Saturday, June 19, 2010

Enoying the World Cup? Doubt it if the slaves are.

I get that it's symbolically important for developing countries to host these massive sporting events. And it's important that privileged countries in the global north are not the only countries hosting the Olympic Games and World Cup. At the same time, when these international sporting events extend the most horrific of crimes, governments, major corporate entities (FIFA), and the profiting criminals must be held accountable.

Saw this January 2010 story from
Time Magazine analyzed with tons of other important information and linked over on

Despite more than a dozen international conventions banning slavery in the past 150 years, there are more slaves today than at any point in human history. Slaves are those forced to perform services for no pay beyond subsistence and for the profit of others who hold them through fraud and violence. While most are held in debt bondage in the poorest regions of South Asia, some are trafficked in the midst of thriving development. Such is the case here in Africa's wealthiest country, the host of this year's World Cup. While South Africa invests billions to prepare its infrastructure for the half-million visitors expected to attend, tens of thousands of children have become ensnared in sexual slavery, and those who profit from their abuse are also preparing for the tournament. During a three-week investigation into human-trafficking syndicates operating near two stadiums, I found a lucrative trade in child sex. The children, sold for as little as $45, can earn more than $600 per night for their captors.

Slavery in contemporary society is best analyzed through the prisim of critical criminology, which illustrates how those in power profit by crime and are protected by laws which govern society. The most vulnerable are used as pawns by criminal enterprisers, turned into victims (in this case slaves) and/or low-end workers that take the fall for the criminal elites. The criminal elites also collude with enforcement and other governmental agencies in order to maintain their free status. One of a few differences between slavery now and yester-year is that today, sex slavery so often leads to an early death sentence due to AIDS. More from the Time story:

Although its 1996 constitution expressly forbids slavery, South Africa has no stand-alone law against human trafficking in all its forms. Aid groups estimate that some 38,000 children are trapped in the sex trade there. More than 500 mostly small-scale trafficking syndicates — Nigerian, Chinese, Indian and Russian, among others — collude with South African partners, including recruiters and corrupt police officials, to enslave local victims. The country's estimated 1.4 million AIDS orphans are especially vulnerable. South Africa has more HIV cases than any other nation, and a child sold into its sex industry will often face an early grave.


At best, the South African government's response to child sex trafficking has been superficial or piecemeal; at worst, some officials have actually colluded with the traffickers. American and South African law-enforcement sources described how police at all levels have solicited underage prostitutes in Bloemfontein, Durban and other World Cup cities. South African officials claim that Parliament will pass a comprehensive law against human trafficking in early 2010. For now, enterprising police officers who take on human traffickers do so with few legal tools at their disposal. Convictions for trafficking-related offenses typically bring little or no jail time.

Organizations have made important campaigns to reduce these crimes against women and children (see
here and here). However, these efforts have a massive uphill battle against the much larger patriarchal machine that intertwines the legal system, law enforcement, and criminal enterprises.

Academics Blogs


  1. i wrote a piece in respect of trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation in context of major sporting events and included some details and links to official documents published after such event in Germany: there are also included links to blog posts in relation to HIV prevention in this context.