Sex Trafficking at the 2010 World Cup

Suki — 07/2010
The World Cup and other high profile sporting events have always been huge draws for sex traffickers. However, as long as prostitution is considered separate from trafficking, sex slavery will continue.

T HERE ARE NOT THAT MANY articles on the sex trafficking going on at the 2010 World Cup, and the few that are scattered around all seem to hold the same misapprehensions about prostitution. There is an emphasis on distinguishing between trafficking and prostitution; in truth, prostitution victimizes women and girls, whether they are 'technically' trafficked or not. Sale of the body typically inflicts great harm on the girl: violence and degradation, drugging to be able to withstand the nature of the 'work,' control by pimps or owners. This is not limited to the 'trafficked.' Poverty, desperation, vulnerability, entry into the 'trade' very young (13 or 14 is the average age at which girls are first sold — worldwide) — all of this is just the norm. Very few happy, safe, free, protected, contented, undamaged prostitutes exist. To draw a line between the prostituted and the trafficked — as if one set of women were being sold by choice — is to fail to recognize this dreadful violation of a basic human right — control over our own bodies. How many safe, protected, educated, privileged girls are going to choose to be sold to men they do not know? How many will jump at the chance to become drug addicts so that they can dull the misery of violation?

To illustrate my point, here is the opening of an article by Ellen Knickmeyer on The Daily Beast (30 May 2010):

"Sex on the sidelines is a World Cup tradition. In 2006, when the games took place in Germany where prostitution is legal, 'sex zones' and 'sex huts' brought together sex workers and soccer fans from around the world." Her phrasing makes it seem as if the women are doing this voluntarily: the majority of 'sex workers' in Germany are sex slaves. Trafficked, prostituted girls controlled by their owners; the girls see little of the money they are raped for every day.

Knickmeyer does mention the exploitative aspect of trafficking: "More than one in ten South Africans live with HIV and among prostitutes, the rate reaches one in four. For trafficked prostitutes, the rate jumps to 90 percent, according to Ben Skinner, a Harvard fellow who writes on the sex trade and sex trafficking."

She also notes the age issue: "For under-aged girls trafficked into prostitution during the World Cup, AIDS and tuberculosis is 'the end-game for those children,' said Skinner, adding that an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 of the prostitutes for the games will be girls under 18." And she reports that one response of the South African government to the trafficking is to "give out more than 1.5 billion condoms."

Handing out condoms does not protect the prostituted body from the ongoing rape that is her lot. Trafficked girls can rarely negotiate condom use anyway, so protection from AIDS is completely beyond their control.

In the area of religious commentary, we have a blog article by Kate Shellnutt "World Cup Sex Trafficking Concerns Churches" (8 June 2010).

She writes: "News reports and public service announcements on South African TV estimate up to 100,000 people may fall victim to sex trafficking during the FIFA World Cup…. Concerned churches from across the globe are sending missionaries to the games to minister to sex workers and work alongside social services to help them."

What I would like to see is reports of the girls being rescued, the pimps and traffickers being prosecuted. I looked in vain for such coverage after the 2006 World Cup. Please, if you are rescuing and sheltering girls and giving them alternative lives, let us know. By now, we all know how hard it is, anywhere in the world, for a girl to 'exit' prostitution in any meaningful sense. Girls are re-trafficked, or are too terrified to testify against their owners, or too abused and broken and conditioned to leave prostitution — these are typical circumstances. Let us hear some stories of rescue from South Africa. It would help to dispel the deep gloom I feel whenever I hear the words 'World Cup.' While fans cheer and have fun, girls in sexual slavery are having the insides raped out of them. What cause for 'cheer' and 'fun' could there be in this?

Shellnutt goes on: "There's always been worry that the World Cup — such a huge, international event — will bring in customers to exploit local women and children, turning them into sex slaves, bought and sold as the property of pimps." Why does she use the word 'customers,' I wonder? Are the men who rape the insides out of enslaved bodies 'customers' in any sense of the word?

Shellnutt's comment on a previous World Cup: "During the 2006 World Cup in Germany (where prostitution is legal), brothels expanded to meet demand so the estimated boost in sex trafficking didn't happen." What is so fascinating about this comment is her assumption that the 'expansion' of brothels meant that the places were full of willing women and girls. Most of the Eros Centres in Germany are full of women and girls who are trafficked, owned, pimped, controlled. The girls make little money — the majority of it goes to their 'owners.' If the brothels 'expanded,' they did so due to the trafficking in of enslaved beings. Utterly amazing that she should see no connection between the expansion of the brothels and the enslaved nature of the new inmates. Where does she think all these girls came from? Did 40,000 fresh new sweet free happy protected well-educated girls just all of a sudden decide they wanted the life of the prostitute — with all of its humiliation and sexual breaking and sadness and sexual agony?

My depression over Shellnutt's comments was dispelled a bit by this response of a reader to her blog: "Why is the concern just during the world cup? Where have they been the last 100 years?"

The Human Trafficking Project calls itself "a site dedicated to raising awareness of modern day slavery and exploring innovative solutions to stop it." Yet in their May 20, 2010 "Countdown to the 2010 World Cup" piece, they tell us this: "Although it is hard to make an accurate estimate of the number of sex workers that will…be present, it is clear that they are already arriving in force and their numbers undoubtedly include those who will be working against their will." If this site is really aware of modern day slavery, then how is it that they can view prostitution, with all of its violence and social ostracism and sexual degradation, as voluntary? Yet they imply that this is the case by saying that some will be 'working against their will.' There is no 'with her will' in the case of the prostituted. What woman or girl wants to be treated the way the prostitute is? There is no 'choice' involved. Sexual harm is inflicted on the prostituted, whether you label her 'trafficked' or not. "Arriving in force" says this site — I ask, who are all these eager girls flocking to South Africa to be raped for money? The most impoverished, the most desperate, and the most exploited of human beings. Let us get rid of this idea that there is some sort of dividing line between the 'trafficked' and the 'prostituted.' It is all part of a damaging, miserable picture of sexual exploitation of the female body and breaking of the female spirit.

The site goes on: "According to the Christian Science Monitor, local hotel employees report seeing an influx of prostitutes from many different countries, from as far away as China, Pakistan, India, Hong Kong, and Venezuela, although the primary source country for incoming sex workers appears to be Zimbabwe."

'Sex workers.' That pernicious phrase again. This is not work. The rape of the body is not work. This is obvious. And that word 'influx' — implying all these eager girls are just bursting to rush in there and be raped to pieces so that there owners can make money off of them? The misuse of language, the inaccuracy with which language is used to obscure the sexual reality and pain of these girls' lives, has got to stop. Journalists have to start realizing the implications of the words they choose.

During the World Cup, I would like to see ESPN do extensive coverage of the massive sex trafficking of girls to 'entertain' the fans (and maybe the players and journalists as well?). Trafficking involves 'breaking' girls through beatings, ongoing rape, drugging — to make the victims passive — and then comes continuous rape by 'customers' — so that the 'owners' can take the money.

Before the Cup started, men were 'breaking in' 13-and 14-year-old South African girls — readying them for the fans--and also selling young girls to the workers constructing the stadiums. Rape of bought bodies was going on right outside Nelson Mandela Stadium. What cruel irony: a place named after a man who symbolizes fighting for freedom — and enslaved girls getting the insides rammed out of them right next door to it. (Skinner reports this breaking in and selling of young girls to the construction workers in his Time article. Did any of the workers have daughters the same age as the girls they violated, I wonder?)

In addition to African girls, ones have been imported for fan-rape from Asia, South America, and the Slavic countries. How would all the men who buy these girls react if it were their own sisters or daughters this was happening to?

While the rape of trafficked girls is going on as the fans cheer, I really don't see how the outcome of a soccer game can have any significance at all. Isn't the sexual destruction of the female body of far more importance than a couple of goals shot into a net? I mean, how can anyone possibly care about who kicks a ball into a net while the rape of helpless girls is going on outside the stadiums?

And what do the female fans think? They must know of all the brothelized, enslaved girls. Do female fans not mind this horrendous sexual mistreatment of other women? Do the women journalists there not care? Young girls are being raped and given AIDS and other women, safe ones, don't mind? Just asking. They are questions that need to be asked.

I wondered about all of this greatly during the 2006 World Cup in Germany, but then I realized that rape of the enslaved and prostituted was an everyday affair in their country, so the German women must just walk on buy — unheeding — every day, not just during the World Cup? It does not bother them that legal rape of the enslaved goes on as a norm in their country?

How could anyone care about a ball being kicked into a net when girls are suffering so dreadfully? This is the big question. One even more puzzling than all of the others.

I have been disappointed in ESPN not giving extensive coverage to the trafficking since, before the Cup, they did a good job on "Outside the Lines" (updated 7 June 2010) of reporting about "Human Trafficking and the World Cup." They told the story of one prostituted being in South Africa, a girl named Jasmine, who was first sold when she was 12. Her story is the typical one of rape, drug addiction, fear and sadness — all the elements of prostitution. Finally, a story that gives us a body and a life and an individual. One of the sadder aspects of Jasmine is that she cannot even recognize the extent of how badly she has been exploited. She does not see herself as trafficked, so she wonders if she is really suitable for the ESPN interview. Yet, since age 12, she has been treated as a paid fuckhole for men. Her upbringing has apparently let her to accept herself as a non-being, fit only for rape as a prostitute. Violent German pimps who imprisoned her in an apartment led her to find refuge at a safe house. Even after this horrifying resume, she still does not think she has been 'trafficked'? Surely her life illustrates the fine, perhaps non-existent line, between the trafficked and the prostituted.

Consider also the extreme situation of many South African girls with the majority of children living in poverty, with the huge number of vulnerable AIDS orphans — under these circumstances, how could one possibly consider being prostituted as a 'choice' any different from the act of being 'trafficked.' Free, 'voluntary' prostitutes can only exist if there is no coercion of any sort — economic or otherwise. And, of course, prostitutes can only be considered 'voluntary' and free if they are respected. Apparently, they are treated like dirt in South Africa, as they are in the rest of the world.

I would just like to repeat that it really astounds me that anyone could care about who

kicks a ball into a net given the sexual agony that these sporting events promote. Only when there is no longer any prostitution can we consider putting on a World Cup (or an Olympics, where sex trafficking is also rampant). And, of course, the problem is not limited to just sporting events: when the fans leave, the girls are still enslaved.

Back to "Outside the Lines" on sex trafficking, there were other sections of the coverage, unfortunately, that implied prostituted girls in Germany were not exploited. Again a complete failure to realize that the 'prostituted' and the 'trafficked' are both being subjected to all the harm and misery and degradation of being used by men they do not know, often under violent conditions. Here is what OTL says about Germany and the sex trafficking during the 2006 World Cup:

"A 2007 report by the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration…found 'the estimates of 40,000 foreign prostitutes or even 40,000 forced prostitutes were not supported.'

"Of the 33 suspected human trafficking cases reported to the Federal Criminal Police Office in Germany, 'only five cases were assumed to have a direct link to the 2006 World Cup,' according to the IOM report.

"Prostitution was legal in Germany during the 2006 World Cup and remains legal today. Numerous advocacy groups say the policing strategies and public awareness campaigns before the World Cup in Germany had the effect of dramatically reducing the number of trafficking victims who ultimately were discovered there."

Now, what is fascinating about this information is the way it disregards the fact that about 400,000 trafficked victims make up the majority of the prostituted beings in Germany. These girls are 'legally' raped in Eros Centres and their owners take most of the money. Only a tiny number of women, mostly German, work as what one could term 'free' prostitutes under this 'legal' system. One must consider that very few women or girls would chose this as a way of life. How can one say that the prostituted girls in Germany are not exploited — that they are not 'trafficked,' when most are owned and controlled? There seems to be some huge illusion operating that because prostitution is legal there, it is safe and beneficial for the female. How can use all day by men you do not know while someone else takes the money be considered non-exploitative? OTL quotes numbers: "Of the 33 suspected human trafficking cases reported… only five cases were assumed to have a direct link to the 2006 World Cup." In light of the number of trafficked girls in Germany, these number are ludicrous. It is well known that trafficked/prostituted beings rarely are able to go to the police — and in many places do not since the police are often corrupt and in league with the traffickers — so how can this number in any way represent with any accuracy the state of sexual slavery of most prostituted beings in Germany? It like saying only 3 rapes happened in, say, Vietnam during that country's war-torn years since almost none of the hundreds of thousands of raped girls and women had the courage to come forward and be 'shamed' for their 'complicity' in the act. There is not a mote of accuracy in these kinds of sexual statistics when girls are terrified and shamed due to the abuse of their own bodies.

As for the legal aspect, every place 'legalization' has occurred, sexual slavery has increased enormously. OTL quotes "Tonya Stanfield, network director of Justice [ACTS], a Cape Town anti-trafficking group" on this subject:

"'How can you decriminalize an industry that is interlaced with organized crime and drug addiction?' Stanfield said. 'How can you bring some sort of order to that and police that in a way that sex workers are free to be sex workers and have the rights of all workers, when the people they are working for don't care a lick about human rights?'"

Her comment highlights that prostitution itself, under current systems, is inherently exploitative. You can't assume that, because the girls in a Cape Town brothel aren't trafficked, that they aren't suffering. Only a system of prostitution with no pimps; complete freedom as to choice of customers; safe, non-violent, dignified working conditions — only this sort of picture could be considered non-exploitative. How many prostituted beings live and work under those rosy conditions? Just placing a woman, as a body for fuck, in a place called 'brothel' (read 'rape house') with no choice as to who enters her body is sexual slavery. I stand by my view that almost all forms of prostitution on this planet are closely allied to rape and, in many cases, inflict rape of the most severe and devastating sort on the woman or girl. In yet another place with 'legal' rape, Amsterdam, some girls are violated by half a dozen different men an hour. How one cannot call the use of these sexually-dead bodies rape is beyond me. And, of course, the girls themselves cannot call it 'rape' because they are too numb and sexually destroyed to make any judgments at all.

The articles on sex trafficking at the World Cup are typical of the misunderstandings about prostitution that one finds in most writing on this topic — the failure to recognize that prostitution is almost always a form of sexual enslavement — whether the girl is designated as 'trafficked' or not. I am always astounded at this fundamental misperception, even among people who work against trafficking.

Other misperceptions also turn up regularly. For example, I ran across some comments on Change.org (26 June 2010) by Amanda Kloer, an 'abolitionist,' who writes that "the female condom may be especially important for victims of human trafficking…. Increasingly, advocates are beginning to realize that female condoms may be crucial to helping women who have been disempowered to protect themselves during sex… Even female condoms aren't going to solve the central problem of sex trafficking — that victims aren't free to control their sexual situation. That means buyers and pimps can still object to even female condom use. But getting trafficking victims access to female condoms may give them a tool to protect themselves that they can actually use."

The attitude in the above is utterly baffling. How, I ask, would one actually provide trafficked women and girls with female condoms? If one is that close to the trafficked victim, then the logical and compassionate step is to get this girl or woman out of that rape-bed, immediately. Take her away from those who are violating and destroying and abusing her. Secondly, the female condom interferes with the most important fact of sex in the world: that man must get his pleasure during fuck no matter what. It does not matter if he destroys a prostituted girl's life and body. This fact rules the world: man must get his pleasure during fuck no matter what. (I hesitate to use such a neutral word as 'sex' for what is inflicted on the prostituted body: it is violation, rape, fuck — nothing neutral, or tender, about it.) So, no way the 'client-rapist' who refuses the male condom would ever allow the other kind.

And who, I ask, is to get these female condoms to the trafficked girls? Do we have a group of social workers sitting outside the door of the brothel, helpfully providing this device to customer number twenty-seven as he goes in to climb aboard the already dead- from-exhaustion-and-trauma body? If social workers are close enough to the victims to see that the girls are trafficked, then isn't the only possible next step a release of the girls from their rape bondage? Is a condom so that the girl can be used twenty-eight times what we really need here?

The big sporting events, like the World Cup and the Olympics, seem to exacerbate what is already an overwhelming problem: the prostitution and degradation of the female body — and, by extension, the sexual enslavement of all women everywhere. Rape one of us and you rape us all. The most wretched of women — those who have had their sexuality and hence the essence of their being stripped from them---are simply an accepted norm. Men have to party and fuck: this is a given.

What I'd like to see is the London 2012 Olympics be the first that actually makes a huge difference — the stopping of trafficking completely — and, by extension (another of those 'extensions'), the elimination of all prostituted beings in all of England — forever. Was a difference made in Vancouver earlier this year? I heard and read about groups strongly protesting the possible trafficking, particularly of aboriginal girls, for many months before the Olympics. But almost nothing during the Games: I would have loved to hear stories of rescued girls. Maybe London will give us this — and more. Maybe Emma Thompson, who has taken up the cause of sex trafficking, will participate and help to bring this subject to the attention of the world. That's way more important that kicking a ball into a net.