As most of you know, the FIFA World Cup is the biggest soccer event in the world.
Starting June 12th, you will be seeing it all: overfilled sports bars, crazy soccer fanatics, and proud nations. This year’s cup is in Brazil and, while most of the country is celebrating for opening day to come, many women and children dread it. Why you ask? Two words: sex trafficking.
Trafficking is already on the rise in Brazil. It has increased by 500% in a mere 11 years in this country. In 2001, according to Unicef, 100,000 children worked in the sex trade. In 2012, the National Forum for the Prevention of Child Labor estimated that this number grew to half a million in Brazil. The world cup is expected to increase this already high number of victims.
First, a bit of background information. Human sex trafficking involves individuals profiting from the sexual exploitation of others. It is the most common form of modern-day slavery and 97% of the victims are female. According to the FBI, it is the fastest-growing business of organized crime and the third-largest criminal enterprise in the world (Human trafficking is a $32 billion annual industry).
Sex trafficking is nothing new. It has been around since the beginning of time, but the difference between then and now is that in today’s world, the practice is more organized and violent. The victims are locked in brothels and taught to submit to their trafficker, who controls them through drugs, money, or emotions (like Stockholm Syndrome). The women are drugged, terrorized, and raped innumerable times until they are seen as loyal prostitutes. This is what happens worldwide, in big and small cities, in developing and developed countries.
The effects of this type of crime are mind-bogglingly scary. Beyond the physical abuse that the victims have to endure from their clients and traffickers, the emotional impacts are tremendous. Stress, shame, fear, distrust and suicidal thoughts are just some of them. Furthermore, many of these women get infected with sexually transmitted bacteria and viruses. A study done in Southern India by the Department of Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health explored this. 1,841 women sex workers from Karnataka were surveyed between August 2005 and August 2006. 372 women, or 21%, met one or both of the criteria for sex trafficking, which included beginning sex work before the age of 18, and reporting being forcibly prostituted. The studies indicated that forcibly prostituted women were more likely to be HIV-infected than voluntarily prostituted woman. Furthermore, “the association between forced prostitution and HIV infection became stronger in the presence of sexual violence”.
When I began advocating against trafficking in the 1990s, I saw firsthand what happens to its victims. In Thailand, I held 12-year-olds who had been trafficked and were dying of AIDS. In Eastern Europe, I shared the tears of women who wondered whether they’d ever see their relatives again. The challenge of trafficking demands a comprehensive approach that both brings down criminals and cares for victims. – Hillary Clinton, Washington Post
So what can we do to help with this problem? One word: Involvement. If we can finance these women and give them the education they need in order to live independently, we can get some of these victims out of the devil’s cycle that is the sex trade. Furthermore, we need to raise awareness about this issue and show girls that this is not the only way to live. Girls and women need to be given the courage to succeed on their own and do something remarkable with themselves, not be sold and ruined for life. Lastly, we need everyone to advocate for better laws and more intensive law enforcement. This is one of the best ways to protect the already victimized and help prevent a life of sex trafficking for other women. There are some organizations such as Unicef and Soroptimists who have taken the lead in tackling this issue. Our job is to get involved and help these organizations protect people from sex work.
“Our fight against human trafficking is one of the great human rights causes of our time, and the United States will continue to lead it — in partnership with you. The change we seek will not come easy, but we can draw strength from the movements of the past. For we know that every life saved — in the words of that great Proclamation — is ‘an act of justice’; worthy of ‘the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God’.” – President Barack Obama, Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting 2012