Why should we only criminalise the buyer of sex?

Last Saturday, October 25th, RealStars visited three introductory language classes at Sundler high school in Vårgårda. The students had many thoughts and reflections primarily around why the Swedish Sex Purchase Act only criminalises the buyer of sex.

During the visit it became clear that the students were very interested in and curious about everything to do with equality, trafficking, prostitution and FAIR SEX – sex on equal terms and with mutual respect.

During every talk there were a lot of questions and extensive discussion.

Many students wondered why the law does not criminalise both the buyer and the seller of prostitution.

Yes, the Swedish Sex Purchase Act only criminalises the buyer of sex. In the government’s evaluation of a ban on sexual services (SOU 2010: 49, 76)  the criminalising of the sex buyer was explained by the fact that it is not reasonable to punish those who are already being exploited, i.e. those subjected to prostitution. When we explain this to the students we talk about internal and external coercion. Those vulnerable to prostitution can feel forced by external pressures to sell their body but also by their inner state. We try to get the students to reflect on what is the reason prostitution exists. RealStars is persuaded that the cause of prostitution is the demand for it, and many students agree. Despite that, not all agree that it is only the buyer who should be criminalised.

To develop the argument we show the students a survey interviewing 854 people in prostitution. (Farley et al. 2008, 56) Between 70% and 95% of the interviewees were subjected to physical violence in connection with prostitution. 89% of 785 participants did not want to be in prostitution. Those are a few of the statistics from the report which show that those in prostitution are in a vulnerable position.

During our talks we were asked: But how can prostitution be reduced? One answer to that question is to make it easier for those subjected to prostitution to report the purchase of sex without risking prosecution themselves. That is an important point in the thinking and discussion around these questions.

Now you know how a small part of our discussions can go during the talks. The role of RealStars is to inform, inspire, develop and challenge the students’ reasoning. Very many thoughts and ideas come from the students. They want to discuss this subject! It is about giving them the chance to do that. We thank Sundler high school for giving their students that chance. Do you know of any school that would like a visit?


sandra@realstars.eu for visits in Gothenburg

hanna@realstars.eu for visits in Stockholm

fanny@realstars.eu for visits to introductory language / newly arrived students

SOU 2010: 49, Prohibition on the purchase of sexual service. An evaluation 1999-2008Farley et al. 2008. Prostitution and Trafficking in Nine Countries: An Update on Violence and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, 33-74