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What Human Trafficking Has to do With the Olympics

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This Friday the world will come together and celebrate the much-anticipated London 2012 Olympic Games. Every two years, over 10,000 athletes representing over 204 countries come together and share one flag, a flag that features five rings, one for each continent represented at the games.

This summer while people from all corners of the world will gather around their televisions cheering for their respective countries, hoping that their athletes will be decorated in gold, silver or bronze, many young women and girls on the streets of London will have little to celebrate.

Although the Olympic Games often bring a sense of unity, patriotism and heightened national pride, it also causes a rise in human sex trafficking as the market demand for sexual labour increases dramatically.

Approximately 2.5 million people are in forced labour as a result of being trafficked. The majority of the trafficking victims are between 18 and 24 years of age. Furthermore, 43 per cent of victims are used for forced commercial exploitation; 98 per cent of those victims are women and girls. In 2006, for every 800 people trafficked, only one person was convicted. Every year this trade generates upwards of 12-billion dollars.

According to the United Nations Palermo Protocol, "human trafficking" is defined as follows:

"The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation."

In 2010, when Canada had the honour of hosting the Winter Olympic Games, I worked diligently alongside various organizations to help combat human trafficking on the streets of Vancouver. At this time I commended the British Government for the steps they were taking to help tackle human trafficking concerns and applauded them for appointing a police commissioner to deal exclusively with trafficking during the London 2012 Olympic Games. Although numerous precautions have been taken, the sad reality is that women and girls will still be sexually exploited on the streets of London.

Over the next few weeks, as we all come together and celebrate the Olympic Games let us not forget about those young girls who have little to celebrate. Let us ensure that our cheers do not silence their cries. Let us save a place in our hearts for those women and girls who are being exploited and robbed of their dignity.