Friday, November 9, 2007

Those Liberal, Openminded Swedes

I read this article in the November 8, 2007 Der Spiegel (one of the big German newspapers) and I found myself wondering if the Internet had suddenly developed a wormhole into a parallel universe:
Sweden has drastically reduced human trafficking and prostitution by imposing a ban on the purchase of sexual services, the first of its kind worldwide. But many sex workers argue the ban robs them of their livelihood and makes them more vulnerable to violence.

It's 9 p.m. in Stockholm and Malmskillnadsgatan Street is dead. The road, infamous for being one of the city's main drags for street prostitution, used to be packed with women, but tonight only three women are working the street.

For a long while, nothing happens, but then an older man with alcohol on his breath comes up the escalator from the Högtorget subway station. He pauses briefly in front of one of the women. Then she walks about 10 meters away and signals to him to follow her to a more discreet spot.

In Sweden's sex trade these days, caution is a good policy: The john could face up to six months in prison if the police caught the two in the act.

Sweden has now introduced the first law of its kind worldwide. The purchase and brokering of sexual services have been criminalized, although the selling of sexual services remains legal. The law provides for up to six years in prison for pimps and up to 10 years for traffickers of prostitutes. "The goal is to criminalize the demand side of the equation, the johns, rather than putting emotionally and physically imperiled women behind bars," says Jonas Trolle, an inspector with the Stockholm police who belongs to a police unit dedicated to combating the sex trade.

The ban is hardly controversial in Sweden these days. According to opinion polls, 80 percent of the population agrees with Trolle. When a majority consisting of social democrats, greens and leftists ratified the ban on purchasing sexual services in the Swedish parliament in 1999, conservatives were the legislation's main opponents. They argued that the ban would drive prostitution underground and make life more difficult for the women.
The rest of the article goes on to say that there has been a dramatic reduction in prostitution in Sweden, as well as a reduction in the human trafficking related offenses (in which often Third World women are effectively bought and sold as slaves).

Would you have believed that the day would come when you would see the left end of any European country decide that prostitution needed to be crushed out of existence by law?

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