On March 23-24 Realstars participated in a human trafficking conference arranged by the Stockholm Provincial Office. The initiative gave rise to many interesting discussions involving both civil society organisations as well as decision-makers. Overall, it is clear that it will take comprehensive collaboration on multiple levels, especially between organisations and authorities, in order to give victims of trafficking the help they need. In particular, such cooperation is needed to combat the demand which is the underlying problem.
”Trafficking is the slavery of our time”. These were the words of Attorney General Anna Skarhed when she referred to the RealStars art visible in the conference hall, and created by highschool students through one of our many projects. Trafficking is an issue that weigh heavy on authorities as well as the police. It is a common worry that the work against sex trafficking might be neglected due to time-consuming investigations of other crimes. But in reality, trafficking is often closely connected to other forms of criminal activity. Fighting trafficking could thereby also have far-reaching results when it comes to combating various crimes.
Skarhed also questioned the understatement of the Provincial Office’s latest report on the extent of prostitution, which stated that the Swedish Sex Purchase Act has only had “some effect”. On the contrary, Skarhed considered it to have had an enormous impact. Just like a law prohibiting theft will not eliminate the crime itself, it will nonetheless minimise the extent of it. In a similar manner, the Sex Purchase Act has been effective in decreasing the demand. The next step is now to criminalise sex purchase abroad. What is unacceptable in Sweden should also be unacceptable elsewhere. This will indeed pose a great challenge for the Swedish police and will require extensive involvement of authorities to have full effect.
Transnational cooperation is also necessary to combat human trafficking and to help the victims. “Mikaelmottagningen” in Malmö spoke to us about the importance of helping victims of trafficking and to continue the search for these people. From experience, the staff know that without actively trying to find these victims you will most likely never be able to get in contact with them. It is thus also crucial to find ways to make easier the process of helping victims of trafficking and enabling them to seek help. But this is not the underlying problem. As Kajsa Wahlberg rightfully put it: “we have a problem of men buying sex.”
Wahlberg here emphasised the importance of wording and how this affects the problem. By for example saying “children who sell sex” as oppose to “abusing children sexually” one normalises the act. As we frequently mention at RealStars, the demand is the biggest problem. Since the majority of people buying sex are men, this is the group that needs to gain more knowledge and understanding about trafficking and its costs. We need to work hard to combat norms that hinder sex on equal terms, but we also need to discuss masculinity and the wrongful portrayal of the female body as a commodity.
RealStars’ work focusing on demand is a most relevant strategy where we work together with corporations and young people for Fair sex. Our work with youths is important since it brings up the question of Fair sex in an age where they form their opinions on human dignity. This is where we can reach out and prohibit a development of more people buying sex and instead create an understanding of the intrinsic value of a human being. This is essential if we are to achieve Fair Sex and not view the body as a commodity to be sold and purchased.