Should the Sex Trade Law be decriminalized?: Part 2

In part one we started discussing CFU’s proposal to completely decriminalize prostitution. And CFU are not alone in their mindset. In the article ”Tearing up the Sex Trade Law is the only sane thing to do (Att riva upp sexköpslagen är det enda vettiga)” Louise Persson is has some doubts about the Sex Trade Law.

Persson is doubtful of the report from the Government which announced that street prostitution in Sweden has been halved since the introduction of the Sex Trade Law, but there is some indication that these women have simply been moved indoors. The Government also estimates that prostitution is less common in Sweden than in neighboring countries. They say the Sex Trade Law has directly contributed to the decline in prostitution and trafficking: “the criminalization of purchasing sexual services has helped to combat prostitution and human trafficking for sexual purposes.”Persson says that we instead should focus on the fact”…that sex workers suffer in Sweden.”

We agree with Persson. We should of course focus on the well-being and safety of the women but to be able to do that we need a law which basically does just that, focusing on the women. Decriminalization doesn’t seem to be the right way to focus on the women. Contreras and Farley (2011) states that ”legalizing prostitution does not decrease violence against women who are prostitutes (p. 31).

Persson writes about an increase in violence against prostituted women after the Sex Trade Law was introduced, but this isn’t something strange either. A “business” (as CFU calls it) like prostitution is entirely based on oppression, sexualization of women, violence and inequality. The women are treated as commodities, bought and sold. Once again, to change the situation for the women we must first criminalize sex buying and thus legally protect the women at the same time.

Lastly, Persson writes that we should take a look at New Zealand’s decision to completely decriminalize prostitution: ”New Zealand decriminalized – and focused on the sex worker’s perspective and need of harm reduction and human rights.” The success of New Zealand’s decriminalization was perhaps a bit exaggerated: Since decriminalization, street prostitution has spiraled out of control, especially in New Zealand´s largest city, Auckland. A 200 to 400% increase in street prostitution has been reported. After legalization of prostitution in Victoria, Australia, the number of legal brothels doubled” (Contreras & Farley, 2011). The writers also describe how the legalization of prostitution in New Zealand creates problems with regulations over which areas brothels and prostitution should be allowed and the women in these areas became more isolated than before while violence and oppression continued.

We agree with Persson that focus should be put on violence against prostitutes and also new ways to protect the women. But we disagree when it comes to the Sex Trade Law. We consider the law to be an important foundation when it comes to protecting women at risk.

Hennie Weiss & Elin Weiss for Realstars


Contreras, Michelle and Melissa Farley. 2011. ”Human Trafficking: Not an Isolated Issue”, Pp.
22-36 in Surviving Sexual Violence: A Guide to Recovery and Empowerment, edited by
Bryant- Davis Thema.
Regerinskansliet, Evaluation of the prohibition of the purchase of sexual services.

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