2010 Games won’t bring surge of sex trafficking: study

Last Updated: Thursday, June 11, 2009 | 9:54 PM PT CBC News

Contrary to common assumptions, the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games will not result in a surge of sex trafficking in the city, a new study suggests.

The study released Thursday examined an array of international sporting events such as the Olympics and World Cup soccer games.

The findings suggest there is no evidence the number of sex workers and trafficking victims increased dramatically in those locations during the events.

“In relation to the Vancouver 2010 Olympics and human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation, public statements have been made which project an alarming increase in this human trafficking,” the study says.

“These claims are inconsistent with the evidence in this research document, that trafficking and mega-events are not linked.”

The study was commissioned by the Sex Industry Worker Safety Action Group — a Vancouver police initiative established in 2007 that has involved several community groups active in the city’s Downtown Eastside neighbourhood. It was paid for with a provincial government grant and conducted by Frontline Consulting.

Awareness and enforcement

Ten Olympic host cities were studied, and researchers interviewed police, sex-trade workers and community service leaders, as well as reviewed a couple of hundred media articles, academic journals, government reports and relevant websites.

They found that sex trafficking generally did not increase during these previous sporting events for a number of reasons, including heightened awareness and enforcement by police of trafficking laws.

The study recommends that the 2010 Games should be used as an opportunity for all levels of government to educate the public about human trafficking for sexual purposes.

“Combatting trafficking for sexual exploitation is a federal and provincial government priority, yet no broad-based public awareness campaigns have been developed on these issues,” it says.

“Other jurisdictions have used mega sport events as an opportunity to create such campaigns, which are considered to have played an important public education role above and beyond an immediate deterrence of trafficking.”

The study also suggests that Canadian Forces, RCMP and other police and security forces be trained in identifying trafficking and exploitation and develop standards for referrals of such cases.

Prostitutes displaced

Tamara O’Doherty, chair of the Sex Industry Worker Safety Action Group, said there is a risk that security and enforcement measures put in place for the Games could have a negative impact on the prostitutes who already call the place home.

“If anything, we found that the conflation of sex work and trafficking can result in policy and enforcement responses that negatively affect the lives of sex workers and victims of trafficking,” she said Thursday.

Karen Mirsky of the Pivot Legal Society said sex workers would become more vulnerable to violence if they were forced to move by street closures and security.

Vancouver police said they will help ensure prevention, early detection and intervention of human sex trafficking prior to the Winter Games next year.

“Sex industry workers deserve to live as safely as anyone else in Vancouver,” Insp. John de Haas said Thursday.

“The VPD [Vancouver Police Department] is committed to working with industry and community organizations to keep everyone safe.”

With files from The Canadian Press

Original on CBC News

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