human trafficking

Viva o FIFA!

Unless you’re living under a rock, you will know that the World Cup starts this Thursday. I am not a sports fanatic, but I do think it is a wonderful way to bring the world together. As I stated in a past blog, however, large sporting events such as these always cause me to question why such events are prioritized when there is so must injustice happening at the same time and usually at the same place. I am evidently biased in viewing sporting events this way but when it involves the emotional and physical freedom of a child, I do not apologize for that.

Human trafficking in relation to the World Cup has become a hot topic in the media since the 2006 games in Germany. Sonja Dolinsek, a blogger and PhD student sheds some objective and encouraging light on the subject.

Firstly, Dolinsek clarifies that human trafficking and sex working are not the same thing. Many sex workers migrate to areas of sporting events in hopes of finding more work. While this choice of employment offers much to be discussed, I will focus on trafficking. I believe individuals – no, victims, seriously,  let’s not overdo this political correctness thing- in the sex trafficking industry are not there by choice.

Statistics on human trafficking in relation to sporting events, Dolinsek found, have oftentimes been severely overestimated. Oftentimes this was just because the estimates were not based on sound data. There is no empirical link between sporting events and an increase in human trafficking.

As with many issues, development or not, there is a misallocation of resources. Here, the resources being media and the general public’s attention. Anti-trafficking campaigns, Dolinsek argues, have been more harmful at times than helpful. The priority given to trafficking has lead people away from the causes of trafficking related to sporting events – namely displacement and employment …or the lack thereof. When families are kicked out of their homes in attempts to ‘clean up’ the city people (children especially) are put in more vulnerable situations. This exploitation is due to the “structural factors that existed before sports event and will exist thereafter.”

These facts are difficult to hear but they provide encouragement to anyone interested, that progress is being made in the anti-trafficking struggle. It is informative because it gives people that are trying to make a difference in the industry of human trafficking a place to start.

Dolinsek argues that a good place to begin is to pressure the government for different policing strategies. Their increase in monitoring the industry puts sex workers in a more vulnerable spot and instead of working against sex-workers, they should be working for them. For their safety, and ideally help them find a source of income from something more fulfilling to the individual, the economy and society.

Statistics need to be presented based on reliable data. Misinformation distorts the situation and does not further a solution.

Lastly, the amount of exploitation during the World Cup is vast. The labour force needed for an event like this is made up of construction, food services, lodging and merchandise workers – among many more. Severe violations of human and labour rights are possible here just as much (if not more, based on what I just mentioned) as in the sex-selling industry.

Dolinsek’s article is a reminder to stay focused and realize what the issues being ‘solved’ are. She also provides hope that it is possible to at least further an end to human trafficking. That being said, I am excited to see the way this event brings different parts of the 100% together – in a completely pure, mutual, edifying way.

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Who are you cheering for in the World Cup?

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My Inner Monster

Two questions I, as an INDEVOUR, often get asked are:

  1. What does that (International Development) mean? Followed by;
  2. What are you going to do with that?

For a long time I responded with “fight human trafficking”. My entire privileged North-American life has been quite sheltered to say the least. Yes, I’ve lived in a town no greater than 400 people or less since I was born, and have yet to watch the classic Disney movies (don’t judge me, I can’t control my upbringing) but I don’t mean that kind of sheltered. I mean sheltered from the naked realities of the world.

We have all heard the staggering statistics that:

  • 2.5 million people are in forced labour/sexual exploitation
  • People are exploited in 137 countries – reaching every continent and type of economy
  • 95% of trafficking victims experience physical or sexual violence
  • Profits from human trafficking are estimated between tens and hundreds of billion dollarsSTOP_HUMAN_TRAFFICKING_by_yannieroxxx

But it’s easy to think that it’s a world away, thus we remain sheltered. This past weekend I heard about a woman who spent time with trafficked victims of Cambodia. The woman giving an account of the international volunteer said she came back “just… broken”.

A typical response to my “fight human trafficking” is a serious “wow, that’s heavy” or “it takes a special type of person to do that”. What does “special type” mean? Strong? Selfless? Indestructible? I don’t know that I am any of those, but I do know that nothing can make me [cry, scream, angry, want to change the world, turn into a monster etc.] exercise my passion for justice more than hearing the realities of human trafficking.

What if I come back broken? Maybe that is just what my sheltered little mind needs. It is in the break that healing can make someone stronger. I am not trying to be self-destructive, but we are all equal, all part of the 100% and my remaining sheltered does not benefit any part of the 100%.

This Friday is the International Development Conference on the topic of human trafficking. I will likely cry, I will definitely try not to, but I hope to become even slightly less sheltered from the everyday lives of my fellow 100%ers.

Join me?