Human Rights Groups Concerned Over Trafficking at Olympic Games

Human rights workers will be among the throng of spectators and athletes descending on Vancouver for the 2010 Olympic Games this week as issues of sex trafficking around the sporting event have sparked rising concerns.

A campaign under the motto "Buying Sex is Not a Sport" has been launched by Vancouver-based non-profit group Resist Exploitation, Embrace Dignity (REED), who will be selling t-shirts, posters, and buttons with the slogan throughout the duration of the games.

"The demand for sexual access to the bodies of women and children fuels human trafficking. Women and children in Metro Vancouver and Whistler are routinely coerced into the flesh trade to meet this demand, and a large sporting event such as the 2010 Olympics will only further exploitation through a rise in the demand for paid sex," the group said in a statement on their website.

"There is an uncontrolled male demand for sexual access to the bodies of women (and children) and the supply for this demand is met through violating the dignity of women," the statement continues. "It is our conviction that in order to stem the tide of human trafficking we must end the demand for paid sex."

REED has also posted other resources for battling trafficking during the Olympics including a list of "10 Things You Can Do Today" that give suggestions such as "challenge those who make sexist 'jokes.'"

Also expressing its concerns over the issue was the Citizens Summit Against Sex Slavery, a think tank coalition of women's groups, academics, and politicians, who gave the Canadian government an "F" grade in their efforts to "make sure women and youth are secure against human trafficking during the 2010 Olympics."

The group's remarks come amidst reports from the Vancouver police that no special provisions for battling sex trafficking will be made during the games.

"Street-related prostitution existed before the Games, it will exist during the Games and it will exist after," Const. Lindsey Houghton told Canwest News Service. "Our enforcement around that will not be any different."

Vancouver is a city plagued with a history of sex trafficking problems, with an estimated 8,000 women falling victim to the trade every year, reports from the Salvation Army said.

The group expects that number to increase in 2010.

"The pendulum is swinging and there are more and more domestically trafficked girls and women, no longer just foreign individuals," Brian Venables, Divisional Secretary for Public Relations and Development of the Salvation Army's British Colombia Division, told Relevant Magazine.

"If we raise the awareness, more caring individuals will be mindful of what to look for and how to report it," he added.

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