Time to start taking sex purchases seriously

The last couple of days, we have been able to listen to the Swedish Radio’s investigation of prostitution in Sweden. The feature address, among other things, problems regarding how the Swedish authorities handle sex purchases. The police fail in their work against sex purchases in many parts of the country. In several counties not a single person was convicted, despite the alarming developments.

The conclusion is that buying sex as a crime is not an issue that is being prioritized. One reason for this could be that the penalty for sex purchases is too low and that the crime therefore gets a low priority for the police. The maximum penalty for sex purchase is one year in prison but the normal penalty is 50 daily fines. In one of the radio reports, prosecutor Patrik Tilly says he wants the penalty for sex purchases to be re-examined in the Supreme Court to see if the penalty should be strengthened. This is an initiative that we at RealStars obviously welcome. We would also like to broaden the issue of sex purchases and criminal penalty. That 80% of Swedes’ sex purchases take place abroad is something we cannot ignore. Therefore, it should be a crime for Swedish citizens to purchase sex outside Sweden’s borders. The fact that the majority of sex purchases take place abroad is something we can’t turn a blind eye to, and it is therefore important that the legislation also adapts.

Sex purchases are a serious crime that must be reflected within the police, the law-court and in our whole society because it’s not just about the sex purchase itself. The recent increase in sex purchases and the authorities’ handling of the crimes says something about how our society views women’s and minority’s rights. We know that the most vulnerable to get themselves into prostitution are women, girls and segregated and unprivileged groups. We know that many people who are in prostitution in Sweden come from poor conditions in poorer countries or use sex as self-harm behavior. We also know that a large proportion (68%) of people exposed to prostitution live with post-traumatic stress disorder (see Prostitution in 9 countries). Society has a responsibility to protect these people. Protect them from perpetrators who want to buy their bodies and protect them from perpetrators who want to sell their bodies. Sex purchase is not a private matter but a crime.

Sex purchases, like other crimes linked to mental, physical and sexual violence against women and marginalized groups, are something that is far down the agenda. In the social debate, in politics and in journalism, the issue of prostitution is something that is often excluded in conversations about serious crime. In the sentence “we must overcome gang crime, juvenile crime, mental illness, honor crimes, explosions and drug crimes”, of course, sex trade and trafficking should also be mentioned.

In Sweden, strong leadership is now needed that can ensure that laws and the legal community works. Sweden, which should be a country at the forefront with good examples in human rights, needs to see the seriousness of the situation. Good will and sporadic efforts are not enough if the deficiencies take over and desirable effects fails to appear. Sweden’s authorities, business, civil society and politicians must gather power and work towards a common strategy to change the development.

We must protect vulnerable groups and prevent them from being at risk. RealStars calls for vigors efforts and a comprehensive strategy at national level that both protects the victims and eliminates the demand for sex purchases. At the same time, we want to see all the great men getting involved in the issue and take a stand against sexual exploitation.