My world is being taken over by FIFA and their soccer games. For nearly a month I’ve been told how the World Cup is about national pride, about unity, about world leaders coming together—the same crap I’m given during Olympics season. As of the past few days, it has surpassed by level of tolerance. An NPR report yesterday included an interview with a man who stated that watching the World Cup is more important than his job. This man was a firefighter. His reasoning? It’s an opportunity for all these leaders to hold hands and come together. That’s all well and good, but to what end? I’m all about unity and world peace and every wonderful, happy, positive adjective you can come up with, but not when it is being used as a hypocritical veil for the horrors and crimes against humanity in their home countries. Let’s take a look at the countries left as of now: Ghana, Uruguay, Paraguay, Spain, Netherlands, and Germany.
Jason Mraz recently visited Ghana. Why? To aid efforts in returning trafficked children to their families. The majority of trafficked children, and women in Ghana are forced into dangerous slave labor on fishing boats, and those who are not forced into labor are often sexually exploited. source
Uruguay is a source and transit country for men, women and children trafficked for sexual exploitation, and “occasionally, parents facilitate the exploitation of their children in prostitution, and impoverished parents in rural areas have turned over their children for forced domestic and agricultural labor.” source
Paraguay is not only a source and transit country for sexual exploitation, but child prostitution is also increasing at an alarming rate. Read Mabelia’s story. Child labor in general is alarming, many of these children expected to be the breadwinners of the family by the time they are ten years old. source
Spain is not free of these atrocities. While we often think of Spain as a civilized, democratic country, Spain is a destination country for many individuals forced into the sex and slave trades. Groups from China, Bulgaria, and Romania are herded in for forced labor, and there have been increased numbers of minors brought in for forced begging. There are at least 50,000 victims of human trafficking currently in Spain. source
Children prostitution in the Netherlands has grown at an alarming rate. The children forced into prostitution are often boys and asylum-seeking Nigerian girls, but numbers of Dutch girls being forced into the sex trade have been rising significantly. And it's not just children. “The Netherlands is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor…most female victims were exploited in forced prostitution, and the majority of identified sex trafficking victims were from the Netherlands.” source
I am happy to report that Germany has child labor laws. That being said, it is a source, transit and destination country for human trafficking for sexual exploitation. Many cases of victims were identified in bars and brothels throughout Germany. While claims that immense numbers of women were trafficked into Germany specifically for World Cup fans in 2006 were proven false, forced prostitution still exists in Germany without sports-related motivation. source
Added to the economic recession that many countries in the world are facing right now, fans of our final World Cup teams and more specifically, the leaders of their countries, seem to have more important things to be focusing on than sweaty men kicking a ball around and holding hands. When one of these leaders takes a stand against human trafficking and the exploitation of child labor, perhaps I will relax and let you tell me useless details and facts and scores of a sport that, for me, is quite possibly the most boring sport to watch next to golf. Until then, the next score or recap you give me will be met with a reminder of the terrible things happening in these countries.
Why doesn’t this anger anyone else? Why aren’t we working together to stop this? The U.S. isn’t free from blame. We to are a transit and destination country for forced labor and sexually exploited human trafficking victims. We can stop it here, by cracking down on companies that hire illegal immigrants rather than on the workers that are often here against their will, by writing letters to Congress, to the White House, to anyone willing to listen. Educate yourselves. Love the planet and those in it. Let’s take care of one another.