U.K. Methodist Women Seek Action against World Cup Sex Trafficking

LONDON – As the 2006 World Cup approaches, Methodist women are urgently seeking action to stop the sex trafficking that will take place during the event.

Using the slogan “buying sex is not a sport,” the women joined forces with The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), and are aiming to highlight the appalling effects of sex trafficking on the lives of vulnerable, young women.

The main venue for the June 9 - July 9 soccer event in Berlin now has a 3,000-meter fenced-in area filled with “performance boxes,” equipped with condoms and showers, which are being specially set up near stadiums where matches will be playing. Members of Cumbria District Methodist Women’s Network will try “discourage’’ visitors to Germany from using these sex facilities.

Mary Moody, a worship leader at Gosforth Methodist Church in north-west England, said: “To think that in 21st century Europe, human beings can be bought and sold like goods is appalling. We must do all we can to put pressure on governments for immediate action.

“Although we can feel helpless when faced with such issues, there is no doubt that writing letters can help,” she add, “so we are urging people to show their support.’’

With one million male fans expected to head to Germany for the World Cup, campaigners are concerned it will prove too attractive a prospect for sex traffickers, combined with the fact that prostitution is legal in the country.

Cumbria District Methodist Women’s Network, which supports vulnerable women across the world, is urging local people to pressure governments to agree the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.

Gwyneth Smith, secretary of the Network, said: “We are very anxious about what will happen in Germany [in June]. The stories of these girls locked in houses are absolutely horrendous. These young women are either sold by their families, kidnapped or believe they are going to decent jobs to earn money to send home. They end up without any rights and with ruined lives.

“We need to use public opinion to persuade people that every little effort can help these women.’’

Worldwide it is estimated that between 700,000 and four million women, children and men are trafficked each year. Traffickers lure women with false promises of jobs such as waitresses or models. Once in a foreign country, their documents are retained, they are watched over by security guards and their lives are controlled through isolation. The trafficked women can also suffer extreme physical and mental abuse.

Mrs Moody said: “I had previously read articles about trafficking and I believe it is terrible that criminal gangs can lure these very poor, very young women to places where they are appallingly treated.’’

The Network wants local people to state their objection to the issue of trafficking by either writing a letter to Copeland’s MP, Jamie Reed, and their MEP, or by signing petitions on websites such as www.pes.org (the Party of European Socialists) or www.catinternational.org.

“Trafficking is also being carried out right here in Britain,’’ Mrs Moody said. “We need to highlight this issue and show we care about these women’s lives.’’

A U.N. report on human trafficking issued in April listed Germany as one of the top destinations for the women – mostly between 18 and 25 – who are secreted across borders from countries like Russia, Ukraine, and Bulgaria. A 2005 U.S. State Department found that Russia alone accounted for one-quarter of the 1,235 victims of forced prostitution reported in Germany in 2003.

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).