Prostitution policy: Nordic Model (Swedish Sex Purchase Act)
A person who, otherwise than as previously provided in this Chapter, obtains a casual sexual relation in return for payment, shall be sentenced for purchase of sexual service to a fine or imprisonment for at most one year.
The provision of the first paragraph shall also apply if the payment was promised or given by another person.
> Chapter 6, Section 11 of the Swedish Penal Code
Legislation on the purchase of sexual services
Since 1999 it has been illegal to pay for casual sexual relations in Sweden. The penalty is a fine or imprisonment for a maximum of one year. This applies both to those who pay for sexual relations and those who take advantage of casual sexual relations paid for by another person.
The Act on prohibiting the purchase of sexual services (SFS 1998:408) entered into force on 1 January 1999. In connection with the sexual crimes reform of 2005, the Act was revoked and replaced by new legislation on the purchase of sexual services (Chapter 6, Section 11 of the Swedish Penal Code).
Evaluation of the prohibition of the purchase of sexual services
On 2 July 2010, Chancellor of Justice Anna Skarhed submitted the report Prohibition of the purchase of sexual services. An evaluation 1999-2008 (SOU 2010:49) to the Government.
“We must teach more countries about our Sexual Purchases Act”
23 April 2016
The French National Assembly recently voted to criminalise sexual purchases in accordance with the Swedish model. With this new law, the French government also wants to combat trafficking in human beings and trafficking networks – the modern slave trade.
Support for the Sexual Purchases Act has remained constantly high in population studies going back several surveys. In the latest survey from 2014, 72 per cent took a positive view of the act (85 per cent among women and 60 per cent among men).
Per Sunesson, the Swedish Ambassador-at-Large for Combatting Trafficking in Persons, told CBN News why Sweden decided to do this and why it’s been hugely successful.
2 March 2018
“And it really changed the mindset of Swedish people,” Sunesson explained. “I’m 54 years old and I would say there are still people my age who thinks it’s okay to buy sex. But my son, who is 26, in his generation, no one would even think the thought to buy sex.”
“So it really lowered the demand for girls and women in prostitution,” he told CBN News. “Sweden now is pretty much a dead market for human trafficking for sexual exploitation. We have almost no organized crime regarding that at all.”
In fact, not one violent crime against a prostitute has been reported since the law took effect, according to the ambassador.
The Swedish Sex Purchase Act: Where Does it Stand?
Charlotta Holmström and May-Len Skilbrei, February 2017
Prostitution is now one of the most contentious issues in Europe. In international debates on prostitution policy, the case of Sweden, where the purchase of sex is criminalised and the sale of sex is legal, takes centre stage. Experiences from Sweden are used to argue both for and against the criminalisation of buying sex, because there are competing claims about the consequences of the law officially referred to as the Swedish Sex Purchase Act. As countries around the world debate whether to adopt ʻthe Swedish model’, it is important to establish the effects of the Sex Purchase Act. Sweden is also a central case utilised in the scholarship of prostitution, with scholarly debates too suffering from a lack of evidence on the impact of the Sex Purchase Act. This article aims to offer policy makers and scholars a comprehensive presentation of the evidence and a discussion of the methodological, political and theoretical challenges arising from this.
Sex Purchase Act has altered Swedes’ attitudes towards prostitution
Hedda Lingaas Fossum, 25 October 2017
While the number of Swedes supporting the sex purchase ban is rising, more people also feel positive towards a ban on selling sex. Thus, the goal of transferring stigma from seller to buyer is still not achieved.
The Swedish Sex Purchase Law (Nordic Model): evidence of its impact
Nordic Model Information Network – Maddy Coy, Helen Pringle and Meagan Tyler
The fundamental premise of the Nordic approach is that the prostitution system is part of and is built on inequality, primarily that between women and men, since it rests on women’s more limited options for economic independence and men’s perceived entitlement to women’s sexualised bodies. Lack of meaningful options to make a decent living, experiences of childhood and adult abuse, coercion and substance misuse are common features in the lives of women in the prostitution system. Prostitution, in turn, reinforces intersecting inequalities of race/ethnicity, class, nationality, sexuality and other markers of social hierarchies as well as gender. The Nordic model, then, is more than a law against paying for sex; it is an approach for more broadly dismantling inequality and promoting equality.
> NMIN briefing on Sweden (PDF)
Prohibiting Sex Purchasing and Ending Trafficking: The Swedish Prostitution Law
Max Waltman – Michigan J. Int’l Law 33 (2011): 133-57
The article shows that Sweden has significantly reduced the occurrence of trafficking in Sweden compared to neighboring countries. It also scrutinizes some misinformation of the law’s impact, showing for instance that claims alleging a more dangerous situation for those still in prostitution after 1999 were unfounded. In addition, the article addresses remaining obstacles to the law’s effective implementation, arguing that in order to realize the law’s full potential to support escape from trafficking, the civil rights of prostituted persons under current law should be strengthened to enable them to claim damages directly from the purchasers for the harm to which they have contributed, and for the violation of the prostituted persons’ equality and dignity – a position now recognized by the government to some extent by clarifying amendments made in 2011.
Sweden’s Prohibition of Purchase of Sex: The Law’s Reasons, Impact, and Potential
Max Waltman – Women’s Studies International Forum, Vol. 34, No. 5, pp. 449-474, (2011)
A Response to Prohibition Against Purchase of Sexual Service: An Evaluation 1999-2008 (SOU 2010:49)
Catharine A. MacKinnon / Max Waltman – Submission to the Swedish government supported by 12 signatories in response to its commissioned evaluation of the Sex Purchase Law (2011)
Månsson, Sven-Axel (2017) “The History and Rationale of Swedish Prostitution Policies,” Dignity: A Journal on Sexual Exploitation and Violence: Vol. 2: Iss. 4, Article 1
This article analyses the history and rationale behind “the Swedish model” of regulating prostitution. The most controversial and debated part of this model is the 1999 ban on purchases of sexual services. To be fully understood the ban and the comprehensive policy regime of which it is a part, the new model has to be placed within a broader framework of policy areas such as gender, sexuality, and social welfare. Thus, the contemporary policy regime will be traced back to the mid-1970s when gender norms and sexual mores were renegotiated in Sweden, which in turn led to a radical reconsideration of men’s role and responsibility in heterosexual prostitution. Also, the outcomes, critiques, and controversies of “the Swedish model” will be discussed. A reduction of demand for prostitution implies changes on many levels, both societal and individual. From a normative point of view, it has been women who have played a leading role when it comes to working for such a change. A radical change would presuppose men’s participation in the process. If so, the crucial question is: Is there reason to believe that men are prepared to engage in anti-sexist politics that can challenge existing beliefs about gender difference and the idea of men’s rights to use women in prostitution for their sexual purposes?
Outlawing the purchase of sex has been key to Sweden’s success in reducing prostitution
21 September 2016
Surveys indicate that the percentage of Swedish men who buy sex dropped to 7,4% in 2014 from 13,6% in 1996; only 0,8% said that they had bought sexual services within the last year. (In the United States, 1 in 5 men reports buying sex)
Amnesty International’s Empty Promises: Decriminalization, Prostituted Women, and Sex Trafficking
Geist, Darren (2016), Dignity: A Journal on Sexual Exploitation and Violence.