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Sexworkers in Europe want to be respected as individuals, and want their work recognized. In Sweden sex workers who make the decision to sell sexual services out of free will, are considered victims of structural oppression, and their clients are punished as criminals. What the individual sex worker thinks is not important. This has its roots in a marxist influenced radical feminist ideology, which has a firm grip on Swedish policy in many areas. The great majority of the Swedish public do not share this view, which is embraced by many politicians (directly or indirectly) and media. It also becomes more and more evident that the Swedish law prohibiting the purchase of sexual services is counter-productive, and dangerous for sex workers.

This malfunctioning law several Swedish politicians want to export to the rest of Europe, and this by presenting inaccurate information about it. Opposing views are often censored or silienced in media. Political prestige and moralism seems to be what guides decision making in many cases, although the law is presented as a protection for sex sellers. It is not. Active sex workers, who have inside knowledge about prostitution, and are greately affected by this law, have no actual say in the policy making.

Radical feminism is generally negative to both sex and trade, and does not treat women as individuals. In reality women (and sex workers) have different views on intimacy and sexuality, but the authorities treat them as one large collective. The result of this collectvism and victimization is an oppression of the free will and autonomy of individuals, and of women. Sex workers are well aware of this fact. All seven political parties in the Swedish Parliament support this radical view.

Here is the manifesto on sex workers rights:

“This manifesto was elaborated and endorsed by 120 sex workers from 26 countries at the European Conference on Sex Work, Human Rights, Labour and Migration 15-17 October 2005, Brussels, Belgium.”(Source: International Committe on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe) .

http://www.sexworkeurope.org/site/images/PDFs/manbrussels2005.pdf

Here are some of the demands in the manifesto:

1) The right to be free from discrimination (Swedish policy: NO!)

Sex Workers Rights Sweden comments:

Swedish sex workers are censored and cut off from the public debate. Sex workers may lose custody of their children, and be evicted from their homes. They are also severly stigmatized by the Swedish media and prostitution policy.

2) The right to our bodies (Swedish policy: NO!)

Sex Workers Rights Sweden comments:

Radical feminsist policy makers, which are influential in most political parties in Sweden, think they know better than adult sex workers what they should and should not do with their own bodies, and under wich cirumstances, and with whom to have sexual intercourse.

3) The right to be heard (Swedish policy: NO!)

Sex Workers Rights Sweden comments:

Sweden has signed a resolution in the Council of Europe that sex workers should be consulted in matters that concerns them.

Resolution 1579 “Prostitution – Which stance to take? recommends “respecting the rights of prostitutes who freely choose to work as prostitutes to have a say in any policies at national, regional and local levels concerning them”.

The Swedish Minister of Justice, Beatrice Ask, has explicitely expressed in 2007:

“It is however more controversial that the [European] parliament recommends the Member States to formulate en explicit policy which means that Member States shall respect the rights of prostitutes to freely choose to work as prostitutes and to let them have a say in all policies which concerns them. This is a strange view, a view which is very hard to attach to the view of prostitution i think one should have”. (From Chamber Protocol – Statement 123, by Swedish Minister of Justice, Beatrice Ask).

This resolution is now completely ignored by Swedish policy makers.

4) The right to associate and gather (Swedish policy: NO!)

Sex Workers Rights Sweden comments:

To support prostitution in any way is prohibited by the Swedish pimping law, and may result in a prison sentence. The sex workers do not even have the right to support each other by for exemple working together for increased safety. This will also be considered pimping (of each other). Sex workers are also denied the right to join labour unions.

5) The right to mobility (Swedish policy: NO!)

Sex Workers Rights Sweden comments:

Women from other parts of the European Union who volontarily come to Sweden to sell sexual services may be deported.

6) Active citizenship (Swedish policy: NO!)

Sex Workers Rights Sweden comments:

Sex workers should pay taxes in Sweden, but receive no human rights in return. See also point 3, “The right to be heard”.

7) Privacy & family (Swedish policy: NO!)

Sex Workers Rights Sweden comments:

To catch the clients, the police violates the privacy and integrity of sex workers. Sex workers can also lose custody of their children (as previously mentioned) for not wanting to stop working with sex.

8) Health and well being (Swedish policy: NO!)

Sex Workers Rights Sweden comments:

Since sex work has been made an underground activity in Sweden, the risks associated with sex work have increased. The Swedish Police use condoms as evidence, and this is a threat to safe sex practices, since condom use may decrease.

9) Health and safety at work (Swedish policy: NO!)

Sex Workers Rights Sweden comments:

Underground activies are always unsafe for sex workers. Swedish sex workers are forced to work in strange places to protect their clients from prosecution. Also, the clients cannot report girls with poor working conditions to the police, since they risk facing prosecution. This makes sex workers much more vulnerable. Society must not only decriminalize prostitution, but also adapt the pimping laws in such a way that it facilitates safe indoor work.

10) Decriminalisation of sex work (Swedish policy: NO!)

Sex Workers Rights Sweden comments:

We urge Swedish politicians to look at alternative solutions, which respects the rights of sex workers and their clients.

The best way to do this is a decriminalization of the exchange of sexual services between consenting adults.

Today the Swedish policy does not respect the rights of sex workers, and has no regard for freedom of sexual expression and human rights.

The present Swedish policy on sex work is backed in Parliament “Riksdagen” by all seven political parties. This is very strange when no independent research data support this model.

Swedish gender- and equality policy, as it is today, has turned out to be the greatest threat to individual freedom, fairness of trial, and human rights. Women are not seen as adult people with an ability to decide over their own life and their own bodies. This is clear oppression of women´s rights. The criminalization of sex workers clients is indirectly also a criminalization of women´s right to decide with whom to have sex and under which circumstances.

List of useful links:

1) A Swedish sex worker on the criminalization of clients (link)

Sex worker Pye Jacobsson speaks of the negative consequenses of the criminalization of clients and the Swedish pimping law (SWAN/HCLU).

“We want to save you, and if you don´t want this we will punish you!”

” If you scream and shout you are not a victim, then they say you suffer from a false consciousness”.

2) Former Swedish sex worker Isabella Lund (Awarded Best Political Blog in Sweden, Year 2007) (link)

A former sex worker who spoke up for the rights of sex workers in Sweden, but was censored by media and threatened to silence by radical feminists. She claims the Swedish prostitution policy is contributing to the stigmatization of sex workers.

“Unfortunately I cannot tell so much about myself as I would wish. I have to safeguard my integrity since all sex workers are experiencing discrimination, persecution and the whore stigma (the social shame)” (Isabella Lund).

3) Successful decriminalization in New Zeeland (link)

The New Zeeland Law Review Commitee has evaluated the effects of the decriminalization of prostitution (The Prostitution Reform Act, PRA) after five years in force. The decriminalization was very successful and sex workers are much better off. Also the sex industry has NOT increased in size since decriminalizaton.

“The PRA has been in force for five years. During that time, the sex industry has not increased in size, and many of the social evils predicted by some who opposed the decriminalisation of the sex industry have not been experienced. On the whole, the PRA has been effective in achieving its purpose, and the Committee is confident that the vast majority of people involved in the sex industry are better off under the PRA than they were previously”

(New Zeeland Law Review Commitee, 2008).

4) Common misconceptions of prostitution (link)

According to the New Zeeland department of Justice there are several common misconceptions of prostitution. For example that it is common with pimping/trafficking, violence, links to criminality, and drug use. This simply is not true. Indoor prostitution cannot be compared to street prostitution. Street prostitution have some problems associated with it, but it is NOT a common form of prostitution in the western hemisphere. In this report it is evident that about 96 % of sex workers perform their services of free choice. We in SWRS think it is not necessary to criminalize purchase of sexual services to combat trafficking, since it already exists laws criminalizing those activities. Radical feminists deny sex workers a free choice, since they think they can know better than the sex workers without even consulting them.

“Despite the perception that all sex workers are made to work by someone else, only 4.3% or approximately 28 of the 656 female participants in the CSOM study reported being made to work by someone.”

(New Zeeland Law Review Commitee, 2008).

5) The Swedish model is not based on facts but is politically motivated (link)

This part of the New Zeeland Law Review Committee shows that the Swedish model is NOT based on scientific facts, or the well-being of sex workers. It is based on erronous data and a political agenda.

“The apparent success of the Swedish approach has been widely reported and is often cited by advocates for similar law reform. However, the claims about the law’s success have also been severely criticised for being politically motivated, and for being based on poorly researched and erroneous data (Clausen, 2007).”

(New Zeeland Law Review Commitee, 2008).

6) Swedish doctoral thesis recommends decriminalization of prostitution (link)

Susanne Dodillet who recently published her doctoral thesis “Is sex work” recommends decriminalization of prostitution for the well-being of sex workers. A more accepting view from society would also lead to decreased stigmatization of sex workers. Ph.D. Dodillet concludes that the reason this law could even be passed in Parliament was the long Swedish tradition of “communitarism”. This means the individual should serve the aims of of the State. The opposite of this is called “autonomy”, where the purpose of the State is to serve the individual, and not to interfere too much in how people decide to live their lives. Dodillet writes:

“One way of legislating which makes it possible to avoid a definate stance in the issue of if prostitution is right or wrong, is decriminalization. Decriminalization also facilitates focusing on abuse of sex sellers and their freedom of movement” (Dodillet, 2009, p. 550-551).

“Prostitution is [by the Swedish model] considered a threat to the intimite sphere of those individuals. This view is problematic since it, like I have demonstrated, in reality is an invasion of the intimate sphere when someone else is defining its content” (Dodillet, 2009, p. 552).

“A responsible prostitution policy has two objectives: to encourage an open discussion and give sex sellers rights!”(Dodillet, 2009, p. 554) .

7) The Swedish public says it should be legal to purchase sexual services (link)

The public opinion is (opposite to what some Swedish researchers which oppose sex work say) positive to a decriminalization of the purchase of sexual services. In this particular poll in Swedish newspaper “Kvällsposten”, 78 % said they want purchase of sexual services to be legal. Similar results have surfaced in a dozen polls in different media in Sweden recently. What also highlights this is the many critical comments following newspaper articles in Swedish media.

8) The Swedish sex purchase law does not reduce the demand for sexual services (link)

One of the very few “advantages” with the Swedish model, and that advocates of the Swedish law dearly point out, the law initially resulted in a reduction of street prostitution. Recent media reports reveal that street prostitution is on the rise in Sweden again. Also an investigation from Swedish Radio (SR) revealed that the demand for sexual services is still high. We at SWRS ask: why keep an ineffective law that reduces the freedom of people? The law has failed, no doubt.

9) The Swedish sex purchase law results in underground prostitution and increased pimping (link)

A report from Swedens National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen), “Knowledge about prostitution, 2007”, indicated that Swedish prostitution has only changed venue to the Internet, and that pimping may have increased since the law was passed. As said during an interview in this study:

“[The law] has opened a hatch for pimps of foreign sex sellers who visit Sweden for short periods of time” (Socialstyrelsen, Kännedom om prostitution, 2007).

10) The Swedish definition of trafficking is a semantic word game including voluntary prostitution within the definition (link)

Blogger and author Louise Persson has shown that Swedish trafficking policy is a word game . Statements from influential politicians have indicated this (The sex purchase law and media, 2006). Their definition would include foreign sex sellers who sell sex in Sweden independently and out of free will. The loose definition restricts their freedom of movement and violates their human rights (remark SWRS). The Swedish definition is not compatible with international law as formulated in the EU:s Palermo protocol, and in declarations from the United Nations.
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Swedish politicians PLEASE listen to us:
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– Present Swedish legislation is very harmful to sex workers.
– The demand for sexual services cannot be reduced by criminalizing the client, the sex worker or both. This only results in a more dangerous underground activity. Criminalization also leads to a surveillance society.
– Decriminalize sex work, and give sex workers human rights and proper working conditions! Harm reduction is always preferable, not criminalization.
– Stop trafficking, but preserve free will, and do not punish consenting adults exchanging sexual services!
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Kind Regards

SEX WORKERS RIGHTS SWEDEN (S.W.R.S)

We are a network fighting for sexual freedom, security and justice in Sweden and Europe. Our allied network partners and supporters are from Sweden and other countries in Europe.

This statement will be sent by us and our allies to the parliaments and governments in Sweden and Europe, Swedish and European media, European sex worker organizations, institutions of the European Union, and parts of the blogging community.

The text of this document is NOT copyright protected and it may be freely shared and distributed in its original form. The source should be mentioned. We encourage this since it will increase the knowledge about prostitution, and avoid common misconceptions (Sex Workers Rights Sweden, August 2009).

Petra Östergren

Don Kulick