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Background
 

Showing the red card to forced prostitution

Women's rights/Equal opportunities - 06-03-2006 - 09:20
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MEPs are demanding action to tackle the growing problem of sexual exploitation of women at the fringes of major international sports events. To mark this year's International Women's Day (8 March), the European Parliament's Committee on Women's Rights is holding a seminar on forced prostitution at such events. The plenary session of 13-16 March will follow this up by tabling an oral question to the Commission and adopting a resolution on the subject.

 
Sharp rise in prostitution at major events
 
The demand for prostitution and sexual services is said to increase dramatically during events such as the Olympic Games, other international sports events, exhibitions and major congresses.  Many of the women involved have been deceived by false promises of legitimate work in a richer country, for example as waitresses, dancers or domestic workers, and then find themselves forced to work as sex slaves.
 
This year, ahead of the World Cup in Germany (9 June-9 July), many organisations have called for vigilance to protect women from this type of exploitation. Human rights bodies in Europe fear that trafficking of women and forced prostitution will significantly increase during the event.
 
Parliament's Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality has chosen to highlight the issue through a seminar, to be held on International Women's Day 2006, with experts from international organisations, EU institutions, sports organisations and NGOs.
 
REF.: 20060301BKG05724

MEPs to call for Europe-wide campaign against trafficking

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The following week, when Parliament meets in Strasbourg for its plenary session of 13-16 March, MEPs will use an oral question to the European Commission as an opportunity to debate possible measures to combat forced prostitution at big sporting events.  
 
The Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality is tabling a draft resolution linked to the oral question. In this resolution, MEPs welcome the campaign Final whistle – Stop forced prostitution by the German National Council of Women and call on the Member States to support it. They call on the European Commission and Member States to launch a European-wide campaign to inform and educate the general public and especially football fans about the problem of forced prostitution.
 
MEPs also urge Germany to set up a multilingual telephone hotline and a high-profile communication campaign to help women who have been coerced into the sex industry.  They want the International Olympic Committee, FIFA, UEFA, the German Football Association and others to express support for Final whistle – Stop forced prostitution and to speak out against human trafficking and sex slavery. And they are especially keen for the media and sports stars to get involved in the campaign.
 
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A growing problem worldwide

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The exact number of victims of human trafficking is difficult to determine. Accurate statistics are lacking but it is clear that trafficking is a fast-growing criminal activity. The removal of frontiers between the EU Member States has not only brought benefits, it has also made it easier for criminal organisations to operate across Europe.  Women and children are particularly vulnerable.  Of the estimated 600,000 to 800,000 people who fall victim to traffickers throughout the world each year, about 80 percent are women and girls and up to 50 percent are minors. In the EU the figure is over 100,000 women a year. Many children, mainly girls, are sold into prostitution at an early age. According to international studies, the median starting age for girls who become prostitutes is fourteen.
 
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Human rights conventions

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The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) proclaims that "no one shall be held in slavery or servitude...".   Article 5 (3) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, states: "Trafficking in human beings is prohibited".  To back these declarations up, numerous measures have been taken at international level, where important forums for dealing with these problems include the UN, OSCE, the Stability Pact for South-East Europe, the G8, ASEM and Council of Europe. The European Community has taken its own steps.
 
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Community action

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Two Council framework decisions have been adopted, one on combating trafficking in human beings (2002/629/JHA) and the other on combating sexual exploitation of children and child pornography (2004/68/JHA). Both aim to improve police and judicial cooperation in the fight against trafficking in human beings. There is also a directive on short term residence permits for trafficked victims who cooperate with the competent authorities. However, there is no specific EU legislation against trafficking in women for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
 
Two important EU-funded programmes which help prevent trafficking for sexual purposes are AGIS (the 2003-2007 programme for police and judicial co-operation in criminal matters) and Daphne II (for 2004-2008, which targets violence against children, young people and women).
 
National policies on prostitution differ greatly from one EU Member State to another: for example, in Germany prostitution in regulated, in other Member States it is "tolerated", and in some it is an offence.    However, in February 2006 EU Ministers of Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) decided to have their national police examine ways of combating human trafficking at major sports events.  The Council will return to the issue at the JHA meeting in April.
 
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MEPs demand zero tolerance of trafficking and violence

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The European Parliament has been active for many years in campaigns to prevent trafficking in human beings and violence against women.  It has adopted numerous resolutions over the years, including some specifically on trafficking.  To mark International Women's Day 2005 Parliament held a range of events to highlight the problem of violence against women.  
 
Two resolutions can be singled out so far in this legislative term.  In January 2006 Parliament adopted a report drafted by Christa Prets (PES, AT) on "strategies to prevent the trafficking of women and children who are vulnerable to sexual exploitation", including measures to deal with the supply and demand sides as well as the traffickers.
 
This resolution recommends "a common EU policy focused on drawing up a legal framework and enforcing legislation and on counter-measures, prevention, prosecuting and punishing perpetrators and protecting and supporting victims."  It urges the EU to set visible and credible targets, such as halving the number of victims of trafficking the next 10 years.  
 
The Member States are pressed to enforce the law and strengthen the prosecution and punishment of traffickers, accomplices and people seeking sexual services from minors and to prosecute the laundering of the profits of trafficking.  And Parliament calls on "the Member States, especially on Germany, to take appropriate measures in the course of the World Cup football tournament in 2006 to prevent trafficking of women and forced prostitution".
 
Another resolution, on "the current situation in combating violence against women and any future action", drafted by Maria Carlshamre (ALDE, SE) and adopted in February 2006, stresses that male violence against women is an important factor in the lives of women and girls who become victims of human trafficking for sexual exploitation.  Such violence is a reflection of unequal gender power relations and indeed surveys show that 65-90% of prostituted women have been subjected to sexual abuse in the past.
 
The resolution due to be adopted in Strasbourg next week thus reinforces a long-standing campaign by the European Parliament, which can be summed up in the words used in the above reports: "zero tolerance of trafficking" and "zero tolerance of violence against women".
 
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