Rights Groups Protest Against Sex Slaves at 2006 World Cup

Amid busy preparation for the 2006 World Cup, churches and faith communities are joining forces with women’s groups and secular human rights activists to protest against the selling of women for sex at the forthcoming soccer event to be held in Germany, June 9 - July 9.

The main venue in Berlin now has a 3,000-meter fenced-in area filled with “performance boxes,” equipped with condoms and showers.

“The decision by the German authorities to accommodate their visitors’ demand for sexual servitude during the World Cup soccer championship is immoral and reprehensible,” said Barrett Duke of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

A U.N. report on human trafficking issued last month listed Germany as one of the top destinations for women, mostly between 18 and 25, who are secreted across borders from countries like Russia, Ukraine, and Bulgaria. A 2005 U.S. State Department report in addition found that Russia alone accounted for one-quarter of the 1,235 victims of forced prostitution reported in Germany in 2003. And according to the National Board of Catholic Women (NBCW) in England and Wales, the sex trade comprises the biggest proportion of the European trafficking industry.

Anti-sex slave activists point out that “trafficked women dare not speak about the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual violence done to them day after day.”

“While some women may be working by choice, many women, trafficked mainly from Albania and other eastern European countries, and classed as ‘exotic’ in the advertising material, will also be housed there”, explained NBCW.

Amnesty International has recently stepped up its work against sex trafficking, urging supporters in Britain to call upon the U.K. government to ratify the European Convention Against Trafficking as a matter of urgency. In the U.K., church groups are working together through CHASTE (Churches Against Sex Trafficking in Europe).

NBCW said, “While an estimated three million spectators mostly men, some women and children, and television viewers across the world - enjoy ‘the beautiful game’, other girls and women will wait in their ‘boxes’ as enslaved merchandise, on sale to help men ‘unwind’ and celebrate or mourn their team’s performance.”

“Trafficked women are not prostitutes – they are merchandise, with no say in either the buying or selling of their bodies. Brought in by traffickers, who often sell them on to others, the money they earn goes direct to their ‘owners,’” the Catholic women added.

“The World Cup, the premier football (soccer) event, brings people across the world together in enjoyment of sport. To ignore what is happening off-pitch is not good enough the sex trade will continue to flourish, linked now with the pleasures of ‘the beautiful game’. It is vital that authorities, players and fans refuse to bring football (soccer) into disrepute in this way.”

Campaigners are now urging people to write politely to FIFA, the Football Association, the England Football Supporters Club, the Minister for Sport in the U.K. and the German government and embassies, to ask them to explain what is being done to check that all the women are working of their own free will, without pressure or fear.