Summary & References

The media have sensationalized claims of dramatic spikes in human trafficking activity during major athletic events (such as the Olympics), perhaps to the point of “urban legend.” Research suggests that labor trafficking may experience dramatic increments in some parts of the world, but studies have not yet corroborated similar claims for spikes in the sex trade. These blogs posit a middle path between dramatic upswings in the sex trade versus no increases at all. Research suggests that rates of general crime do indeed experience modest to moderate increments on “game day,” including both violent and financially motivated forms of criminal behavior.

Since the sex trade is both violent and financially motivated, it seems reasonable to presume that this particular form of crime also experiences modest to moderate increments during major sporting events. However, victims of general crime are much more likely to report criminal acts than the victims of human trafficking, leading to the chronic problem of underreporting in the sex trade, which all researchers seem to universally lament. Regardless, the problem of human trafficking (for both labor and sex) is—at its baseline—already ubiquitous, already epidemic, and already year-round. Therefore, sensationalizing inaccurate claims of dramatic spikes in only certain locations at certain times may deflect attention away from the true magnitude of this problem the rest of the year.

References 

Amnesty International. (2013). The dark side of migration: Spotlight on Qatar’s construction sector ahead of the World Cup. Retrieved from https://www.amnestyusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/mde220102013eng.pdf.

Amnesty International. (2016). The ugly side of the beautiful game. Retrieved from: https://www.amnestyusa.org/reports/the-ugly-side-of-the-beautiful-game.

Busch-Armendariz, N.B., Nale, N.L., Kammer-Kerwick, M., Kellison, B., Torres, M.I.M., Cook Heffron, L., Nehme, J. (2016). Human trafficking by the numbers: The initial benchmark of prevalence and economic impact for Texas. Austin, TX: Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault, The University of Texas at Austin. Retrieved from: http://sites.utexas.edu/idvsa/files/2017/02/Human-Trafficking-by-the-Numbers-2016.pdf.

Campaniello, N. (2011). Mega events in sports and crime: Evidence from the 1990 Football World Cup. Journal of Sports Economics. Retrieved from: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1527002511415536?journalCode=jsea.

Deering, K.; Chettiar, J.; Chan, K.; Taylor, M.; Montaner, J.; & Shannon, K. (2011). The impact of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games on sex work patterns, safety and sex worker vulnerability to HIV and sexually transmitted infections. Sexually Transmitted Infections, 87. doi: 10.1136/sextrans-2011-050108.70.

Delva, W., Richter, M., DeKoker, P., Chersich, M., & Temmerman, M. (2011). Sex Work during the 2010 FIFA World Cup: Results from a three-wave cross-sectional survey. PLoS ONE, 6. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0028363.

Farrell, A. & Reichert, J. (2017). Using U.S. law-enforcement data: Promise and limits in measuring human trafficking. Journal of Human Trafficking, 3(1), 39-60. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/23322705.2017.1280324.

Hazeu, M, & van Kronen, F. (2014). Sexual exploitation of children in Brazil: Putting a spot on the problem. Retrieved from: https://www.defenceforchildren.nl/images/13/3096.pdf.

Hepburn, S. (2017). It’s not just about sex: Human trafficking and mega sporting events. Retrieved from: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/its-not-just-about-sexhuman-trafficking-and-sporting_us_58a25412e4b0e172783a9fd7.

Kalist, DE; & Lee, DY (2014). The national football league: Does crime increase on game day? Journal of Sports Economics. Retrieved from:

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1527002514554953?journalCode=jsea.

Rocco, P. (2014). Forced labor at the Sochi games. Retrieved from: http://humantraffickingcenter.org/olympic-labor.

Skoch, I. (2010). World Cup welcome: A billion condoms and 40,000 sex workers. GlobalPost. Retrieved from: http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/sports/100505/world-cup-sex-workers?page=0,0.

German Delegation of the Council of the European Union. (2007). Experience report on human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation and forced prostitution in connection with the 2006 Football World Cup in Germany. Retrieved from: http://register.consilium.europa.eu/pdf/en/07/st05/st05006-re01.en07.pdf.

Milivojevi , S. & Pickering, S. (2008). Football and sex: The 2006 FIFA World Cup and sex trafficking. TEMIDA, 21-47. Available online at: http://www.doiserbia.nb.rs/img/doi/1450-6637/2008/1450-66370802021M.pdf.

Mollins, J. (2012). Q+A- The London Olympics: The sex-trafficking event that wasn’t. Retrieved from: http://news.trust.org//item/20121128100000-srmwa?view=print.

O’Neill, N. (2018). The horrifying life of sex slavery North Korea’s cheerleaders face. Retrieved from: https://nypost.com/2018/02/23/defector-claims-north-koreas-cheerleaders-are-actually-sex-slaves.

Ridley, L. (2016). Rio child sex trafficking ‘epidemic’ could rocket during the 2016 Olympics- Here’s why. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/rio-olympics-2016-child-sex-trafficking_uk_57a9a7efe4b089961b85468b.spread.

Co-authored with Sheresa Wilson-DeVries