In preparation for the Super Bowl to be hosted in Indianapolis this year, authorities are working to prevent the flow of trafficked persons into the city. The annual pro football event is reported to be usually rampant with human and child trafficking.
Similar concerns have been raised in relation to other major sporting events, such as the World Cup and the Olympic Games. At previous Super Bowls, girls as young as 14-17 years old have been peddled as prostitutes.
Indiana state’s Senate Bill 4 is being sponsored by Senators Randy Head and Karen Tallian. The bill would protect children by invoking tougher laws to combat trafficking in persons, including disallowing a parent or guardian (or other individual) from selling or transferring custody of a child for the purposes of prostitution. Convicted child sex traffickers would serve 20-50 years in prison. State law could also ban the use of force or deception to make a person engage in sexual activity. Regardless of consent, the law would criminalize setting up a sexual transaction between an adult and a child (including a minor teenager).
As many as 17,500 men, women and children are trafficked into the USA every year. Worldwide, this figure is estimated at 2.4 million—80 per cent of whom are girls and women and 15-20 per cent of whom are children.
Senator Head said that previous Super Bowls in Dallas and Miami saw thousands of prostitutes transported to the location. In Dallas in 2011, police made at least 130 human trafficking-related arrests. In Miami in 2010, child rights advocates identified 16 underage prostitutes. The children had been brought into the city specifically for the game.
As many as 10,000 prostitutes were brought into the Miami region for its Super Bowl, while 1,500 women and children were thought to be left behind in Dallas this year after traffickers exploited them.
“We hope to send a message loud and clear to tourists who come to Indiana for our Super Bowl—don't try it,” he said, reports the Times of Northwest Indiana.
"We must be realistic and candid about the fact that organized criminals who exploit young women and children through human trafficking have gravitated to such gatherings in other cities,'' he added while a news conference yesterday.
Governor Mitch Daniels and Attorney General Greg Zoeller have voiced support, aiming to sign it before the February 5th Super Bowl. This would take tremendous effort, but would be well worth it.
Despite the enormous profits to be made by businesses and government during the Super Bowl, it should not be a zero-sum game for vulnerable children and teens.