When the World Cup starts this week in Germany, over 3 million people are expected to be attending from around the world, and over 40,000 sex workers have been brought in for the event. Several NGOs are raising legitimate concerns that despite Germany’s best efforts, many of the women coming to Germany will be coming against their will or under deceitful circumstances, as victims of human trafficking.
Among the right-wing NGOs, C-FAM is leading the way in making noise about the event, with their Stop World Cup Prostitution campaign. While they and others (see Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America’s statement, and Rep. Chris Smith’s statement) might be bringing the horrible crime of human trafficking into a broader light, their main obsession appears to be prostitution, not trafficking. This focus may actually be hampering efforts to effect real and lasting change that would serve to end human trafficking.
The 2006 Trafficking in Persons report from the US State Department, released on June 5, makes clear from the outset that the issue of human trafficking is much wider than sex trafficking. It has to do largely with issues of forced migration and economic slavery. Secretary of State Rice’s introduction letter refers to human trafficking as an issue of “global security.” Contrast this with Janice Crouse or Austin Ruse or Chris Smith’s statements that reducing demand for prostitution is the solution to trafficking. While sex trafficking is certainly an issue within these, addressing it on its own apart from the whole – as these groups do – leaves root issues of economic injustice, unsafe and forced migration, and the general exploitation of women and children unaddressed.
In the case of C-FAM in particular, it’s questionable whether fighting trafficking is anywhere in their minds: their campaign seeks signatures for a petition that would denounce the German government’s policy of legalized prostitution. It barely makes mention of trafficking, and the brief mentions feel more like an attempt to cash in on its political prominence these days than to take on the issue itself. Additionally, this campaign is being acted out just in time for the start of the World Cup, and presumably too late for policy changes to be enacted.
Their petition will do little to stop trafficking, but it will provide opportunity to grandstand about C-FAM’s views on prostitution. This looks mostly like politics for them, carried out while large numbers of women and girls are illegally trafficked and exploited.
Meanwhile, other groups take more effective approaches that are serious about ending injustice, not scratching their own backs. These groups advocate taking on forced sex work alongside of other forms of human trafficking by addressing root causes and advocating for holistic approaches, from establishing alternative economic options for people that would make trafficking less necessary, to advocating for meaningful rehabilitation and making sure that victims are not forced back into similar situations again.
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Women’s Health Coalition are a few of the groups supporting such work. They provide good information about fighting trafficking from multiple angles.