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ERLC, others decry sex trafficking at World Cup

WASHINGTON (BP)–A diverse coalition of human trafficking opponents is urging Germany to thwart plans for an expansion of its legalized sex industry during the World Cup soccer tournament.

Critics estimate as many as 40,000 women, most from eastern Europe, could be added to the estimated 400,000 prostitutes in Germany for the month-long event that begins June 9. About 3 million fans, mostly males, are expected for the 32-team tournament, which is held every four years. The 2006 World Cup will be held at 12 sites in Germany.

The German sex industry, apparently with the compliance of the government, has constructed a mega-brothel and “sex huts” to meet the expected demand. Cities hosting matches also will provide special permits for prostitutes on the street, according to sex trafficking foes.

“The decision by the German authorities to accommodate their visitors’ demand for sexual servitude during the World Cup soccer championship is immoral and reprehensible,” said Barrett Duke of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission at a recent Washington news conference held by the anti-trafficking coalition. “Their callous, calculated decision reveals a total disregard for the young girls and women whose lives are stolen from them.”

Men who pay for sex “turn women into commodities and encourage the future enslavement of another generation of young girls,” said Duke, the ERLC’s vice president for public policy and research. “One would have thought that Germany would have renounced slave labor forever, considering her past abuses. Apparently, it is still possible to rationalize the subjugation of some for the benefit of others.”

In addition to urging fans not to purchase sex, the coalition, which consists of both conservative and liberal organizations, called for the following steps:

— German Chancellor Angela Merkel to act to stop the accommodation of sexual trafficking during the World Cup;

— International leaders to criticize the German government’s exploitation of women from developing countries;

— Players and coaches participating in the World Cup to condemn Germany’s part in sex trafficking;

— Tournament sponsors to pull their advertising and financial sponsorship;

— The United States State Department to place Germany on Tier 3 in its next Trafficking in Persons report.

Other organizations beside the ERLC in the 42-group coalition include two Catholic Charities affiliates, Concerned Women for America, Evangelicals for Social Action, Equality Now, National Association of Evangelicals, Prostitution Research and Education of Chicago and San Francisco, The Protection Project, The Salvation Army USA and Standing Against Global Exploitation. The coalition consists not only of American organizations but groups from Ireland, Mexico, Russia and Tajikistan.

According to the coalition, 75 percent of the legal prostitutes in Germany are from foreign countries, and 80 percent of those are from central or eastern Europe.

“It is our hope that the German authorities will recognize that this behavior does not represent the kind of global leadership that inspires confidence,” Duke said at the May 1 news conference of the plans for the World Cup. “If Chancellor Merkel wants the respect of the world community, she needs to move her country to behave like a respectable member of the community. Serving as the community pimp is not the way to gain that respectability.”

A House of Representatives subcommittee held a hearing May 4 on Germany’s prostitution preparation for the World Cup. Rep. Chris Smith, R.-N.J., chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations, urged the German government “to turn the tables beginning now with the World Cup and commit to reversing Germany’s laws on prostitution,” according to a text of his statement.

Germany is a primary destination country for sex trafficking. But in the U.S. State Department’s 2005 Trafficking in Persons report, Germany was among 24 countries that received a Tier 1 rating, which goes to countries that fully comply with the standards established by U.S. law. Tier 3 is for countries that do not achieve the minimum standards.

In sex trafficking, women are often deceived, coerced or kidnapped into prostitution in other countries. A survey by Prostitution Research and Education of more than 850 people involved in prostitution in nine countries found 89 percent wanted to escape prostitution and 71 percent had been physically assaulted as prostitutes.