Nordic sex workers say laws on buying sex may make them more vulnerable

Sun Apr 27, 2014 3:04am EDT
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By Gwladys Fouche

OSLO (Reuters) - Nordic steps to tighten the laws on buying sex are winning adherents around Europe, but feedback from the sex workers they were drawn up to protect suggests the regulations may be making their work more dangerous.

The jury is still out on the efficacy of the new laws, which depending on the country involved were drawn up to safeguard women deemed to be in vulnerable positions, stop violence against women and strengthen human rights and gender equality.

But interviews with charities, women's rights activists and prostitutes themselves indicate that for many sex workers, the effect of the law has not been positive.

"The law is pushing prostitution more underground," said Jaana Kauppinen, who heads a charity that helps sex workers in Helsinki and Tampere in Finland. "It makes the women more vulnerable and increases the risk of violence."

Sweden was the first to introduce a ban on buying sex in 1999, following a campaign started by women's rights advocates who believed that buying someone's body for sex was morally wrong.

In the final proposal to criminalize the buying and not selling of sex, Stockholm focused on the vulnerability of the women and their right to "peace" and protection.

Finland followed in 2006 with a partial ban, making it illegal to buy sex from a person who was trafficked or pimped. Norway and Iceland adopted Sweden's law in 2009.

Since then, France, England and Wales have all adopted Finland's partial ban. A deal was struck by the ruling coalition parties in December to do the same in Germany. Ireland is considering a Swedish-style law.   Continued...