Feeds

Have hordes of sex workers snubbed the Commonwealth games?

They never turn up when you're expecting them

Is it possible that somewhere out there is a lost tribe of sex workers, condemned forever to wander the globe in search of work and pay? We only ask because the latest alarming reports from the Commonwealth Games in Delhi warn of some 40,000 sex workers about to descend on the event.

Indian NGO Impulse NGO Network seem to believe that sex trade workers numbered in their thousands have been lured to India by promises of "lucrative pay" - though in reality they face exploitation and abuse.

For some reason 40,000 just happens to be the magic number of sex workers that were forecast to turn up at the World Cup in South Africa this year, at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver before that, and at the last World Cup in Germany. What is the significance of this number?

Exploiting trafficked sex workers is big business – not least for politicians and charity organisations riding on the back of this issue.

There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that sex trafficking at major sporting events is mostly an urban myth. The Metropolitan Police are sceptical, urging vigilance, accompanied by a sense of proportion.

However, critics say that politicians such as London Mayor Boris Johnson, as well as church leaders and charity groups, still spread alarmist claims that are actively harming sex workers.

Let’s start with the World Cup which was forecast to attract as many as 40,000 additional sex workers. Given that the eventual total for all additional visitors to South Africa is estimated at between 300,000 and 400,000, that’s the scarcely commercial proposition of one trafficked sex worker to every 10 tourists.

An investigation by Women24 gives a very different picture. Johannesburg sex worker Zodwa Sangweni describes the World Cup season as a bust, telling the magazine: "We didn’t work well; there was no money."

According to Dianne Massawe, Advocacy Officer at the Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT), most Cape Town sex workers she spoke with told her business was slower than usual. Sex work expert Henry Trotter agreed, noting that most World Cup fans weren’t interested in paid sex.

What about other sporting events? The usual suspects were out and about at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver last winter, with the Canadian Salvation Army asserting authoritatively that "the numbers [of trafficked sex workers] are expected to increase in 2010 with the Winter Olympics’ influx of international visitors".

When this increase did not materialise the answer was simple. As Sheila Coates, a Director with South Essex Rape and Crisis Centre explained: "In Vancouver it looks like it wasn’t as big a problem as anticipated because they planned for it and planned it out."

Then there was the World Cup in Germany in 2006, where forecasts of an additional 40,000 trafficked sex workers were again bandied about - and again failed to materialise. German police may have made five arrests for trafficking during this period although, as a report (pdf) by the widely respected Global Alliance against Trafficking in Women suggests: "all data, information and expert statements strongly indicate this (increase) did not occur either during or after the World Cup."

Next page: Where is everybody?

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
Apple CEO Tim Cook: TV is TERRIBLE and stuck in the 1970s
The iKing thinks telly is far too fiddly and ugly – basically, iTunes
Huawei ditches new Windows Phone mobe plans, blames poor sales
Giganto mobe firm slams door shut on Microsoft. OH DEAR
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
Show us your Five-Eyes SECRETS says Privacy International
Refusal to disclose GCHQ canteen menus and prices triggers Euro Human Rights Court action
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.