Socially-minded investors weigh in:
The Opening Ceremonies for the 2012 Olympics kick off this week showcasing spectacular athleticism. But there are clear signs that human trafficking – particularly for the purpose of sexually exploiting children – raised its ugly head in advance of the event.
Nine men were convicted in London May 9 for raping under-age English girls and sex trafficking in Liverpool. The gang used a slightly older girl as their recruiter who kept the victims quiet by given them alcohol, food and cash.
The crimes leading up to the 2012 Summer Games came as no surprise to law enforcement that has seen an increase in trafficked women in London’s five Olympic host boroughs since 2009. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
London is preparing for an influx of sex traffickers, and a large number of non-profits like ECPAT (End Child Prostitution and Trafficking), Slavery-Free London, Anti-Slavery International, Free the Slaves and more are working with law enforcement.
The phenomenon of trafficking at major sporting events is not new. Though tracking the number of victims is as difficult as counting bees in a hive, major sporting events like the FIFA World Cup, prior Olympics and the Super Bowl are known magnets for sex trafficking.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children approximated that 10,000 prostitutes were trafficked to Miami’s Super Bowl in 2010, and more than 100 were arrested in Dallas during Super Bowl 2011.
According to a report by Abigail Lawlis Kuzma, Director & Chief Counsel, of Consumer Protection in the Attorney General’s office in Indiana, site of the 2012 Super Bowl, trafficking is a $32 billion dollar industry worldwide and tied into the drug trade as the second largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world.
The Business Sector
Tackling the issue from an economic angle is a coalition of 37 U.S. and U.K socially responsive investors with $58 billion in assets under management that has issued a call to action to the business sector.
“Five-million people are expected for the Games and the potential for trafficking is extremely high,” says Julie Tanner, Assistant Director of Socially Responsible Investing with Christian Brothers Investment Services that represents $4 billion in assets.
“Just as it takes a great deal of personal dedication for athletes to qualify for the Games, it will also take dedication from Olympic sponsors and hotels to ensure that trafficking and slavery doesn’t happen on their watch,” she says.
To help stem the tide, the coalition has sent letters to 32 Olympic sponsors and the hospitality industry asking that they train staff to recognize the signs of sexual trafficking, and monitor their supply chains and hiring and recruitment practices.
As of July 6, Acer, Adidas, ArcelorMittal, BMW, Coca-Cola, Freshfields, John Lewis, Kraft Foods, McDonalds, Next, Proctor & Gamble, Rio Tinto, Sainsbury’s and Samsung have responded.
So have corporations in the tourism sector, including Accor, British Airways, Best Western, Carlson, Hyatt, Intercontinental Hotel Group, Hilton, Marriott, Starwood, Thomas Cook, and Wyndham.
Staff training is particularly critical at hotels that are considered Ground Zero for sexual exploitation. According to Tanner, front desk personnel should be on the alert as to how guests check in and how they pay. Because housekeeping and room service personnel are able to enter and exit the rooms at will, they are on the front lines for spotting suspicious activity.
The biggest tipoff, however, is that a number of different men may be seen coming and going from the rooms.
Other warning signs include provocatively dressed girls with few possessions who show signs of abuse like bruising. Girls may also be disoriented or reticent to speak, appear malnourished, and have no spending money or identification. An uncomfortable relationship usually exists between the adult and the young girl, and heavy tattoos could imply “ownership.”
Instead of taking action and putting themselves in danger, personnel should report suspicious activity to the manager who turns the information over to the police. Guests, too, can look for signs of trafficking and report their suspicions to management.
The investment coalition has strongly urged the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to create guidelines to stop human trafficking during future events.
“Human rights issues should be a standard part of the requirements for any host city and corporate sponsor,” says Tanner. “We could make great strides if the IOC would take action prior to the Games.”
By the Numbers:
· According to UNICEF, there are more slaves in the world today than ever before in history.
· A June 2012 report by the International Labor Organization () estimates that nearly 20.9 million are victims of forced labor in the world.
· Women and girls represent 55 percent.
· Of those, 4.5 million (22 percent) are victims of sexual exploitation.
· In the U.S. alone, over 100,000 to 300,000 kids are at risk of sex slavery, some as young as 11.