A campaign aimed at cracking down on the sexual exploitation of women at sporting events has just been launched in the European Parliament.
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.
Rebecca Adlington has achieved so much in her career already and she goes in to London 2012 as one of our greatest hopes for gold.
Rebecca was born in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire in 1989. She started her swimming career with Sherwood Colliery Swimming Club. Rebecca continues to compete in local swimming leagues for Nottingham Leander Swimming Club, and took part in the National Speedo ‘B’ Final in May 2010.
Rebecca competed in her first Olympics in Beijing 2008, swimming the 400 m and 800 m freestyle. She was also chosen to swim in the 4×200 m freestyle relay team but did not take part in the heat as she was being rested and the team failed to qualify for the final. In what has to be one of the greatest moments in British Olympic history, Rebecca beat Katie Hoff of the US in the last 20 m of the race to take the gold. She was the first woman to win a gold in swimming for Great Britain since Anita Lonsbrough in 1960. She was also the first British swimmer to win more than one gold medal at a single Olympic Games since Henry Taylor, who won three in 1908.
Rebecca is strong supporter of local swimming pools and has said still uses them regularly. Last year she came out in support of a campaign to stop them being shut, saying;
“I’ve been swimming in local pools since I can remember and there’s no doubt those pools helped me win two Olympic gold medals.
Without the access I had, and that was available for everyone, I would not be able to do what I do. But it’s not just about the elite level, it’s really important to have as many pools as possible for everyone to use.
Swimming is not only fun, but a great way for the whole family to exercise. More and more pools around the country seem to be closing down and we have to fight it before it’s too late.”
I completely agree with Rebecca that easily accessable pools are very important for the health wellbeing of local communities. I wish the campaign every success.
Since 2008 Rebecca has become one of Britain’s most popular sports personalities. I know that the whole country will be loudly cheering her on this summer in London.