Caritas condemns prostitution at World Cup

With World Cup fever just around the corner, the Caritas confederation has raised concerns about prostitution during soccer's premier event, saying that most of the estimated 40,000 sex workers expected to arrive in Germany to service football fans will be doing so unwillingly.

"This may be the world's oldest profession, but that's because the vulnerability of women throughout the ages in many ways has not changed," said Duncan MacLaren, Secretary General of Caritas Internationalis in Rome.

"Many women will say this is the life they chose, but economic desperation or the breakdown in social structures that constrain women into prostitution doesn't leave them many options," he continued.

Prostitution was legalised in Germany in 2002, in part to better regulate a sex industry that thrived despite its prohibition.

It's estimated that Germany's sex industry rakes in some $18 billion annually. At least three-quarters of them are foreigners, most of them from Eastern European countries. Few are actually registered with authorities.

Some three million mostly male football fans will descend upon 12 German cities for the International Football Federation's gala event for a month starting from 9 June.

Though unofficially it's said that 40,000 sex workers will flood the country to meet sexual appetites spurred on by sport and drink, only the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has officially announced it greatly fears that between 30,000 and 60,000 women and girls will fall victim to forced prostitution and abuse during the World Cup.

"It is important to recognise that sexual exploitation, prostitution and trafficking of human beings are all acts of violence against women and as such constitute an offence to the dignity of women and are a grave violation of basic human rights," official Vatican documents stated last year following a series of meetings to address the problem.

According to the International Organisation for Migration, some 500,000 women are trafficked into Western Europe every year, usually to unwittingly work as sex slaves. They are mostly lured with promises of well-paying jobs.

Mr MacLaren, however, pointed out the discrepancy between the spirit of the game and the seedy underworld that is attached to football.

"Football fans should not tarnish the name of the "beautiful game" by exploiting fellow human beings. We encourage all people of good will to raise their voice against an evil trade that treats women as things and not made in the image of God," Mr MacLaren said.

In just one of many efforts to warn unsuspecting girls of the danger they could find themselves in, a group of nuns in Poland is distributing information in about a half dozen Eastern European languages. The flyers include emergency numbers to contact if women need help.

"Our resources are extremely limited, but we're doing what we can," Sr Jolanta Olech, President of Poland's Conference of Superiors of Female Religious Orders, told Catholic News Service in a recent interview.

"We're deeply concerned at reports that men's lives are to be made nicer by importing young women from Europe's poorest countries," she added.

Other groups are targeting potential clients, warning them to be vigilant for signs that the women they have paid for might have been forced into prostitution.

Prostitution and the World Cup 2006: Caritas Says NO (Caritas Internationalis 24/5/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)

Pope tells footballers: reject racism (CathNews 3/3/06)

Women religious in campaign against forced prostitution at World Cup (Independent Catholic News 24/5/06)
Irish church embraces rugby mania with special prayer to St. Jude (Catholic News Service/Catholic Online 19/5/06)
German Catholic Church on the ball in prep for World Cup hospitality (Catholic News Service/Catholic Online 19/5/06)
Polish nuns issue anti-prostitution leaflets for World Cup (Catholic News Service 11/5/06)
"Sex Industry" Scheme for World Cup Slammed (Zenit 4/5/06)
Soccer-themed vocations campaign has priesthood has goalm (Catholic Online/Catholic News Service 2/5/06)
Appeal to stop trafficked women being sold for sex at World Cup (Independent Catholic News 3/5/06)
Packer ponders priestly punt (The Australian 4/5/06)
Fighting Sexual Exploitation During World Cup (Zenit 1/5/06)
Vocations director taps into World Cup fever (Independent Catholic News 1/5/06)

25 May 2006