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     News: The World Cup and the johns

    Porn, Prostitution, Sex IndustryThe World Cup and the johns
    International Herald Tribune
    Jessica Neuwirth

    TUESDAY, APRIL 11, 2006

    The global sex industry has its eye on Germany, where promotion of prostitution seems to be as much a part of the preparations for the upcoming World Cup as anything to do with soccer.

    Construction of temporary brothels in all forms is well underway, including "performance boxes" and "drive-ins" for the fast-food version of sex vending.

    The multibillion dollar enterprise that brings Indian women to Saudi Arabia, Nigerian women to Italy, Filipino women to Japan and Russian women to Israel is now bringing women from all parts of the world - an estimated 40,000 - to Germany, where profiteers will cash in on the World Cup, the latest magnet for sex trafficking.

    Many women are lured as well as forced into prostitution. They submit to or even seek out their traffickers for promises of a life free of poverty or abuse - false promises that pave the way to a life that is anything but free.

    These women, often young girls, quickly find themselves in a life of exploitation and violence they are unable to escape. Research conducted across 10 countries by Prostitution Research & Education found that 71 percent of women surveyed were physically assaulted while engaged in prostitution.

    Eighty-nine percent wanted to get out of prostitution but did not have any other options for survival; most were substance abusers and over half met criteria for post traumatic stress disorder - as many as combat veterans.

    Like any consumer industry, the commercial sex industry is driven by demand, and in economic terms the link between prostitution and sex trafficking is clear. Sex is for sale because there are buyers creating a commercial market for it, and sex trafficking ensures a line of supply.

    Yet some have chosen to exclude this critical link from discussion, analysis and strategic plans for action. Countries like Germany, where prostitution is legal, become international destinations for sex trafficking, offering retail outlets much more hospitable to traffickers than countries where prostitution is illegal. In countries where prostitution is illegal it is the peddled women, rather than those who exploit them, who bear the brunt of criminal prosecution as well as public sanction.

    Men who buy women for sex have largely escaped the reach of the law and have been virtually invisible in the ideological battles over prostitution.

    Yet it is these countless anonymous "johns" who fuel the market forces that make sex trafficking such a lucrative industry, perpetrating systematic exploitation with impunity.

    Why the reluctance to acknowledge the link between prostitution and sex trafficking?

    Opposition to prostitution is sometimes misconstrued as opposition to sexual rights and freedoms, a perspective warmly embraced and actively promoted by the commercial sex industry.

    Misconceived efforts to distinguish the women forced into prostitution from those who consent to their sexual exploitation fail to recognize the spectrum of coercion that draws on the force of poverty as much as the force of violence to bring women into the trade.

    Those who consider prostitution to be an expression of sexual rights fail to recognize the distinction between sex and commercial sexual exploitation, positioning the discourse as if one cannot be for sex and at the same time against exploitation.

    What about the right of women and girls not to be prostituted - the right to education, employment and real choices they do not currently have?

    It is time to shift the focus from those who are prostituted to the traffickers, pimps and johns who comprise the chain of exploitation in the commercial sex industry.

    The invisibility of the john is matched only by the invisibility of the harm done to the trafficked and prostituted women he buys.

    If 40,000 women will be sold for sex during the World Cup, how many johns will buy them?

    The head of Sweden's football federation, Lars-Ake Lagrell, has pledged that players with the country's national team will not use any brothels at the World Cup in Germany.

    Sweden has developed exemplary legislation, subjecting johns to prosecution for commercial sexual exploitation - not those who are exploited.

    It is time to follow Sweden's lead in acknowledging the link between prostitution and sex trafficking and addressing the commercial sex industry for what it is: the systematic subordination of women and girls through sexual exploitation.

    Giving johns a name and making them accountable might be a good first step. Germany should also be held accountable for turning the World Cup into a sex tour.

    Jessica Neuwirth is president of Equality Now, an international women's rights organization.

    Associated Topics

    Human TraffickingSexual Violence

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