Strategies for reducing demand in Germany, The Netherlands and Sweden

Last year the European Commission released a report regarding human trafficking for sexual purposes. Part of the report focuses on strategies for reducing the demand for human trafficking for sexual purposes. RealStars volonteer, Gabriella Wolfe, has read the report.

The report studies two different methods for reducing demand; the decriminalising of pimping and the criminalising of buying sex. In Germany and The Netherlands they have chosen to de-criminalise pimping, whereas in Sweden making the of buying sex a crime is what RealStars works for.

In the following post, the European Commission´s conclusions regarding these strategies can be summed up in three parts. The first part focuses on what Germany´s and The Netherlands´ laws are compared to Sweden´s.

Germany and The Netherlands

In Germany and The Netherlands human trafficking, forced prostitution, and the taking of excessive profits from the prostitution of others is illegal, but the selling of sex and the taking out of a moderate amount of profit from the prostitution of others (in Sweden given the name of pimping), is legal. Businesses taking the profit from the prostitution of others can be brothel,
for example.

In Germany and The Netherlands checks are carried out on businesses that take profits from the prostitution of others in order to ensure that existing rules are being followed.

In The Netherlands the rules are made locally, while in Germany, sometimes there are no rules made at all. On the whole there are no
national rules applied either in Germany nor The Netherlands. The purpose of the legislation in Germany and The Netherlands is to
improve the employment and working conditions of people in prostitution and to drive the demand from the illegal sector (with human trafficking, forced prostitution and profiteering) to the legal and regulated sector.

Sweden

In Sweden human trafficking, the buying of sex and the taking of profits from other people selling sex (pimping) is illegal, but exactly like in Germany and The Netherlands, it is legal to sell sex. The purpose of the legislation in Sweden was, from the beginning, to contribute to increased gender equality; as long as men were able to buy womens´ bodies (which is usually always how prostitution is) it was seen that gender equality was impossible.

Ever since the law came into force, the purpose has evolved. Today the law is seen as a tool in the work against human trafficking. It is believed that demand for prostitution drives human trafficking and therefore it is the demand for it that shall be illegal.

Part 2 The Effects of Legislation

Germany and The Netherlands
According to the report, human trafficking for sexual purposes in Germany and The Netherlands has changed within the legal and illegal sector since the law came into force. Human trafficking and forced prostitution has decreased in the legal sector but instead moved to the illegal sector. One of the aims of the legislation was to drive the demand from the illegal sector to the regulated sector, which has not happened. Another aim with the legislation in The Netherlands and Germany was to improve the employment and working conditions of people in prostitution, but the report shows that the countries have failed in this. People in prostitution in neither the legal nor the illegal sectors have full rights to health insurance, parental leave, pensions, etc.

The fact that so many resources have been expended on the legal sector, including licensing and control, means that fewer resources are dedicated to the illegal sector. In this way the legislation only succeeds in protecting the people from the countries in the west and the older people who are mostly found in the legal sector, rather than the migrants and younger people in prostitution; groups which are even more vulnerable of exploitation.

Sweden
The report comes to the conclusion that there are notably fewer people in street prostitution in Sweden compared to other nordic countries that haven´t criminalised the buying of sex. Moreover, the report shows that the amount of foreign women – a group that is especially exposed to human trafficking for sexual purposes – is notably lower compared with other nordic countries.

The legislation has also led to there being fewer men that buy sex. More young as opposed to old men think that the law about buying sex is good, which indicates that the legislation has had a standardizing effect. Critics of the buying of sex law often state that the law has contributed to more violence towards those prostituted, greater stigma about prostitution, that fewer women seek help, that prostitution has gone underground and that more men buy sex abroad. However, the report does not find any grounds for these statements.

Part 3 Recommendations to reduce demand

The report ends with recommendations aimed at both the EU and the member countries to reduce the demand for people exposed to human trafficking for sexual purposes. Some of these are:

  • To de-criminalise the selling of sex – in order to identify the people who are exposed to human trafficking for sexual purposes, help them and effectively legislate against the human traffickers.
  • To criminalise the buying of sexual services from people exposed to human trafficking for sexual purposes and forced prostitution. Here the report suggests that the buyer should be prosecuted for being negligent.
  • To criminalise the buying of sex from people under 21 years of age, since they are the ones particularly exposed to illegal exploitation.
  • To criminalise the buying of sexual services from people in the illegal sector.
  • To criminalise the buying of sexual services on the street.
  • To consider the criminalising of all sex buying. There is still far too little research done for the report to definitely recommend the criminalising of all sex buying, but the indicators show quite clearly that the criminalising of all sex buying reduces human trafficking for sexual purposes.
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