Buying sex is not a sport

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Jen Zoratti’s recent column (Campaign’s goal misses the mark, Oct. 30), seeks to undermine an all-too-sad and verifiable truth: that with the convening of large sporting events comes a related rise in human trafficking and sexual exploitation — a rise which demands the thoughtful co-operation of many and the much-needed raising of public awareness to combat.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 08/11/2015 (2524 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Jen Zoratti’s recent column (Campaign’s goal misses the mark, Oct. 30), seeks to undermine an all-too-sad and verifiable truth: that with the convening of large sporting events comes a related rise in human trafficking and sexual exploitation — a rise which demands the thoughtful co-operation of many and the much-needed raising of public awareness to combat.

As one of Canada’s leading experts on human trafficking, I can say, unreservedly, the best way to fight sexual and forced-labour exploitation is to simultaneously work together on public education, law enforcement and services for victims. The Manitoba Sporting Events Safety Working Group (MSESWG) has launched its Buying Sex is Not a Sport campaign to do just that.

The link between large sporting events and sex trafficking is simple: men with money, who are away from home and who enjoy a level of anonymity, engender a predatory opportunity for traffickers (pimps) to reap huge profits at the expense the most vulnerable, the most marginalized. This same link does not just apply to sporting events; it occurs in resource-development areas and tourism.

Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press Family Services Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross speaks at a news conference Oct. 29 as the province announced its most recent anti-human-trafficking campaign.

Certainly, this doesn’t mean every man attending large sporting events is engaged in illicit, exploitative behaviour. But the fact remains the real experts — survivors of sex trafficking — are telling us this link exists.

We know our facts: when Dallas hosted Super Bowl XLV in February 2011, there was a 136 per cent increase in online advertisements for female escort services in the adult section of dallas.backpage.com; during Super Bowl XLIX in Arizona in February, 570 would-be sex-buyers (johns) and 23 sex traffickers were arrested, with 54 women and 14 youth identified as connected to services.

Closer to home, in October, Winnipeg police interviewed 34 women they believed were under some level of control from traffickers as part of Operation Spotlight. A Winnipeg outreach team also reported that, during the FIFA Women’s World Cup in June, there was an increase in rental cars creeping around known areas where sexual exploitation occurs.

So why doesn’t Winnipeg and Canada have a prolifically recorded database of human-trafficking charges if human trafficking is so prevalent?

The answer is simple, but complex.

Anti-human-trafficking legislation is relatively new, coming into effect in 2005, which means our justice system is still building case law. What’s more, there are problems with the current law, so police will often fall back on prostitution offences — which, in many instances, is the only way to criminalize men for buying trafficked women for sex.

There’s no doubt we need more incentives and supports to encourage victims to come forward and report in an atmosphere of safety.

That said, Manitoba has emerged as a leader across the nation. It may come as a surprise to some Manitoba remains the only province in Canada with a formal strategy to address sexual exploitation, sex trafficking and forced prostitution: Tracia’s Trust (named after Winnipeg teen Tracia Owen, who committed suicide after a protracted struggle with drugs and sexual exploitation). In Manitoba, we work together with a $10-million annual provincial investment to support prevention, intervention, enforcement, public education and helping victims rebuild their lives from this extreme form of violence.

We are heartened our province continues to make important investments in the hope no one should ever be sexually exploited or trafficked. We must endeavour to end the crime of human trafficking by challenging and stopping the practise of buying vulnerable people for sex.

While MSESWG’s campaign is a month-long drive that concludes at the end of the 2015 Grey Cup in Winnipeg, its efforts must not stop there. MSESWG will continue to raise awareness, provide critical supports for victims and criminalize traffickers and sex-buyers.

 

Diane Redsky is a national expert on sex trafficking in Canada and chairwoman of the MSEWG. Further information on Buying Sex is Not a Sport can be found on Facebook or by following on Twitter @BSINASManitoba.

 

 

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