In anticipation of the football World Cup in South Africa Catherine Bearder MEP wrote a letter to the Guardian warning fans to be vigilant for the dark side of major sporting competitions. Please see the full text below:
With the World Cup just around the corner the vast majority of us will be getting behind our teams and cheering them on. An event like this is a fantastic example of healthy sporting competition between nations and can be great for our collective morale. However, there is also a seedy side to these competitions, a hidden world we should be mindful of.
A report released last week by the Welsh Assembly showed mass sporting events can lead to an increase in the number of people trafficked into the sex industry. There is a positive correlation between the presence of large numbers of male tourists and the demand for sex work in that location. Unfortunately it comes down to a simple case of demand leading supply. The report, Knowing No Boundaries, said:
"Greece licensed a large number of additional brothels in the months leading up to the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, and mega-brothels were installed near the German football stadia during the football World Cup in 2006."
As the World Cup approaches, attention needs to be focused squarely on this growing, and often forgotten industry. The trafficking of women and girls for sexual abuse is likely to increase to meet the expected rise in demand for sex.
I'm sure many of you will know people travelling out to South Africa or maybe heading out there yourselves and I would urge anyone visiting to be vigilant and report anything suspicious to the local authorities.
The South African government is taking important measures to prevent an increase in the trafficking of women and children. Last year police and non-governmental organisations launched a campaign, 'Red Light 2010', to create awareness amongst citizens of human trafficking.
I hope this work will lead to an improvement from what was reported at previous sporting events. I shall be watching the reports coming out of South Africa and working with NGOs to ensure this problem is addressed when the world comes to our doorstep for the Olympics in 2012.
Catherine Bearder MEP
Lib Dem MEP for South East England