Olympic Games Tourism Brings Prostitution, Human Trafficking Concerns to London

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Source: Naomi Elster, “London Brothels and Sex Trafficking: Fix the Root, Not the Branch,” www.teaandtoast.ie, June 12, 2012

Although some forms of prostitution are legal in the United Kingdom, British authorities have been cracking down on brothels and sex workers near London’s Olympic Stadium. Growing fears of human trafficking and illegal prostitution near the 2012 Olympic Games have prompted police to close 80 brothels since Oct. 2010, according to Conservative London Assembly Member Andrew Boff.

“Major sporting events can be a magnet for the global sex and trafficking industry,” said Shadow Minister for the Olympics Dame Tessa Jane Jowell. “This is wholly unacceptable. I am determined that traffickers will not exploit London 2012.”

The UK Metropolitan Police Service’s Human Exploitation and Organised Crime Command (SCD9) was established in 2010 to tackle vice and human trafficking crime in the five Olympic host boroughs of Newham, Hackney, Waltham Forest, Tower Hamlets, and Greenwich. 

Prostitution is considered legal in the United Kingdom, although as of Apr. 1, 2010 it is illegal to “persistently loiter or solicit” for prostitution in a street or public place (defined as two or more occasions in any three month period); cause, incite, or control prostitution for gain (pimping); keep a brothel; pay for the sexual services of a prostitute subjected to force; or advertise prostitution services on a public telephone.

There is no specific law against placing prostitution advertisements in newspapers, however newspapers that print advertisements for brothels “under the guise of massage parlours and saunas” may be liable for prosecution for money laundering offenses, according to the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service.


In response to the growing number of crackdowns, the British non-profit prostitute advocacy organization Stop the Arrests wrote a letter to the mayor of London that read, “[Raids and closures] create a climate of fear among workers, leaving them less likely to report crimes against them and more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. It is an inadequate response to sex work and to trafficking.”

The 2004 Olympic Games in Athens invoked widespread warnings from Greek politicians about a rise in prostitutes and sex workers, according to the British Broadcasting Corporation. A report by the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women shows the number of prostitution cases in Athens during the whole of 2004 was 181, up from 93 in 2003. None of the cases were linked to the Olympic Games by Greek authorities.

German officials issued similar warnings in the run-up to the 2006 World Cup, but a European Union report found only five human trafficking cases linked to the tournament. Studies from the United Nations Population Fund and University of British Columbia found no changes in the numbers of men visiting prostitutes during the 2010 World Cup or 2010 Olympic Winter Games, respectively.

Proponents of legal prostitution say it reduces crime, reduces violence against women, improves public health, increases tax revenue, helps people out of poverty, gets prostitutes off the streets, and allows consenting adults to make their own choices. They contend that prostitution is a victimless crime.
Opponents say that legal prostitution can lead to increases in sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS, global human trafficking, and violent crime including rape and homicide. They contend that prostitution is immoral, commercially exploitative, empowers the criminal underworld, and promotes the repression of women by men.


Agence France Presse, “London Prostitutes ‘Cleaned from the Streets,'” www.mid-day.com, July 23, 2012

Priyanka Boghani, “London: Olympics Crackdown on Sex Workers,” www.globalpost.com, July 23, 2012

Mario Cacciottolo, “London 2012: Will the Olympics Bring More Prostitutes?,” www.bbc.co.uk, June 6, 2012

Crown Prosecution Service, “Prostitution and Exploitation of Prostitution,” www.cps.gov.uk (accessed July 24, 2012)

Naomi Elster, “London Brothels and Sex Trafficking: Fix the Root, Not the Branch,” www.teaandtoast.ie, June 12, 2012