16 December, 2019

The Sex Purchase Act

All countries have their own laws and it is sometimes difficult to know them when you have arrived in a new country.

I will write about a law that is dear to me and that has become famous worldwide as ”The Nordic Model: The sex purchase act.” 20 years ago Sweden was the first country to create a new law that would NOT worsen the situation for persons in prostitution.                                                                                                                   According to the sex purchase act, it is illegal to buy sex but legal to sell sex.  The law was created in order to reduce prostitution in the country and diminish human trafficking for sexual exploitation by making Sweden a less attractive country for human traffickers. Most importantly, it was based on the perspective that prostitution is a form of violence against women.

Would it be better to criminalize the selling of sex rather than the buying of sex?

Well not really…Persons selling sex are often in precarious social positions, so penalizing them would worsen their situation. Since they are doing something illegal, they wouldn’t be able to seek care if injured nor go to the police to file a complaint against a violent buyer. Since prostitutes are often in a precarious position, criminalizing the sellers wouldn’t stop the prostitutes from selling sex as they really do need the money or other types of compensations and in addition to that, they are aware that there is a demand. Moreover, the criminalization of sellers would not decrease the demand for sex, that is to say the buying. If people did not want to buy sex there would be no prostitution, it’s a question of supply and demand. It’s safe to say the problem lays within the demand. By penalizing the buyers, you diminish the demand, which results in a diminution in supply. You might wonder; if there aren’t any buyers, how else could the sellers earn money being in a precarious situation? I believe there is always a demand for something. So, if there’s no demand for sexual services then there could be a demand dog-walking for example.  

Also, money or cash is not the only type of compensation that can be given in exchange for “sexual services”. Other types of compensations can be clothes, food or shelter for example. As a result, all types of compensations for sexual services are prohibited and punished by the sex purchase act.

The sex purchase act = less vulnerability

Thanks to the sex purchase act the price of sexual services is higher than in other countries where it is legal to buy sex. Because there is less competition.                                                                                                                    Here is a tiny explanation about competition in the prostitution market and how it affects prices and services: we have two cities; city A and city B. City A has 500 persons in prostitution and city B has 20 persons in prostitution. There is obviously more competition in City A. The competition will most probably lead to dropped prices and/or acceptation of services that goes over the sellers’ boundaries in order to have clients. The persons in prostitution in city A are more prone to be abused and become even more vulnerable economically and socially than persons in prostitution in city B where there is less competition. In city B there is no drop in prices, hence the persons in prostitution are less economically vulnerable.    

Additionally, as we live in a capitalistic society, if prostitution was to be decriminalized or legal and regulated, the demand would rise even more and so would the prostitution market. Decriminalization, legalization and regulation would also lead to a rise in sex trafficking and set even more persons in vulnerable positions, which is the case in The Netherlands where it is legal and regulated. Hence, the sex purchase act has reduced sex trafficking in Sweden since the country isn’t attractive to traffickers as there is less demand (buyers).

No visible sex tourism

One thing that you might have observed while being in Sweden is that there is no visible sex tourism. Since it is illegal to buy sex, very few persons travel to Sweden to buy sex from Swedish and foreign girls and women, whom most probably have been trafficked for sexual exploitation. Once again, countries like The Netherlands and Germany where it is legal and regulated, are rather famous for being some of Europe’s sex tourism hotspots. And now I ask you, do you want to live in a country where it is legal to buy someone’s consent and where men (I write men as it is solely men who have been caught purchasing sex in Sweden) think they can pay a person for their own pleasure? I personally don’t.

A change of attitude

Of course, the sex purchase act won’t stop everyone from buying sex. It’s like corporal punishment of children in Sweden, it’s illegal but it still occurs (on a much smaller scale than before). Nonetheless, even though corporal punishment of children was legal and commonly done for hundreds of years throughout the world, Swedes have had a change of attitude and do support the ban and believe that children should not be beaten. The sex purchase act has had the same effect on Swedes as most of them support the law and believe people should not have the right to buy someone’s consent and body.

Delphine Cartier
Delphine Cartier is a sex counselor specialized in sexual trauma, trafficking for sexual exploitation and prostitution. Delphine has worked as a volunteer for several organizations helping women who have been sexually abused and/or been trafficked for sexual exploitation. Furthermore, she is a board member at RealStars Stockholm, an organization that seeks to fight trafficking for sexual exploitation by spreading information about trafficking and the sex purchase law through out Sweden and Europe.

Being born and raised in Paris, France by a French father and a Swedish mother, Delphine speaks fluent French and Swedish. Furthermore, she speaks a very good English and a good Spanish as she has lived both in London and Madrid a couple of years ago. Hence, she can have sessions in any of those languages at her office in Stockholm.