[Brussels, 30 May 2012] Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from nine countries and all political groups gathered together today in support of the European Women’s Lobby’s campaign against prostitution around sporting events. In a message to athletes, officials, fans, journalists and decision-makers ahead of the London Olympics and the UEFA European Football Championships in Poland and Ukraine, the 20 MEPs held up red cards which read ‘Be a sport. Keep it fair… Say NO to prostitution.’
Major sporting events are regularly coupled with a boom in prostitution, fuelled by the trafficking of women and girls. During the 2006 World Cup in Germany, national authorities noted an increase in the number of prostitutes in host areas. The 2011 South African World Cup brought about a ‘huge’ increase in the sex trade, with the number of women and girls involved in prostitution, as well as the number of brothels, doubling. Research conducted in 2009 already found signs of increases in prostitution in the London boroughs hosting the 2012 Olympics.
The European Women’s Lobby (EWL) holds that prostitution is a form of violence against women which hinders the realisation of equality between women and men. ‘Women in prostitution face regular violence and rape, as well as lower life expectancy and serious mental and physical damage,’ explains Cécile Gréboval, Secretary General of the EWL. ‘The abuse of women’s bodies and sexuality inherent in the system of prostitution feeds into a broader pattern of widespread violence against women.’
Speaking at the event, Viviane Teitelbaum, Vice-President of the EWL, said that raising awareness of the violence inherent in prostitution is crucial as the issue tends to be ‘trivialised’ by the media: ‘The concept that sporting events are some kind of “testosterone fest” where “boys will be boys” is based on an outdated, macho vision of masculinity.’ ‘Sponsored sporting events should be the venue to encourage positive and respectful relationships of all kinds, including between women and men,’ she added.
This view of prostitution as violence against women is strongly shared by the MEPs. MEP Anna Hedh (S&D, Sweden), host of the event, calls for a ‘zero tolerance’ policy towards prostitution, and holds that ‘sporting events can never be used as an excuse to tolerate sexual exploitation’. Mikael Gustafsson (GUE, Sweden), Chair of the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee, concurs: ‘Men should not have the right to buy access to women’s bodies for sex - that this is simply not compatible with fair play and equality.’
On the sidelines of the visual event, the EWL presented an awareness-raising video clip ‘Sport, sex and fun’. The EWL is also publishing photos of the campaign supporters on its website. Further decision-makers and supportive individuals are invited to sign the EWL pledge and submit a photo of themselves brandishing a red card to the EWL Secretariat: email@example.com.