UNISON is calling for cross-agency action to prevent sex trafficking, prostitution and violence spiralling during the 2012 London Olympics.
Hundreds of delegates from across the UK, representing UNISON’s one million women members, voted in favour of a motion at UNISON Women’s Conference, to put the issue high on the union’s agenda.
Delegates heard how prostitution has historically surged during large sporting events. And Vice squad officers have already detected an increase in the number of trafficked women working in the five Olympic boroughs in London with heightened concern over a rise in sexually transmitted diseases.
The UK’s largest public sector union will work with women’s organisations in the lead up to the games and fight to save women’s refuges and services, which are often top of the list when it comes to local authority spending cuts.
Dave Prentis, UNISON’s General Secretary, said:
“We have to make sure that sporting achievement is the main focus of the London 2012 Olympics, not the exploitation of women.
“The demand for prostitution and the amount of sex trafficking has historically risen around major sporting events, due to the huge number of site workers, spectators and athletes.
“Legalisation or de-criminalisation is not the answer. Women need support to help them create a life outside of prostitution, whilst the traffickers, pimps and men who buy their services should receive punishments which leave them in no doubt that sexual slavery has no place in today’s society.
“Prostitution is not a sport – it is sexual exploitation, a violation of human rights and a bleak demonstration of women’s continuing inequality – to pretend that women choose prostitution is to deny reality.
“The average age of women become prostitutes is just 13, and the vast majority of women involved are trafficked or are forced into prostitution by poverty, drug abuse or other life circumstances outside of their control.
“Now is the time to create cross-agency action to fight against exploitation. We want to work with women’s organisations and anti-trafficking groups in the lead up to the Olympics. Now is not the time to cut funding to women’s refuges and other services which are often a woman’s only means of escape.”