As sports fans prepare for a showdown between the Broncos and the Seahawks just outside of New York City, conversation about human trafficking is heating up. There is a lot of discourse about a peak in human trafficking surrounding the Super Bowl, but as our partners at the Sex Worker Project and the Urban Justice Center explain, that may be just a myth:
While we commend efforts to raise awareness about human trafficking, allegations that large sporting events, like the Super Bowl, increase the number of persons trafficked into prostitution are simply unfounded. Investigations from past Olympics, World Cups, and Superbowls, have not found large numbers of persons trafficked to these locations by force to engage in commercial sex. These claims can lead to raids and police harassment of adult sex workers, increasing danger for this population. This is a misuse of scarce resources better aimed at preventing human trafficking.
While it is critically important to understand and tackle the root causes of human trafficking and provide resources to those who are currently in trafficking situations or who are survivors, erroneous links to sporting events are not helpful toward these ends. They also distract from real issues surrounding large sporting events that do deserve our attention and are often under-reported, including instances of unsafe labor conditions for construction workers who build sports arenas, and the large scale trafficking and deaths of migrant workers.
The media’s fixation on trafficking into the sex trade has led to an unfortunate misperception about human trafficking, and missed opportunities to halt human rights abuses. We encourage journalists and members of the public to support more just working conditions in all labor sectors where trafficking exists, including restaurants, private homes, landscaping, construction, and agriculture; this will help us recognize and assist victims in need.
Written by: Sienna Baskin, Esq. Co-Director Sex Workers Project Urban Justice Center www.sexworkersproject.org
To learn more about the intersection of human trafficking and large sporting events, please see these sources:
Trafficking in Human Beings and the 2006 World Cup in Germany, Migration Research Series no. 29 , International Organization for Migration (2007), (stating that “the estimate of 40,000 women expected to be trafficked [in Germany surrounding the World Cup] was unfounded and unrealistic”).
What’s the Cost of a Rumour? A guide to sorting out the myths and the facts about sporting events and trafficking, Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (2011).
Urban Legends and Hoaxes: How Hyperbole Hurts Trafficking Victims, Huffington Post, Rachel Lloyd, (2012), (stating that while “there have definitely been some reported cases, the statistics just don’t bear out this claim.”).