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Seeking to better her life, Irina, 18, answers a newspaper advertisement for a training course in Berlin. Using a falsified passport, she travels from her native Ukraine to Germany. There she is told the school is closed and sent to Belgium for a "job." Upon arrival, Irina learns she owes those in charge $10,000 and must repay the debt by prostitution. Irina's handlers take her documents, beat and rape her, and make her a prostitute. Eventually they turn her over to another pimp in Brussels' red-light district. Watching for a chance at freedom, Irina escapes one day—only to be jailed by the police because she has no documentation.

Sexual trafficking is a huge problem in Europe and worldwide. University of Rhode Island researcher Donna M. Hughes, who relates Irina's story, says global trafficking in women and girls for purposes of sexual exploitation rakes in $7 billion every year. Untold millions more are domestic "sex workers" within their own countries.

Human-rights groups are understandably outraged by Germany's decision to make prostitution a spectator sport at the World Cup. Germany, which legalized the world's oldest profession in 2002, already has an estimated 400,000 legal prostitutes. Apparently that's not sufficient to satisfy 3 million visiting soccer fans. So Germany's World Cup cities have issued extra prostitution licenses and approved "sex huts" (complete with condoms and snacks) to be set up like portable potties around stadiums.

Anti-trafficking activists say these initiatives will bring 40,000 more women into the country. Many will be poor Eastern Europeans like Irina, under the control of organized crime.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a Christian, has been mum about these measures. Other officials ...

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In the Magazine

July 2006

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