FIFA says it has no power to stop forced prostitution

April 13, 2006

GENEVA -- Soccer's governing body insists it has no power to stop forced prostitution in Germany, which is expected to increase during the World Cup.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter said Thursday his organization is obliged to comply with international and national laws, but its main task is to ensure its competitions adhere to regulations.

"FIFA places great importance on respecting human life and the physical integrity of human beings," Blatter said in response to accusations that his group was not taking stronger action on this issue.

"Prostitution and trafficking of women, however, does not fall within the sphere of responsibility of an international sports federation but in that of the authorities and the lawmakers of any given country," he added.

Germany legalized prostitution in 2003. The European Union said it had no clear figures on how many women might be forced to work as prostitutes in the 12 host cities.

The German Women's Council estimated 40,000 extra prostitutes would be in Germany for the event, but did not know how many would be there against their will.

About 3.5 million visitors are expected in Germany for the World Cup, which runs June 9 to July 9. The European Union said it had received assurances from Germany that it will be vigilant.

On Wednesday, the Council of Europe -- Europe's main human rights watchdog -- urged Germany to set up and publicize multilingual telephone help lines to allow women to request emergency assistance.

A Swedish official recently urged the country to withdraw from the World Cup to protest the expected surge in prostitution. The suggestion by Claes Borgstrom, Sweden's equal opportunity ombudsman, was rejected by the Swedish soccer federation. The soccer group warned that the country could be excluded from future competitions if it boycotted the event.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press