The laws on prostitution in Sweden make it illegal to buy sex, but not to sell the use of one’s own body for such services. Procuring and operating a brothel remain illegal.
The criminalisation of the purchase of sex, but not the selling of one’s own body for sex, was unique when first enacted in Sweden in 1999. Since then, this “Nordic model” for sex trade legislation has been adopted in several other nations.
When one looks at the laws of Sweden concerning sęx workers, it stirs up the question of what exactly do these Swedes want? Do they want to legalize prostitution or do they not want to?
This uncertainty comes from the confusion that dates back to the year 1999 when Sweden became the first country to criminalise the purchase of sęx.
However, the law still allowed prostitutes to carry out their business undisturbed. In other words, selling sęx is legal, however, paying a prostitute for it comes with heavy repercussions such as jail term.
This model has been adopted by other countries like Norway, Iceland, and, more recently, Canada and Northern Ireland. However, organisations like Amnesty International’s have come up with a controversial proposal that rejects this absurd law.
The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women says Amnesty’s proposal would see it “advocate the legalisation of pimping, brothel owning and sęx buying – the pillars of a $99bn (£64bn) global sęx industry”.
Sweden’s official evaluation of the law, published in 2010, concluded that from 1998 to 2008 street prostitution in the country fell by half, largely as a result of the legislation.
However, some people argue that criminalising the purchase of sęx harms prostitutes by making their clients stressed and nervous, and driving the trade underground.
One thing, however, is clear: if countries are going to adopt the Swedish model, there are ways to do it that avoid at least some of the most negative consequences for those who choose to be in sęx work.
For example, Swedish sęx workers are tormented by the threat of eviction, because, under current law, landlords are vulnerable to pimping charges if they collect money earned from selling sęx.