In June and July 2006, Germany played host to the World Cup. Up to three million football fans from across the globe descended on the country. Amongst the leisure services provided by the German authorities were dozens of legalised brothels. Up to 100,000 women, mostly from outside Germany, are thought to have been involved. German state licensed brothels have strict rules on condom use and ensure the women's access to health facilities, but the premiums men will pay for sex without condoms may have resulted in many unlicensed, unregulated brothels as well.
There are several alarming issues: the moral question of promoting sex for financial gain; the public health issues of STDs and HIV; and the matter of human trafficking.
Trafficking is hard to quantify but anecdotal evidence from human rights groups suggests that, as far away as Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa, girls and young women were being approached with offers of lucrative summer work in Germany – jobs that in most cases end up in unlicensed brothels. All over Eastern Europe, including the new EU accession states, thousands of women and girls were in danger of being trafficked to Germany. But the authorities, including FIFA and the FA, did not express concern.
Human trafficking is a major 21st Century global issue. UNICEF estimates that 1.2 million children are trafficked each year and forced into labour or prostitution. Similar numbers of adults are also victims of this modern slave trade with many of the women ending up in the sex industry. Home Office Research, based solely on reported cases, estimated that up to 1,420 women were trafficked into the UK over just one year.
This is not economic migration but the abduction or deception of people into bonded labour, often in harsh and dangerous conditions. The horrific indifference to this human misery and injustice is deeply disturbing. When linked to the sex trade, the sexual and mental health impacts of this industry are truly horrifying. How many of these girls and young women end up infected with STDs and HIV is anyone's guess, and the potential for HIV spread to other clients, their partners and subsequent children is another cause for grave concern.
Either by supporting the church-based Stop the Traffik campaign or by other means, we need to lobby our government and the European Union to take active measures to tackle this pernicious industry. We should also consider getting behind groups – including a significant number of churches – who are helping victims of trafficking. Scripture warns us that God judges harshly those who force people into slavery, and the commodification of vulnerable human beings into sex objects is a debasement of the image of God in each trafficked person.