Rugby World Cup ‘magnet for sex traffickers’

Sex traffickers will be targeting next year’s Rugby World Cup as a business opportunity, a visiting anti-trafficking campaigner says.


Sex traffickers will be targeting next year’s Rugby World Cup as a business opportunity, a visiting anti-trafficking campaigner says.

New Zealander Judy Boyle, who heads a global trafficking awareness campaign, said traffickers operated wherever there was a demand for their business.

“You think traffickers aren’t smiling about the Rugby World Cup?”

Her concern is being taken seriously by the New Zealand police, which says the risk of trafficking for prostitution was multiplied during big gatherings of people.

Ms Boyle is now based in Athens but has been in Nelson giving a series of trafficking awareness workshops.

She said wherever there was an opportunity to make money, such as an international sporting event, traffickers would be seeing dollar signs.

The International Rugby Board’s head of the Rugby World Cup, Kit McConnell, told a conference in Christchurch this week that the event next year would boost New Zealand’s economy by $1 billion and attract 85,000 visitors.

Though there had not been any prosecutions brought in New Zealand for sex trafficking, Ms Boyle said it was difficult to put numbers on how many people were affected because it was an “invisible crime”.

An estimated 12.3 million adults and children were in forced labour and forced prostitution around the world, according to the annual United States State Department’s Trafficking in Persons report.

The report said it was possible trafficking victims were not being detected in New Zealand.

The country had been a destination for women from Hong Kong, Thailand, Taiwan, China, Malaysia and Eastern Europe trafficked into forced prostitution.

Superintendent Grant O’Fee, who is the commander of police operations for the Rugby World Cup, said his team was conscious of the potential for trafficking crime during the event. “We are aware opportunities exist in any big gatherings especially at an international event like the Rugby World Cup.”

He was constantly in touch with permanent fulltime Interpol staff stationed at police national headquarters regarding cross-border crime. “There are certain things we know are going to happen but that is not to say we don’t ignore the more under the radar sort of stuff.”

Mr O’Fee said a member of his team had met with ECPAT, an international organisation dedicated to ending the trafficking of children for sexual purposes, and the police specialist child exploitation team based in Auckland to make sure they were aware of the potential of the problem.

ECPAT’s New Zealand director, Alan Bell, said it was likely that the sex industry would experience an increase in trade during the Rugby World Cup.

The US report said no research had been conducted to determine the full extent of the trafficking problem in New Zealand.

As well, it did not have a comprehensive anti-trafficking law.

Ms Boyle, who has a Masters degree in education from Harvard, said she would like to see some thorough research done into the extent of the problem in New Zealand.

She began her work campaigning against trafficking 10 years ago when she read an article about a sex worker who had tried to hang herself with her own stockings.

She could not sleep for days.

“It was something I knew nothing about but once you know some things it is very difficult to unknow them.”

She began the No Project as an international awareness campaign to effect change in the next generation.

“This can only be achieved through a well-informed youth population who are encouraged to challenge the attitudes and behaviour of previous generations.”

Ms Boyle said she was disturbed by the invisibility of the industry and its silent endorsement.

“You know where all this goes on? In suburbia, it’s the nice suburban homes in every city around the planet.”

To find out more about the extent of human trafficking visit or


2.5 million people are in forced labour, including sexual exploitation, at any given time as a result of trafficking.

Fifty-six per cent, or 1.4 million, are in Asia and the Pacific.

Most victims are between 18 and 24, while 95 per cent experience physical or sexual violence.

New Zealand is a destination country for human trafficking from Malaysia, Hong Kong, China and other Asian countries for sexual exploitation.

A multi-agency taskforce is developing a national plan of action to stop people trafficking in New Zealand.

Source: US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report/Department of Labour


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