It’s A Penalty unites sporting world to end child exploitation
Abuse, exploitation and trafficking of children is an issue to which anyone working with young people must pay special attention.
Each year over two million children are lured into the global sex trade and over 40 million young people per year experience some form of abuse.
Human trafficking involves 1.2 million children a year, with 63% of child trafficking survivors advertised online at some point.
Research has shown that a huge influx of visitors into a country for a major sporting event, such as the FIFA World Cup or the Olympic Games, increases these risks for children. That’s why the charity It’s A Penalty, together with their partners, uses major publicity around global sporting events to raise awareness and prevent such abuses occurring.
The campaign has globally recognised sports stars – such as Usain Bolt, Cathy Freeman, Francois Pienaar, David Luiz, Frank Lampard and Gary Lineker – who are the voice of the campaign, appearing in videos that are shown on major airlines, in hotels and in stadiums and sporting venues. This global network is completed by support on the ground from local law enforcement agencies, sports governing bodies and NGOs.
It’s A Penalty aims to educate sporting fans and tourists visiting major sporting events about the issue, as well as penalties for offenders and equips everyone with mechanisms, local hotlines, to report a crime. . The campaign also wants everyone to #knowthesigns and signposts people to where and how they can report suspected cases of child abuse, sexual exploitation and trafficking.
On the It’s a Penalty website there is a list of telltale signs that indicate that a child could be a victim. There is also a world map which shows how to report suspected cases in every country and to encourage everyone that ‘If you see something, say something!’
It’s A Penalty Founder Sarah de Carvalho MBE spent a decade working with street children in Brazilian favelas and as a result launched the first campaigns during the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games, both of which were held in Brazil. This year, campaigns focus on February’s Winter Olympics and Paralympics in PyeongChang in South Korea, April’s Hong Kong Rugby Sevens and Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast, and next week’s Superbowl LII in Minneapolis, USA.
De Carvalho told the Alliance of Sport: “The influx of thousands of people for big sporting events puts vulnerable young people in that hosting city or country at greater risk. There are unscrupulous people that will sexually exploit minors, often dressing them up to look older than they are in order to make money.
“Fortunately, sport is a force for social good and also provides a wonderful global platform to spread our message of prevention all over the world.
“In Minnesota in 2015, 943 girls and 36 boys were victims of sex trafficking. The USA has an issue with sex trafficking and exploitation of minors during the Super Bowl, and have set up an anti-trafficking sub-committee in Minnesota to deal with the problem during the event. They, like other sporting governing bodies, want to protect vulnerable children and young people during the event, so that there is a positive legacy.”
De Carvalho added: “In 2015/16 there were 54,000 sexual offences recorded against children in the UK and in Australia one in every five children will be sexually harmed before their 18th birthday.
“These figures show that no country is exempt, either in less economically developed countries or in the West, especially with the internet. Looking at global figures is startling, but when you start breaking it down into countries, cities and states, you realise how serious it is. Together we can make a difference.”
Click here so you #knowthesigns of child abuse, child exploitation and child trafficking
Click here for information on how to make a report if you think a child is in danger
For more information on the It’s A Penalty charity, visit their home page.