World cup of prostitution?

What will happen when 3 million people descend on Germany for the World Cup?

Published February 23, 2006 3:58PM (EST)

The World Cup is only five months away and you know what that means: soccer and sex. The latter may come as a surprise to some -- but with 3 million soccer fans expected to descend upon Germany for the games, Prime Minister Angela Merkel is worried about an influx of forced prostitution and human trafficking. While prostitution is already legal in Germany (an estimated 175,000 women are already involved in the industry) the German newspaper Deutsche Welle reports that "another 40,000 prostitutes, mainly from Eastern Europe, could come to Germany during the soccer World Cup."

In anticipation, a number of groups, including the German Protestant Church and the German police union (GdP), yesterday launched the "Red Card for Forced Prostitution," a campaign designed to raise awareness about illegal sex work. Deutsche Welle reports that the president of GdP hopes the effort will help make the public see prostitution as a form of modern slavery." A German diplomat issued a statement yesterday saying that "all measures are taken to ensure that the World Cup will take place in a safe and civilized way." And next month, a European chiefs-of-police meeting will discuss "prostitution at the World Cup and the implications it may have on the trafficking trade. "

While all the attention being paid to "human trafficking," the current moniker for the sex trade, is certainly welcome, there is a fine line between fighting exploitation and a right-wing backlash against what has long been a regulated and legal industry in Germany. It will be interesting to watch what happens as we get closer to kickoff.

By Sarah Goldstein

Sarah Goldstein is an editorial fellow at Salon.

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