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Selling sex isn't illegal in Sweden, but buying is — a radical approach to prostitution that faced ridicule when it was introduced nine years ago.
Now, while Americans are preoccupied with the downfall of New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer in a prostitution scandal, some countries are considering emulating the Swedish model, which prosecutes the client but views the prostitute as an exploited victim. Officials say the changed approach has reduced the demand for prostitutes and reshaped attitudes toward the sex trade. We have a problem with men who buy sex," said Kajsa Wahlberg, of the human trafficking unit at Sweden's national police board.
She said foreign law enforcement officials and politicians are coming to Sweden in droves to learn more about its law. Netherlands looks at Swedish approach On Friday, Wahlberg was meeting with police officials from the Netherlands, where prostitution is legal but where authorities have closed some brothels in a crackdown on organized crime in Amsterdam's red light district.
In January, a high-level British delegation came to study the Swedish approach as Britain reviews its own prostitution laws, which prohibit soliciting and loitering for sex, but not buying sex. Under Sweden's so-called "Sex Purchase Law," paying for sex is punished by fines or up to six months in prison, plus the humiliation of public exposure.
A handful of Swedish judges have been caught up in prostitution scandals, including a Supreme Court justice who was fined in after admitting to paying for sex with a young man. Pimps and brothel keepers are also prosecuted, but not prostitutes, because they are viewed as victims, treated as commodities in the sex trade. Critics say problem is merely moved While authorities judge the new system a success, critics question whether it has really reduced prostitution or merely pushed it off the streets into more isolated and dangerous surroundings.
Wahlberg concedes that accurate statistics are hard to obtain, but estimates the of prostitutes in Sweden dropped 40 percent from 2, in to 1, in She says police know from eavesdropping on human trafficking rings that Sweden is considered bad business because of its tough stance.
Conscious of the international interest, Sweden's government is planning a thorough review of the effects of the law, expected to be ready next year. Petra Ostergren, a writer who has studied prostitution for a decade, doesn't think it has worked well. Escort says violence is a problem A year-old escort who is a vocal opponent of the law said it had left prostitutes more vulnerable to violence.
The mother of two, known to the public by the pseudonym Isabella Lund, said authorities never consulted sex workers on the change. The Swedish law took effect at a time when many European countries were moving in another direction. Neighboring Denmark, for example, decriminalized prostitution in after quietly tolerating it for two decades. Most European countries prohibit pimping and running brothels, but tolerate prostitution and penalize neither prostitutes nor clients.
Brothels are legal in Holland and Germany provided they have business s. Marianne Eriksson said she was ridiculed by fellow lawmakers when she first proposed the change in the European Parliament in Many of them roared with laughter," recalled Eriksson, who has since left Europe's elected multinational legislature to chair the Stockholm branch of the opposition Left Party. Today, she said, she feels the Swedish model has "a very strong response" in other European countries, even if many of them ultimately decide against adopting it.
The view of prostitution as a legacy of a societal order that subordinates women to men is universally accepted among major political parties in gender-conscious Sweden. The urge to set things right led Claes Borgstrom, Sweden's equality ombudsman, to propose that the country boycott the soccer World Cup in Germany, because of an expected surge in prostitution during the monthlong tournament.
The idea was immediately rejected by the Swedish soccer federation. IE 11 is not supported.
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Sweden’s prostitution law: Get the customer