* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.Subhead: "The GIFT Box," a sidewalk exhibit about the dangers of human trafficking, has been on display in New York in the week leading up to the Super Bowl on Sunday, being held a few miles away in New Jersey. Byline: Hajer Naili
Credit: vincent.limshowchen on Flickr, under Creative Commons
NEW YORK (WOMENSENEWS)--As the city has been gearing up for the Super Bowl, an anti-human trafficking campaign here is raising awareness and educating the public on the fast-growing crime.
This year, the Super Bowl XLVIII will be played in East Rutherford, N.J., on Feb. 2, just a few miles away from the city. About 400,000 people are expected to flock to the metropolitan area for the big game.
The throng of football fans and tourists puts women, children and men at higher risk of being trafficked, says Ruth Dearnley, CEO of STOP THE TRAFFIK. "Sports events draw attention to human trafficking, the world's fastest growing crime," she said in a press release.
To raise awareness of the threat, Dearnley's group has brought the GIFT Box to the United States for the first time, along with the United Nation's Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking and the Committee to Stop Trafficking in Persons. The acronym GIFT stands for Global Initiative to Fight Trafficking.
The GIFT Box, launched in London in 2012 during the Olympic Games, is a walk-in exhibit displayed near Union Square, at Broadway and 17th Street, that invites pedestrians to enter a big, colorfully wrapped box, where they are confronted with the harsh realities of sex trafficking through photographs and survivor stories. It will be on display until the Super Bowl.
The group Girl Be Heard will be performing excerpts of their award-winning play "Trafficked" at the GIFT Box location on Jan. 31st at 4:30 p.m. "Trafficked" tells the story of sex slavery and child exploitation through the eyes of young women.
The U.S. State Department estimates that 27 million men, women and children are trafficking victims worldwide at any given time. Another figure shows that human trafficking is a $32 billion industry, making it the second-largest criminal industry in the world, after drug trafficking, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
Not everyone agrees that major sporting events are a big part of the problem though. In a piece for Salon, "The Super Bowl Trafficking Myth," Tracy Clark-Flory writes about the lack of evidence of sex trafficking around the time of the Super Bowl. She cites a 2011 report from the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, which concluded, "There is no evidence that large sporting events cause an increase in trafficking for prostitution."
Earlier this week, however, Rep. Christopher Smith, R-N.J., called the football competition a sex trafficking magnet. "In less than a week, New Jersey will be hosting the Super Bowl, and along with welcoming enthusiastic fans, the state also is preparing for a likely influx of both domestic and international traffickers," said Smith, co-chairman of the House of anti-human trafficking caucus.
Hajer Naili is a New York-based reporter for Women's eNews. She has worked for several radio stations and publications in France and North Africa and specializes in Middle East and North Africa women in Islam.
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