I was one of 20 MEPs who participated in the launch of this campaign organised by the European Women’s Lobby (EWL). In a message to athletes, officials, fans, journalists and decision-makers ahead of the London Olympics and the UEFA European Football Championships in Poland and Ukraine, we all held up red cards which read ‘Be a sport. Keep it fair… Say NO to prostitution.’
The police and others are concerned there will be on increase in prostitution in the run up to the Olympic Games in London. Major sporting events are regularly coupled with a boom in prostitution, fuelled by the trafficking of women and girls. During the 2006 World Cup in Germany, national authorities noted an increase in the number of prostitutes in host areas. The 2010 South African World Cup brought about a ‘huge’ increase in the sex trade, with the number of women and girls involved in prostitution, as well as the number of brothels, doubling. Worryingly, there was research conducted in 2009 that had already found signs of increases in prostitution in the London boroughs hosting the Olympics.
I agree with the EWL’s position that prostitution is a form of violence against women which hinders the realisation of gender equality. Women in prostitution face regular violence and rape, as well as lower life expectancy and serious mental and physical damage. The abuse of women’s bodies and sexuality inherent in the system of prostitution feeds into a broader pattern of widespread violence against women.
I am a big supporter of the London Olympics and can’t wait for games to start, but I hope with awareness raising campaigns such as this, and the support of the police in London, we can make sure that we don’t see an increase in the trafficking and sexual exploitation of girls and women this summer.