Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Critique of the "Swedish model" for sex work laws

The New Republic published an interesting critique: The Problem With the "Swedish Model" for Sex Work Laws

"Sweden’s landmark 1999 sex work legislation—presented as decriminalizing the seller of sex while criminalizing the client—is aggressively marketed as a “progressive solution” to prostitution internationally. Versions of the “Swedish model” have been implemented in Norway, Iceland, and Canada, and last week a version was adopted in Northern Ireland. The intention, we’re told, is to “reduce demand” for paid sex: shrinking, then ultimately abolishing, the sex trade.

"It’s too bad that the reality of the law is not so simple, nor so uncomplicatedly progressive.
"For street-based sex workers, a potential client driving past will be nervous and keen to agree to terms speedily if his role is criminalized, and to keep his business the sex worker has far less time to make crucial assessments about whether he seems safe. Research into anti-client laws around Vancouver street-based sex work found that, “without the opportunity to screen clients or safely negotiate the terms of sexual services … sex workers face increased risks of violence, abuse, and HIV.” The Norwegian government writes about its own law: “Women in the street market report [having] a weaker bargaining position and more safety concerns now than before the law was introduced.”

"While sex workers are not prosecuted simply for selling sex under the Swedish model, various laws continue to be used against them in punitive ways. “Operation Homeless,” the memorably-named Norwegian police initiative, evicted people suspected of selling sex—a law aimed at “pimps,” but used against sex workers’ landlords.

"When the Norwegian Police were pursuing “Operation Homeless,” they used surveillance to find targets for eviction—but they also evicted sex workers who came to their attention in other ways. A group of sex working Nigerian women were evicted—and left homeless—after reporting that they had been the victims of rape, a situation that illuminates the comment by the Norwegian government that “the threshold for reporting a violent customer to the police also seems to be higher after the law. People in prostitution are afraid that such actions will come back to [haunt] them at later stages.” Sex workers—including people with EU residency—are aggressively deported, and their deportation orders include commentary like: “She has not maintained herself in an honest manner.”