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Wednesday, August 27, 2014
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Published: Sunday, 6/11/2006

Soccer games no match for sexual tyranny

So which is it: Sex worker, or sex slave?

In this corner of the ring are those who say prostitution is legitimate labor - the sex-trade industry - which, when legalized and regulated, protects women in this line of work.

In the opposite corner are those who say the very definition of prostitution means nothing less than pure exploitation.

But with the World Cup now under way in Germany, both sides would agree that sex-slave trafficking for a soccer extravaganza is nothing to cheer about.

For months, human-rights advocates have warned of temporary "sex huts" in Germany, staffed by thousands of women and children lured from poor nations and forced to sell sex.

While police from some of Germany's 12 host cities report no increased illegal prostitution, anti-trafficking groups are skeptical.

On Friday, when the World Cup kicked off, the International Organization for Migration started a campaign to underscore the increased numbers of sex slaves, most "imported" from Eastern Europe for the month-long tourney expected to attract a million foreign soccer fans.

"It's unfortunately always the case that when you've got a major global sporting event there is an increase in demand for sexual services," said an IOL spokesman.

It's all about supply and demand this month in Germany, where prostitution is legal and every day some 400,000 prostitutes see an estimated 1.6 million johns.

But despite state sanction and regulation, last year German police reported freeing nearly 1,000 women from forced prostitution.

The president of Germany's soccer federation was blunt about his early ignorance.

"We did underestimate the whole issue [of international sex trafficking], and I regret that - I say it quite openly," he said in the same news conference where he explained that a TV documentary tracing one woman's enslavement changed his mind.

The coach of France's World Cup team, meanwhile, was less surprised. As he was quoted saying in yesterday's Washington Post:

"It is truly scandalous. People are talking about women, importing them to satisfy the base instincts of people associated with football [soccer]. It is slaves that will come and be put into houses. Human beings are being talked about like cattle, and football is linked with that."

The Vatican's expert on migration, Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, borrowed a soccer term to say that "red cards should be flashed at this [sex-trade] industry, its clients, and the authorities who are hosting the event." During the World Cup, he said, women are "merchandise whose cost is less than a ticket to a soccer match."

On this matter, the Catholic Church and MTV agree.

European soccer fans tuning in to the music channel will see a video featuring a naked woman. She first streaks across a soccer field to the cheers of amused fans. But then she's forced into a tunnel beneath the stadium's bleachers.

The video asks: "Are you cheering now?"



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