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Violence against women at the World Cup » Sex Trafficking and Prostitution

Violence against women at the World Cup

May 13th, 2010 by jessica Leave a reply »

This July, the 19th FIFA World Cup will be held in South Africa. The 2010 World Cup will be the first time that the tournament is being hosted on the African continent. While this represents an exciting time for soccer (or football) fans around the world, the event also puts on blast the issue of violence against women and the HIV epidemic in South Africa.
South Africa has an estimated 5.7 million people living with HIV, equaling about one in every five adults. There are about 1,400 new HIV infections and nearly 1,000 AIDS deaths every day. Approximately 450 million male condoms are distributed in South Africa every year but, with 16 million sexually active men and one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world, there are never enough, and condom use is still far from a social norm. Rape and crime are also endemic in South Africa. The country is struggling to combat the worst case of the HIV epidemic by convincing its population of the importance of safe sex. The South African health minister, Aaron Motsoaledi, expressed concern that the message was being ignored because people believe HIV can now be easily treated. He stated, “That’s what is worrying me. I am saying treatment must only come after prevention … We are worried that South Africans seem to be thinking that we have arrived.”
This is far from an ideal stage for such a huge international event to be on. The South African government estimates that up to half a million visitors could travel to the country, raising fears of a rise in prostitution and sex trafficking from neighboring countries and eastern Europe, and creating a potential HIV timebomb. South Africa’s Central Drug Authority warned that 40,000 prostitutes were expected to arrive for the
month-long tournament.
Recognizing the instability and danger of this increasingly worse situation, South African President Jacob Zuma put in a request for one billion condoms as part of an HIV-prevention drive ahead of the influx of thousands of football fans. The British government is responding to the request by planning to send 42 million condoms to South African in preparation for the 2010 World Cup.
One response to this possible impending disaster is UNAIDS’ initiative, Pan-African Football For an HIV-Free Generation. The initiative taps into excitement around the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup by using soccer as the entry point for an evidence based strategy for HIV prevention (among other goals). UNAIDS Executive Director, Dr. Peter Piot said: “Soccer offers an exciting platform for intensifying HIV prevention efforts across Africa helping promote self esteem and supporting the development of protective communication and life skills. Combining soccer with community based programs and intensive media outreach will give a welcome boost to ongoing HIV prevention work on the continent and will be particularly powerful in the months building up to the first World Cup to be hosted in Africa.”
What is difficult for me to understand is why a country that is this unstable in terms of controlling its own violence- against women and in general, nor its enormous HIV epidemic, is hosting a major international sporting event. If South Africa has enough of a problem that it needs to provide its own condoms, and yet does not have the resources to provide its own condoms, it should not be rewarded with the privilege of hosting the World Cup, if for no other reason than for the safety of the many women who will be present (South Africans, fans, prostitutes) at the event.
Also, it is worrisome that the only time that international powerhouses intervene with the African AIDS epidemic is when their own citizens are at risk to be grossly affected by it. The intervention that is occurring on an international scale around the World Cup is the intensity with which the AIDS epidemic must be fought all the time if we are going to make global progress.




  1. naikhoba says:

    Hey Jessica! Great post! I had never thought about the potential implications for HIV/AIDS spread as it relates to major sporting events such as the World Cup. You raise several valid points – such an influx of individuals into an area that is already endemic for the disease can lead to increased spread of disease due to prostitution (whose levels rise in most World Cups) and the general decrease in safety. However, while I do think that this is serious issue, I have to disagree with your statement that South Africa doesn’t deserve to host the World Cup due to the issues of HIV and violence in the nation. Many people felt the same way about China hosting the 2008 Olympics considering their gross human rights violations, general disregard for environmental concerns, and persistence in dominating neighboring Taiwan and Tibet. However, the International Olympic Committee chose China (in what I feel was a good decision) to see if they could rise to the challenge and expose themselves in such a way that would force them to either prove the rest of the world wrong or deal with the repercussions. By hosting the World Cup in South Africa, I feel that the international community is holding the nation to high expectations like those demanded of China. There is a large opportunity to bring international attention to the issues of HIV and violence in the region through this sporting event and from what you have said, so far it looks like South Africa is trying not to let the world down. If they are successful, who knows, maybe South Africa could inspire other Sub-Saharan countries to get their act together as well.

  2. anny87 says:

    It is a good question you ask on why South Africa is hosting the world cup, despite its high levels of domestic violence, rape, HIV/AIDS, racial discrimination etc. Yet, if it didn’t which other African country would be able to do it? And if so, would it be allowed and get the same support that South Africa has had? Now, I am not supporting its participation in this, but there are two key points you highlighted in this whole confused saga. First, from a Western perspective, South Africa is considered “much better” and “safer” to go to than other African countries. Most foreigners who want to help Africa or simply tour the continent start with South Africa. Other African countries do not have a lot of “safe havens” where foreigners can live a normal life while feeling protected. I went to South Africa, and the discrimination there is so distinct and separated that it is classic. You can go to South Africa and feel you are in “Europe”, and you can go to South Africa and be in equivalent slums of the world. It all depends on where you are and who you are with…things can be so different. It is this “safe haven”, among other political reasons, that have led South African to participate in the world cup, at least in my opinion. It also boils down to economic gain, and if given an opportunity of increasing one’s GDP during the world cup, then why not?
    Second, it is amazing to see how foreign countries rise in panic when it is matters concerning their citizens. That is why I have always been cynical of the intentions of international government or non-government agencies. Do they do it to simply create a world order that allows them to live peaceful, run their businesses etc. or do they do it because they care? If HIV/AIDS was spread in Europe, US and other developed countries as in Africa and Asia, do you think we wouldn’t have at least a vaccine by now? I doubt it. Yet, maybe this should install some sense of hope to us that African will finally receive valuable exposure and pragmatic solutions to the HIV/AIDS since “everyone” is at risk of being negatively affected.

  3. aliciaj1 says:

    I was really intrigued upon seeing the title of your blog post because it involves two things that I love, soccer and the country of South Africa. I completely understand your reservations about the safety issues surrounding the World Cup in South Africa, and the potential threats it may pose to women, but at the same time, I think that it is a wonderful thing that they are hosting it. One thing that has been highlighted in this class a few times is the need for us to began to see Africa in a positive light, and all of the wonderful things that it has to offer, and I think that bringing soccer, such an international sport to South Africa will be a way of doing this. While AIDs and crime are very real things in South Africa, the country itself is filled with many other incredible people and places, and I think it is fantastic that so many people around the world will be brought there and have their attention focused on the country for reasons other than apartheid and AIDs. Hopefully they will develop a love for the country and look to contribute to the issues there afterwards. While South Africa may not have the resources that some countries have or the same reputation, I am happy that they have been elected to host the world cup, and I hope that the event will be a successful one in bringing the country into a positive light!

  4. sirmomo says:

    I think this post was very interesting because it explores a topic that I never really thought about. I did notice in the past that when huge international sports events are held in foreign countries, the countries make efforts to make the atmosphere more impressive for the onslaught of tourists. For example, when China was chosen as the site for the Olympics, China worked on reducing pollution and making their environment a cleaner place. When I was in Jinan last summer, I noticed that there was a lot of construction going on because the Chinese national sports games were occurring there later in the year.
    I never really thought about how such events could be utilized as a way to improve conditions in a country. I think this is an important point in history for South Africa and a unique opportunity for social change. I hope South Africa experiences positive movements against violence against women.