If you’ve never considered the connection between sex trafficking and sports, we don’t blame you. To the average person, the two seem unrelated; what would sex traffickers get out of soccer other than to watch the game, be soccer fans, and then continue trafficking after the event?
Startlingly, the two are dangerously entangled, and that fact has drawn some intense attention to the FIFA World Cup in Russia this year.
You’d think that entry into a foreign country for such a large event would be supported by some serious security – but you’d be wrong. To gain entry into Russia for the World Cup, all you need to present is a fan pass.
No passport or official identification from a state or country is needed. It’s actually that easy, and traffickers are acutely aware of that.
Stop The Traffick, a website dedicated to education about and action against human trafficking, reports that an estimated 21M men, women, boys, and girls are being trafficked for either labor, sex, or “state-imposed forced labor.”
Of the estimated 21M, 4.5M people (close to a quarter percentage) have been trafficked for sex. Most commonly, they are trafficked under the promise of a better life. According to Covenant House, an anti-sex trafficking organization with a focus on young people, homeless youth are specifically targeted because of their vulnerability and lack of options.
Coupled with the ease of entry into the country, Russia’s silence has basically laid out a welcome mat for traffickers. Several World Cup-hosting countries (Brazil in 2014, South Africa in 2010, and Germany in 2006) made it a point to address trafficking. Increasing awareness did make a significant impact, but even more powerful were the actions made to prevent trafficking, like South Africa’s educational campaigns and police-led brothel checks.
CNN reports that 10 Nigerian children, whom traffickers were attempting to smuggle through Russia, were rescued prior to boarding a flight to Moscow. All of the children had FIFA fan passes – evidence that points directly to why it’s crucial that Russia addresses its inaction, apologizes for its part in the resulting crimes, and steps up against trafficking.
It seems against basic decency and concern for visitors’ safety that Russia would ignore such a pressing issue, especially when an estimation from 2014 states that nearly 1.1M people are victims of modern slavery in the country. The numbers don’t get any better from there: Russia scored 42.35 out of 100 in a rating that judges its vulnerability to modern slavery. These statistics aren’t exclusive to sex trafficking, but they do paint a grim picture of the country’s neglect toward the issue.
Oh, and as a cherry on top, Russia currently doesn’t outlaw child pornography, which only works to fuel sex trafficking.
This year’s World Cup is more than just a time to enjoy soccer – it’s an opportunity to increase awareness and hold countries accountable for what they allow to happen within their borders through inaction.
You can find anti-sex trafficking organizations like Beyond All Borders, A Call to Men, and Abolish Human Trafficking in your area by searching through the list on End Slavery Now. To learn more about global concerns like sex trafficking, visit our website and explore our “Be Informed” page.
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