Registered Charity Number: 1099006

Not a story of numbers - it’s a story about lives

Posted by Beyond The Streets on 05/09/2011 at 10:33 AM

Over the last decade, as human trafficking has become a hot topic on many people’s agenda, world sporting events have become increasingly plagued with accusations of causing an increase in trafficking for sexual exploitation. Widely reported claims are regularly made about the numbers of ‘victims’ who will be trafficked to these events and these statistics are produced and re-produced before anyone can remember where they came from and how such numbers were discovered.

The reality is that empirical data on trafficking is scarce and hard to come by – and often all that is certain is that human trafficking for sexual exploitation involves a significant ‘dark figure’. In fact, even statistics on prostitution are hard to gather and most are out of date. In 1999 it was quoted that approximately 80,000 women are in prostitution in the UK(1) , whilst in 2003 in off-street prostitution in London it was found that between 4727 and 8082 women were selling sex (2). However, these figures are both out of date and estimates; the second with a significant range of possibility. Considering this; it is naturally difficult to verify whether claims about an increase in sex trafficking during global sporting events are justified or not.

Despite unsubstantiated claims being made about the numbers of women being trafficked in recent world sporting events (the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece; the 2006 World Cup in Germany; the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China; and 2010 World Cup in South Africa) (3), there has in fact been no way of proving, either way, whether these countries have experienced the anticipated arrival of women who have been trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation or not. Despite this, it is still logical that a fear exists and there are of course many reasons why it is possible – after all, the number of people attending events such as the Olympics naturally increases the demand for prostitution in the host city; and traffickers can easily take advantage of travel visas issued for the games by masquerading their victims as spectators (4).

Whilst it is important to be aware of the possibility that trafficking for prostitution will increase due to the 2012 Olympics, this shouldn’t deflect from the reality that whatever day it is, whether the Olympics are happening or not, many women are being taken advantage of and are trapped in an exploitative system of prostitution. This is not a story of numbers but a story of lives.

David Cameron in his speech ‘Fixing our Broken Society’ said: “...our mission is to repair our broken society – to heal the wounds of poverty, crime, social disorder and deprivation that are steadily making this country a grim and joyless place to live for far too many… Because while our society is broken today, it is not broken for ever… We can and will bring hope and aspiration to places where there is resignation and despair.”(5)  Lets never forget these women and girls in our broken society and hold on to a hope that it will not be broken forever.



(1) Europap-UK survey, 1999
(2) This figure only includes women who are selling sex from flats, parlours, saunas and those who are escorting. Dickson, S. (2004) Sex in the City: Mapping Commerical Sex across London. London: Eaves POPPY Project.


Return to the News Page