the truth about the Swedish Model

I used to think that in Sweden and other Nordic countries if two women chose to work together for safety then the worst that could happen to them is that their clients would be arrested on their doorstep. They would have to leave their place of safety and engage in more risky behaviour. You would think that considering that the Swedish system was supposed to be 'criminalising the buying but not the selling of sex'. Turns out I got that completely wrong: sex workers are punished severely in Sweden and Norway.

There are two things that can happen to them. First, they can both be prosecuted for running a brothel. They can both be treated as pimps. This might sound unlikely but this happens in Britain too. Secondly, the police can go to the landlord and say that the landlord is living off immoral earnings but that they will let him or her off if he or she evicts the sex workers.

Eviction happens to sex workers on their own too. At least in Britain prostitutes who work alone from flats are not breaking the law. So it seems that they are punished more harshly in Sweden and Norway than they are in Britain. In New Zealand up to four sex workers can work together without permission from the authorities.

Sex workers are harassed, deported and can have their children taken away from them. This is without women being able to defend themselves in a court of law. If the Swedish or Norwegian police found a particular woman troublesome I'm sure her name can go to the top of the list for eviction. A sex worker who has a blog exposing police harassment could be punished by eviction. I read the blogs of three sex workers, Maggie McNeill (US), Laura Lee (UK) and Felicia Anna (the Netherlands). If the Swedish/Nordic Model was adopted worldwide - as some people are campaigning for - they could be silenced. Also their blogs might be seen to be 'facilitating prostitution' as could mine.

It is said by some feminists that prostitution is violence against women. That has never made sense to me. It is persecution of prostitutes that is violence against women. This has been going on for centuries and continues in Sweden and Norway. If you really think that prostitutes are vulnerable, how can you think that making them homeless and stopping them working together for safety is a good thing? There is something dishonest about this attitude.

I have quoted selectively from a comment made on a website by a Swedish sex worker called Pye.

"If we work from home our landlord can be charged with pimping if he doesn't evict us, needless to say landlords evict us at the mere suspicion."

"If we work together for safety we are charged with pimping each other. Anything that is seen as "facilitating prostitution" is by the definition of the law pimping, no financial gain or exploitation needs to be involved. So if I want a friend to drive me when I see a client in his home and want them to wait outside for my safety...pimping."

"And did I mention that there is no condom distribution in the the two biggest cities? Giving us condoms is "keeping us in the problem" and the national coordinator on trafficking and prostitution has stated that he thinks we can buy our own condoms if we make so much money."

I have copy-and-pasted the full comment below.

"Well I am a swedish sex worker and it is clear that the author has absolutely no idea what he is talking about. And I always find it kind of amusing when rightous people think they are so much more clever than UNDP, UNAIDS and WHO who are all for decriminlisation of sex work and against the Swedish Model (you doubt me, read the report of the Commission on HIV & the law). Back to Sweden...First of all, the Swedish Model does not decriminalise us. This law was put on top already existing abolitionist laws, not one law was repealed. If we work from home our landlord can be charged with pimping if he doesn't evict us, needless to say landlords evict us at the mere suspicion. If we work from an apartment we own we have forfeited the right to own iot if we sell sex in it. Hotelare taught by the police how to recognize us, if they dont kick us out...well pimping. In Norway sex workers are black listed from the major hotel chains and the police is encouraging neighbours to report suspected prostitution so they can get sex workers evicted. If we work together for safety we are charged with pimping each other. Anything that is seen as "facilitating prostitution" is by the definition of the law pimping, no financial gain or exploitation needs to be involved. So if I want a friend to drive me when I see a client in his home and want them to wait outside for my safety...pimping. Now why would I go to a clients home as that can be risky, well that and selling sex in the street are in fact the only two ways to work and ONLY be affected by the law criminalising the clients, so clearly our safety is not a major concern. And did I mention that there is no condom distribution in the the two biggest cities? Giving us condoms is "keeping us in the problem" and the national coordinator on trafficking and prostitution has stated that he thinks we can buy our own condoms if we make so much money. And supporters of the Swedish Model always go on about the fabulous support you get if you want to change job...well it's therapy and social wellfare which might work for some. However in the largest study done among indoor workers in Sweden only one out of 124 said they needed help and thought the state had resources to help them. Maybe not so strange when the very social workers that are supposed to "help" them talk with media and researches and says things about how useless it would be to give us rape alarms, we just go with clients and get raped anyway. Last time the state documented the "Prostitution Unit" in Stockholm (thats you fab exit program) was in 2011. During that year they had 42 clients.....But in Norway the biggest opposition to the law comes from the main service provider in Oslo, a part of the councils social wellfare system, as they actually understand that this law is not only refusing us rights, but in fact removes some rights. But I guess social workers that claim that violence is worse and there is increased police harassment are not to be trusted either, yes its there in the Norwegian evaluation. It also says that the amount of police reports of violence against sex workers is the same as before the law and later states that service providers says that sex workers now are less likely to report crime. That does not equal violence going down, rather indicates quite the opposite. But worst of all is that the stigma is way higher. It's actually the one thing everybody agrees on. Like a high police officer said "It's not supposed to be easy to sell sex". But hey, I'm just another foot soldier, why trust me. So directly from the Swedish state's own evaluation: “People who are currently being exploited in prostitution state that the criminalization has intensified the social stigma of selling sex,They describe having chosen to prostitute themselves and do not consider themselves to be unwilling victims of anything. Even if it is not forbidden to sell sex, they feel they are hunted by the police. They feel that they are being treated as incapacitated persons because their actions are tolerated but their wishes and choices are not respected.” Then, a few sentences later, it says: “For people who are still being exploited in prostitution, the above negative effects of the ban that they describe must be viewed as positive from the perspective that the purpose of the law is indeed to combat prostitution.”

It has been said that sex workers are safer in Sweden after the law was introduced than in the Netherlands. There are a number of points to be made about that.

  • New Zealand is the best model for decriminalization not the Netherlands or Germany
  • it looks as if the number of deaths of sex workers have been decreasing since decriminalization in the Netherlands
  • the number of deaths of sex workers in Sweden is about the same before and after the introduction of the law
  • there were no deaths of sex workers in Sweden in the 9 years up to the introduction
  • there has been 1 death of a sex worker in Sweden since the introduction
  • sex workers are more visible - often registered - in the Netherlands than in Sweden so no one really knows how many are killed in Sweden
  • Swedish sex workers avoid the police
You might think it could all be worth it if they can get rid of prostitution, but the law in Sweden (sexköpslagen) has been in place for 15 years and it isn't reducing the amount of prostitution. The best that you could say is that it reduced street sex work by a half but street sex workers were only ever about 10 per cent of sex workers and we have done much more in Britain to reduce street sex work through the use of ASBOs.

There weren't murders in Ipswich until a serial killer turned up. The vulnerability of sex workers means that more will be killed if and when there's a killing spree. Forcing them to work on their own and making them homeless makes them more vulnerable. People who oppose sensible changes in the law - the sort of changes that Amnesty International wish - will have to take responsibility when women are killed. It makes no difference if it's the Swedish model or the American model, they are essentially the same.

Amnesty found that sex workers in Norway were routinely evicted by the police. Guardian 03/08/15 Molly Smith

The Problem With the "Swedish Model" for Sex Work Laws also by Molly Smith

Fitzgerald’s ‘Swedish Model’ Bill omitted to decriminalise soliciting – the law that directly targets people who work on the street, the most clear and direct form of criminalisation that sex workers in Ireland are subject to. Then, in January 2016, Fitzgerald amended her Bill to increase the penalties for “loitering in a public place for the purpose of offering … services as a prostitute”, upping the previous maximum of four weeks jail time to a new maximum of six months, and doubling fines. also by Molly Smith

one should be careful in concluding that Nordic prostitution policies are guided by progressive feminist ideals, or that they necessarily seek to protect women involved in prostitution

the police notify owners of apartments / offices / hotels where prostitution is found that they will charged with pimping, if the tenancy is not terminated from The Oslo report on violence against sex workers examined on a feminist site Feminist Ire.

In Norway, women engaging in sex work are evicted from their homes and also deported, according to Amnesty. If the police find condoms, by searching someone who is carrying them, they consider them evidence of criminal activity. Sex workers remain “at high risk of violence and abuse” but rarely turn to the police. The New York Times magazine 25/05/16 Emily Bazelon

Impacts of the Swedish Criminalisation of the Purchase of Sex on Sex Workers under the Swedish model police have refused to prosecute rapes reported by sex workers

First arrest made under Northern Ireland's new offence of paying for sex Chief constable reveals man and three women have been arrested in brothel raid as sex worker steps up legal fight to overturn controversial law Guardian 05/11/15 Henry McDonald. One man and three women? If the new Northern Ireland law is like the Swedish law why were three women arrested? Aren't the sex workers supposed not to get arrested? Not only are the sex workers arrested, but it seems they are arrested more often than the men.

Swedish sex workers are tormented by the threat of eviction Pye Jakobsson, co-founder of the Rose Alliance, a Swedish sex workers’ organisation, says that of her group’s nine board members, three have been thrown out of their homes Guardian 08/08/14 Michelle Goldberg

"Contrary to assertions that “police definitely don’t interfere” with sex workers, police can use pimping laws to ‘interfere’ with sex workers directly. Where it is illegal to provide premises for prostitution, landlords are obliged to evict sex workers, or face prosecution themselves. Police have been known to inform landlords that their tenant(s) sell sex, thus forcing the eviction. Sex workers working together for safety, as well as anybody cohabiting with a sex worker, can also be targeted, prosecuted for pimping one another or sharing in the income of prostitution, respectively." from this site.

Jonas Trolle, Detective Superintendent of Stockholm's Police Surveillance Unit said this to the BBC.

"I think it should be difficult to be a prostitute even though it is not forbidden in Sweden. So even though we don't put them into jail, we say OK we will make it very very difficult for you to act as a prostitute in our society, even though we see her as a victim."

I see her as a victim too, but I see her as a victim of Witchfinder General Jonas Trolle and people who think like him. I don't believe him when he says 'we don't put them into jail'.

No comments: