NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 30, 2009

Sweden revised its approach to the problem of prostitution by criminalizing the purchase of sexual services in 1999, says the Weekly Standard.

  • Offenders face a fine or up to six months in prison, while pimps and other traffickers face incarceration of up to 10 years.
  • Prostituted women, meanwhile, are not prosecuted, but directed to social services designed to help them develop alternative means of support and recover from their dehumanizing experience.
  • Foreigners are encouraged to participate in trafficking investigations and prosecutions; those who decline are returned to their countries of origin after 30 days.

According to a former Swedish minister of justice; "… as long as men think they are entitled to buy and use women's and girls' bodies, human trafficking for sexual purposes will continue," says the Standard.

Within five years of the law's enactment, however, the number of trafficked persons had declined significantly:

  • In 1999, it was estimated that 125,000 Swedish men bought about 2,500 prostituted women one or more times per year.
  • Of these women, approximately 650 were street prostituted.
  • Since then, the number of women involved in street prostitution has decreased by at least 30 percent to 50 percent, and the recruitment of new women has come almost to a halt.

With demand dampened, the market for prostitution had to adjust, says the Standard:

  • In the first three years of the new regimen, the number of prostituted persons in Sweden (population 8.8 million) fell from 2,500 to 1,500.
  • Compare this with an estimated 10,000 and 15,000 prostituted persons in Finland (population 5 million) and 5,000 just in Oslo, the capital of Norway (population 4.3 million).
  • Not surprisingly, Norway went on to adopt the Swedish-style laws, says the Weekly Standard.

Source: Mark P. Lagon, "The Swedish Way," Weekly Standard, November 16, 2009.

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