|| News: The World Cup and the johns|
The World Cup and the johns|
International Herald Tribune
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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