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Do sports fans have veracious sexual appetites. From the hype that surrounds large sporting events and sex work it would appear to be the case. Worldwide story hungry press and anti prostitution groups present the public with stories that misinform and sensationalise the relationship between sporting events and sex work. These events and trafficking for prostitution have been portrayed as going in hand in hand, with large numbers (sometimes in the thousands) of women supposedly being trafficked to meet the assumed extra demand for paid sexual services. Worryingly, as it effects polices for these events, "On various occasions, politicians have uncritically repeated these claims" (McLaren 2009). Such claims are based on misinformation as there is no evidence that supports either the assumed demand for sex workers or an increase trafficking. The evidence actually shows that demand drops and trafficking for large sporting events is negilable. The policy's put in place around these events can have a direct effect on local sex workers and the 'on the ground services' that support them. Focusing on the London 2012 Olympics and the South Africa World Cup 2010 to underpin the discussion, we will explore press stories, government attitudes and law enforcement policies in the run up to the these events, the effects of these policies for local sex workers and examine the extent of paid sexual service demand and trafficking associated with these international sporting events.
Before The South Africa World Cup 2010 and The London 2012 Olympics worldwide press published vice related head lines. Publications such as the telegraph, the independent, global post and USA today all published articles stating that 40, 000 new prostitutes were being recruited in to South Africa for the 2010 world cup in other words they would be trafficked for sex work, Similar stories were also being aired on TV news channels in South Africa in the run up to the opening ceremonies. The possibility of the 2012 Olympics being a magnet for sex trafficking and increased numbers of sex workers began emerging almost as soon as London was awarded the 2012 games with the BBC publishing an article in July 2009 with the head line "Games may spark prostitution rise" this concern was echoed by Harriet Harman , the then leader of the house of commons , in her speech at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton in Sept 2009 "We're determined to ensure that, especially in the run up to the Olympics, international criminal gangs don't trick and abduct women from abroad and sell them for sex in London". Harriet Harman was not alone in voicing her fears, Tessa Jowell, the Olympics minister was quoted in the Telegraph March 2010 as saying "Trafficking women for prostitution is a vile trade and we need to treat very seriously any suggestion the Olympics might encourage it".
It is press stories and comments of this sort the fuel the hysteria around mega sporting events, prostitution and trafficking. But where are these ideas steaming from? There are several points to consider when looking at this question; assumptions surrounding masculinity, sporting events and trafficking for prostitution are based on hetero-normative or heterosexist beliefs about masculinity and femininity. Crowds at these events are believed to be predominantly male and demanding commercial sex. Michelle Miller from South African anti prostitution group Embrace Dignity is just one of the voices perpetuating this idea "When you have a mega event... trafficking increases because the demand increases, at times when you have men going away from their social networks, they're more likely to pay for sex." These sentiments are echoed by gobal anti prostitution group's including Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), Equality Now, the Protection Project, Standing Against Global Exploitation (SAGE), Poppy Project. It is groups such as these that try to invoke a moral panic around sex work and in turn, a response from police and governments in the host countries of these events. It has been argued by J. Ham 2011 in her report "The Cost of a rumour" that governments can use mega sporting events to be seen to be doing something about trafficking and sex workers without having to tackle the issues of Gender discrimination, Abject poverty especially among women in developing countries , lack of political, social and economical stability, Absence of reasonable and realistic prospects, poverty of access to education and information , all of which can be identified as underlying causes of trafficking ..In 2000 the Palermo protocol was introduced , it defines human trafficking as the recruitment transportation, transfer harbouring or receipt of person(s) by threat or use of force , coercion deception, abduction, abuse of power fraud, , predominantly for exploitation, including prostitution, sexual exploitation , forced labour and slavery . From this definition it can be seen that trafficking women into prostitution is not the same as sex workers who migrate, under their volition to other countries for work ,people who aid sex workers migrate to other countries for sex work and that sex work itself is vastly different form trafficking . Anti prostitution groups do however conflate the two believing that eradicating sex work will decrease trafficking this can make for a powerful moral rhetoric.
In both South Africa and London there were efforts made to combat the expected influx of sex workers. In South Africa 90 government officials completed a five-day training workshop, designed to give government officials the information and skill to respond to and prevent human trafficking. It was reported, in the telegraph .that ahead of the world cup in South Africa police were dressing as sex workers in crack downs on street sex workers while in London a specialist metropolitan police unit, the SCD9 a unit of the London Metropolitan police that 'coordinate activity in relation to criminality that exploits migration53' and "monitor London's off street prostitution industry where emphasis is placed on rescuing trafficked and coerced victims54. was involved in closing brothels and forcing street sex work out of the Olympic host boroughs as part of their plan to find and rescues victims of trafficking.
In the U.K. it is not illegal to for consenting adults to participate in sex for monetary gain however operations around this transaction such as advertising and working with other sex workers are Illegal and in South Africa sex work itself is illegal. This criminalisation makes accessing on the ground services that offer free and confidential health care and advice (to a group who are often unsure of their rights) a necessity. At the best of times sex workers are a vulnerable demographic but when to forced to leave their normal working environments during any crack downs, this situation is exacerbated. Relationships of trust built up over time with on the ground support services are severed leaving sex workers in an even more vulnerable position than previously. This displacement and isolation can lead to the death of a sex worker, Brooks Gordon in her book The price of sex, gives detailed information on many sex workers who have been murdered after police crack downs on prostitution.
From the Media coverage the public had been lead to expect both events to be swamped by sex workers and trafficking. Did this huge influx really happen? What was the post event reality? A study by Devla at Al (2011) in South Africa conducted telephone surveys of female sex workers who had advertised before and during the world, online and in local newspapers. Their findings did not yield evidence for the enormous surge in supply of sex work around the World Cup as predicted by the media. Neither did the data support the widely spread idea that thousands of foreign women entered South Africa - be it voluntarily or forced - to meet the perceived escalation in demand of paid for sex. This finding was repeated by a report from the Minister of Police for the South African government in which there was not a single reported case of human trafficking during the World Cup. Even though there was intense media and political focus around trafficking in the lead up to the world cup this report was not published by the world mediaPUT IN STUFF ABOUT LEVELS OF SEX WORK A report by Andrew Boff AM, 'Silence on violence' that looked he policing of sex trafficking and off-street sex work in London using data from the SCD9 ,". Boff in the executive summary of his document did not find strong evidence that trafficking for sexual exploitation or prostitution increased in London during the 2012 games. He went on to further say that his research found "that a decrease in prostitution had been reported by police in London". PUT IN STUFF ABOUT DECRASES IN PROSTUION
Anti trafficking groups such as the The Global Alliance Against Traffic In Women would not be shocked by the findings post world cup and the 2012 games, in their paper the cost of a rumour, they discus sex work and trafficking around mega sporting events including 2010 Olympics, Vancouver, Canada: 2010 World Cup South Africa; 2006 World Cup, Berlin, Germany; 2004 Olympics, Athens, Greece; US Super Bowls, e.g. Dallas (2011), Tampa (2009), Phoenix (2008) and they are concerned that even with evidence to the contrary international sporting events are still being thought of as going hand in hand with increases in trafficking for prostitution.
How can the association between sex work, trafficking and large sporting events be broken? One place to start would be to consider anti-trafficking endeavours on evidence. While even one trafficking victim is one too many, it is vital to analyse information wisely and use sound evidence when considering a response. When there is a lack of research evidence that does find a link, what research there is, is poorly conducted, with anti prostitution groups vying for funding for their work and the media pushing salacious headline grabbing stories it may be sometime before this myth is busted.