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July 2010, Week 3

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Wed, 21 Jul 2010 20:49:21 -0400
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Trafficking, Prostitution and the Sex Industry: 
The Nordic Legal Model

By Janice Raymond
Submitted to Portside
July 20, 2010

There is no doubt that the Nordic countries lead the
world on most indicators of gender equality.  Gender
equality experts and advocates have long pointed out
that in economics, politics and social services, the
Nordic countries top the charts. A less noticed
equality indicator is that the Nordic countries outpace
others in legal action to stem the sex trade by
addressing its unnoticed perpetrators -- the mainly male
purchasers of women and children in prostitution.

In 1999, with the approval of over 70% of its surveyed
population, Sweden passed groundbreaking legislation
that criminalized the buyer of sexual services.  Part
of a larger Violence Against Women bill, the
legislation was based on the foundation that the system
of prostitution is a violation of gender equality.
Sweden's legislation officially recognizes that it is
unacceptable for men to purchase women for sexual
exploitation, whether masked as sexual pleasure or "sex
work." Equally important, its law acknowledges that a
country cannot resolve its human trafficking problem
without addressing the demand for prostitution. The law
does not target the persons in prostitution.

This month, the government of Sweden published an
evaluation of the law's first ten years and how it has
actually worked in practice. Compared to the report's
understated and cautious tone, the findings are
strikingly positive: street prostitution has been cut
in half; there is no evidence that the reduction in
street prostitution has led to an increase in
prostitution elsewhere, whether indoors or on the
Internet; the bill provides increased services for
women to exit prostitution; fewer men state that they
purchase sexual services; and the ban has had a
chilling effect on traffickers who find Sweden an
unattractive market to sell women and children for sex.
Following initial criticism of the law, police now
confirm it works well and has had a deterrent effect on
other organizers and promoters of prostitution. Sweden
appears to be the only country in Europe where
prostitution and sex trafficking has not increased.

The Swedish results should be contrasted to neighboring
countries such as Denmark where there are no legal
prohibitions against the purchase of persons in
prostitution. Denmark has a smaller population than
Sweden (roughly 5 ½ million to Sweden's 9 million), yet
the scale of street prostitution in Denmark is three
times higher than in Sweden.

In casting the comparison further, we should note the
dismal results of the legalization model of
prostitution from countries in Europe that have
normalized pimping, brothels and other aspects of
prostitution and the sex industry. In 2002, Germany
decriminalized procuring for purposes of prostitution,
widened the legal basis for establishing brothels and
other prostitution businesses, lifted the prohibition
against promoting prostitution and theoretically gave
women the right to contracts and benefits in
prostitution establishments. Five years later, a
federal government evaluation of the law found that the
German Prostitution Act, as it is called, has failed to
improve conditions for women in the prostitution
industry nor helped women to leave. It has also failed
"to reduce crime in the world of prostitution." As a
result, the report stated that "prostitution should not
be considered to be a reasonable means for securing
one's living." The federal government is drafting a
criminal provision to punish the clients of those
forced into prostitution or who are victims of
trafficking -- the Swedish model lite with all its
caloric value removed.

The results are equally bad in the Netherlands where
prostitution and the sex industry have been legalized
since 2000. Two official reports in 2007 and 2008 have
soured official optimism about the Dutch legalization
model. The government-commissioned Daalder Report found
that the majority of women in the window brothels are
still subject to pimp control and that their emotional
well-being is lower than in 2001 "on all measured
aspects." The Dutch National Police Report puts it more
strongly: "The idea that a clean, normal business
sector has emerged is an illusion..." Like the Germans,
the Dutch are now proposing an amendment that would
penalize the buyers who purchase unlicensed persons in
prostitution -- another version of the Swedish model
lite. Still, an indication that penalizing the buyer is
gaining ground.

The failure of the legalization model in Europe helped
the Swedish model to become the Nordic model in 2009
when Norway outlawed the purchase of women and children
for sexual activities. One year after the Norwegian law
came into force, a Bergen municipality survey estimated
that the number of women in street prostitution had
decreased by 20 percent with indoor prostitution also
down by 16 percent.   Bergen police report that
advertisements for sexual activities have dropped 60
percent. Also, the police have effectively monitored
telephone numbers of buyers, who respond to such
advertisements, in order to identify and charge them.
An added value is that monitoring reveals a wider
network of criminal groups involved in trafficking for
prostitution and their links to others involved in
child prostitution, pornography and drug trafficking.
In Oslo, the police also report that there are many
fewer buyers on the street.

The same year as Norway, Iceland passed a law
criminalizing the purchase of a sexual service. Earlier
in 2004, Finland approved a more anemic version of the
Nordic model. This left Denmark as the outlier with no
legislation targeting the demand for prostitution.

The success of the Nordic model is not so much in
penalizing the men (the penalties are modest) as in
removing the invisibility of men who are outed when
they get caught.  This, in turn, makes it less
appealing for pimps and traffickers to set up shop in
countries where the customer base fears the loss of its
anonymity and is declining.

Legalization of prostitution is a failed policy in
practice. The prostitution policy tide is turning from
legalization of prostitution to targeting the demand
for prostitution without penalizing the victims.
Countries who want to be effective in the fight against
trafficking and not havens of sexual exploitation are
beginning to understand that they cannot sanction pimps
as legitimate sexual entrepreneurs and must take legal
action against the buyers.

Biographical Note: Janice Raymond is Professor Emerita
of Women's Studies at the University of Massachusetts,
Amherst and a member of the Board of Directors of the
Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW). Janice
G. Raymond. Ph.D Professor Emerita University of
Massachusetts, Amherst (USA)

Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) PO Box
9338, N. Amherst, MA 01059 USA Fax: 413-367-9262 E-
mail: [log in to unmask]

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