in stopping sex trafficking.  Leaving aside some of our concerns with the leaflet itself, such as the fact no mention is made of exploited labour within hotels, or how hotels are supposed to differentiate between female guests, legitimate sex workers and trafficking victims, it does represent a broader concept of stakeholders involved in preventing sex trafficking and places an emphasis on the steps that should be taken by the hotels as well as investors and consumers.

Pushing the issue up the political agenda is also important, assuming we can move past the sex trafficking hysteria.  The more people in power who control and influence policy and legislation and have a good understanding of what trafficking in the UK looks likes, the greater the likelihood that there will be an  improvement in the quality of legislative and policy interventions.  Increased attention on the issue can also potentially contribute to improved transparency and accountability of organisations working on trafficking (for example, the police or immigration); empowering oversight bodies to ask the right questions.  For example: are the Metropolitan police are using the correct trafficking identification markers?  Equally significantly, these processes should increase expertise and understanding of the issues which may cause trafficking, leading to better early interventions and prevention work.

Secondly, and this is noted in the literature review by the Network, the debate on trafficking and sporting events for London 2012 points to the need for an in-depth examination of forced labour within this context.  An excellent example of meaningful dialogue on this issue can be seen with Anti-Slavery International’s (ASI) campaign, Play Fair.  ASI issued a report in concert with the campaign examining the supply chains for Olympic merchandise, which was followed by an agreement with the London Games to ‘protect the rights of workers in its supply chains’ with an emphasis upon greater accountability and transparency of corporations.  Further, in June 2012, the organisation highlighted the issue of forced labour among the UK’s vulnerable populations, such as migrants and the homeless, particularly focusing on false job opportunities being posted in the run-up to the Olympics.

What would TTRP like to see emerge from the London Olympics?  In a nutshell: some really good evaluation which will feed into new research.  While the Network’s Action Plan does include an evaluation, we believe that this can be taken further.  Significantly, we argue that the results of any such evaluation should be made public, so they can contribute to the effort of challenging the stereotypes surrounding trafficking generally, and the relationship between trafficking and sporting events in particular.  We would also like to see strong evidence of what resulted from these initiatives – was there an increase in calls to the trafficking hotline, referrals or requests for assistance, engagement with concerned members of the public?  Similarly, it would be interesting to note if there was an impact upon the human rights of other non-trafficked populations, who may have been affected in the implementation of these initiatives.  Robust evaluation is the only way in which lessons can be learnt and passed onto the next host city; central to the Network’s ability to live up to its commitment to:

leave a legacy of increased awareness of the issue of human trafficking; an improved response for victims; and a model of good practice in preventing human trafficking that could be shared with other major cities hosting future major sporting events.

It would be particularly relevant to evaluate the extent to which this model of good practice did actually prevent trafficking.  Getting it right now or at least learning the lessons if we got it wrong, should mean that the UK could hand over both the Olympic torch and a viable model of best practice, with pride.



  1. bebopper76 says:

    A key point is that on the sidelines the prostitutes themselves are not being listened to. They oppose laws against prostitution. But no one wants to listen to the prostitutes themselves. Only to the self appointed experts that make up numbers and stories many of which have never met a real forced sex slave or if they did it was only a few. The media and government never ask the prostitutes themselves what would help them in terms of laws.

    Sex Trafficking/Slavery is used by many groups as a attempt to outlaw all consensual adult prostitution around the world by saying that all women are victims even if they do it willing. This hurts any real victims because it labels all sex workers as victims. This is done by the media, aid groups, NGO’s, feminists,politicians, and religious organizations that receive funds from the government. There are very strong groups who promote that all adult women who have sex are victims even if they are willing, enjoy it and go out of there way to get it. These groups try to get the public to believe that no adult women in their right mind would ever go into the sex business unless she was forced to do so, weather she knew it or not. They say that 100% of all sex workers are trafficking victims.

    They do this in order to label all men as sex offenders and wipe out all consensual prostitution. Which is what their real goal is. There is almost no one who challenges or questions them about their false beliefs. Therefore, the only voices you hear are of these extreme groups. These groups want to label all men as terrible sex offenders for seeing a willing adult sex worker. No one stands up to say this is foolish, the passive public says nothing.

    These groups even say that all men who marry foreign women are terrible sex predators who take advange of these “helpless foreign women wives”.

    These groups believe that two adults having consensual sex in private should be outlawed. Since they believe that it is impossible for a man to have sex with a woman without abusing the woman in the process.

    This is an example of feminists and other groups exploiting the suffering of a small minority of vulnerable and abused women in order to further their own collective interests. For example, getting money from the government and Charity into their organizations. Rather than wanting to find the truth.

    According to the media hype There was supposed to be hundreds of thousands of under age child sex slaves kidnapped and forced to have sex with super bowl fans. At the Dallas Super Bowl 2011. WHAT HAPPENED TO ALL OF THEM???????? Where are they???????????

    Well, as I predicted it was all a big lie told by various anti-prostitution groups and the Dallas Women’s Foundation which is a anti-prostitution group that lies in order to get grant money from the government and charities to pay their high salaries. As proved in the link below:

    Top FBI agent in Dallas (Robert Casey Jr.) sees no evidence of expected spike in child sex trafficking:

    “Among those preparations was an initiative to prevent an expected rise in sex trafficking and child prostitution surrounding the Super Bowl. But Robert Casey Jr., special agent in charge of the FBI’s Dallas office, said he saw no evidence that the increase would happen, nor that it did.
    “In my opinion, the Super Bowl does not create a spike in those crimes,” he said. “The discussion gets very vague and general. People mixed up child prostitution with the term human trafficking, which are different things, and then there is just plain old prostitution.”

    This myth of thousands or millions of underage sex slaves tries to make every sports fan a sex criminal. No matter what the sport is, or in what country it is in.

    Brian McCarthy isn’t happy. He’s a spokesman for the NFL. Every year he’s forced to hear why his customers are adulterers and child molesters. Brian McCarthy says the sport/super bowl sex slave story is a urban legend, with no truth at all.

    I would like to see a news organization do a full report on the lies, myths and exaggerated numbers being told about sex trafficking slaves. The articles about the super bowl sex slaves, has been proved wrong many times, but news organizations still report about it, as if it were fact.

    == World Cup 2006 ==

    Politicians, religious and aid groups, still repeat the media story that 40,000 prostitutes were trafficked into Germany for the 2006 world cup – long after leaked police documents revealed there was no truth at all in the tale. A baseless claim of 25,000 trafficking victims is still being quoted, recently, for example, by the Salvation Army in written evidence to the home affairs select committee, in which they added: “Other studies done by media have suggested much higher numbers.” Which has been proven by the German police to be completely false. Yet people still talk about these false numbers as if it were fact.

    ==World Cup 2010 ==
    Again using the made up number of 40,000 prostitutes trafficked:

    The behavior of fans in South Africa has run contrary to what was predicted prior to the start of the tournament after David Bayever told World Cup organizers in March it was feared that up to 40,000 extra prostitutes could converge in the host nation to meet the expected demand. Bayever, deputy chairperson of South Africa’s Central Drug Authority (CDA) that advises on drug abuse but also works with prostitutes, warned: “Forty-thousand new prostitutes. As if we do not have enough people of our own, we have to import them to ensure our visitors are entertained.”

    But the tournament in 2010, if anything, has seen the modern-day soccer fan attracted to art galleries and museums over brothels.

    A trend that has seen a drop in revenue across the board for the prostitution industry, which is illegal in South Africa. “Zobwa,” the chairperson of Sisonke — an action group representing around 70 street prostitutes in Johannesburg — said business had been down over the last month. “The World Cup has been devastating. We thought it was going to be a cash cow but it’s chased a lot of the business away. It’s been the worst month in my company’s history,” the owner and founder of one of Johannesburg’s most exclusive escort companies told CNN.

    In recent years, every time there has been a major international sporting event, a group of government officials, campaigning feminists, pliant journalists and NGOs have claimed that the movement of thousands of men to strange foreign countries where there will be lots of alcohol and horniness will result in the enslavement of women for the purposes of sexual pleasure. Obviously. And every time they have simply doubled the made-up scare figures from the last international sporting event, to make it look like this problem of sport/sex/slavery gets worse year on year. Yet each year it is proved false.

    This myth tries to make every sports fan a sex criminal. No matter what the sport is, or in what country it is in. These anti-prostitution groups need to in invent a victim that does not exist in order to get press attention.
    There is a lot of controversy over the topics of sex trafficking, sex slavery, human trafficking and forced prostitution. Regarding what the definition is, the research methods used to find statistics, what the definition of a victim is, the number of child and adult victims involved, forced vs. unforced sex, how the actual prostitutes themselves feel about it, and legal vs. illegal prostitution.

    There is a lot of controversy over the numbers of adult woman who are forced sex slaves. The real factual answer is that no one knows. There is hard evidence that the sex slavery/sex trafficking issue continues to report false information and is greatly exaggerated by politicians, the media, and aid groups, feminist and religious organizations that receive funds from the government, The estimate of adult women who become new sex slaves ranges anywhere from 40 million a year to 5,000 per year all of which appear to be much too high. They have no evidence to back up these numbers, and no one questions them about it. Their sources have no sources, and are made up numbers. In fact if some of these numbers are to believed which have either not changed or have been increased each year for the past twenty years, all woman on earth would currently be sex slaves. Yet, very few real forced against their will sex slaves have been found.

    Sex trafficking is illegal and the pentities are very severe. It is very difficult to force someone to be a sex slave, they would have to have 24 hour guards posted and be watched 365 days a year, 24 hours per day. Have the threat of violence if they refused, and have no one notice and complain to the authorities or police. They would need to hide from the general public yet still manage to see customers from the general public and not have the customers turn the traffickers in to the police. They would need to provide them with medical care, food, shelter, and have all their basic needs met. They would need to have the sex slaves put on a fake front that they enjoyed what they were doing, act flirtatious and do their job well. They would have to deal with the authorities looking for the missing women, and hide any money they may make, since it comes from illegal activity. They must do all of this while constantly trying to prevent the sex slaves from escaping and reporting them to the police. They would need to prevent the general public from reporting them into the police. This is extremely difficult to do, which makes this activity rare. These criminals would be breaking dozens of major laws not just one. Kidnapping itself is a serious crime. There are many laws against sex trafficking, sex slavery, kidnapping, sex abuse, rape, sexual harassment etc. If someone is behind it, they will be breaking many serious laws, be in big trouble, and will go to jail for many long years. And do you actually think that there is a long line of people who want to have a career as a sex slave kidnapping pimp?

    Here are some good websites about sex trafficking:






    • TTRP says:

      Thank you for your detailed comment; you raise a lot of really interesting points. The real problem is, as you say, the lack of concrete information; the difficulty is establishing the extent of the problem and thus effective measures to tackle it. However, this is not to say that sex trafficking is not an issue in London and indeed elsewhere. We hope to have a guest post soon on sex workers and the impact on their rights of the trafficking discourse.

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