Thursday, March 11, 2010

Winter Olympics: Buying Sex is Not a Sport

There are few events in the world that have the ability to bring nations and people together quite like the Olympics. There is something special about supporting the athletes that represent your country as they compete for gold on the world stage. Whether you are favored to win or just happy to be invited to compete, there is often a sense of camaraderie and pride that accompanies any involvement in the Olympics. Over the last two weeks, people from across the world have had their eye on Canada in hopes to cheer for their country onto gold, but many others have had their eye on Canada for a very different reason.

As with many large sporting events, conventions, and festivals, the demand for paid sex increased with the arrival of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. According to an article in the Winnipeg Free Press by Joy Smith, the Citizens Summit Against Sex Slavery issued a press release noting that front-line agencies in Vancouver had witnessed an increase in underage youth being bought and sold for sex on the streets of Vancouver as the 2010 games began. Of course, these spikes in human trafficking activity are difficult to quantify because they often happen outside of law enforcement’s radar by posting adds on Craigslist and that seem legitimate, but are actually anonymously selling young women for sex.
Many organizations believe that they best way to end the demand for prostitution is to shed light on the beatings, rapes and other human rights violations that take place behind closed doors in the human sex slave industry. The Salvation Army's add campaign The Truth Isn't Sexy features stories and visual portrayals of young women who are trafficked for sex. Along with the Salvation Army, other organizations such as Resist Exploitation, Embrace Dignity's Buying Sex is Not a Sport, have particularly targeted Vancouver to increase awareness and help combat the potential increase in demand for paid sex.

As the Winter Games come to a close, it can be easy to forget the pride we felt as a nation while applauding the success of our men and women who embody the grace and strength of our country. The Olympics offers a great opportunity for the world to stand up against human trafficking in a very public and meaningful way. What better time to take a stance against a human rights violation that impacts hundreds of thousands of men, women and children than when the whole world is watching?