Published in Expressen the 3th July 2007

Is it harmful to have sex with strangers? Is it harmful to make money? No, to sell your time, your company or sexual services is not in itself harmful.

But it is damaging to sexworkers to be subjected to oppressive means like discrimination, violence and social stigma. Sex workers are being discriminated against, and thru that prejudice and stereotypes are preserved.

It also exposes an opinion that women are seen as not independent or capable of deciding over their own bodies, especially when it comes to sex. This is a point of view that hurts all women.

Those who say men are buying our bodies are guilty of preserving an unequal view of women; we are being objectified as a commodity. Our protests that claim a difference of opinion are ignored or made an exception. Our customers do not oppress us; we are being oppressed by this point of view! How will we ever achieve equality if such a prejudice and stereotypes are allowed to persist?

There exists obligations for sexworkers in Sweden, for example paying income tax, but any coherent rights doesn’t seem to apply. We cannot work together and/or work safely in our own locale, then it’s considered procuring, or “pimping”. We risk being evicted and lose our regularly employment if it gets known that we are selling sexual services.

Even though the law supposedly aims at protecting sex workers, it is evident that the main purpose of the law is to protect society from a perceived social ill. Prostitution can never show it’s face but in the shadows benefit profiteers, pimps and human traders, and we would rather avoid these people.

Is this really a policy to support? Would it be possible to treat other groups of workers, or religious or ethnic minorities like this, without them to cry out about discrimination or human right violations?

Sexworkers doesn’t want legalization. We want a decriminalization that means the abolishment of criminalization of buying sexual services and the sex industry regarded as any other business in the marketplace. Only then can the laws that already exist, e.g. the laws against rape, sexual exploitation, human trafficking, etc, protect the sexworkers.

There now exists a political majority in Norway who wants to introduce a sex-purchase law. Their primary argument is that they want to show strength against the trade in human beings. But it isn’t logical to argue for a sex-purchase law as relevant for the human sextrade. In Sweden the unique sex-purchase law has been introduced and it hasn’t proved to be effective against trafficking. That is still the job for other laws, measures and focused resources.

A new report from the International Organization for Migration, IOM, shows that the trade in human beings predominantly concern slavery in other areas than prostitution.

Are people willing to criminalize everybody who hires workers in agriculture because traffickers are forcing people to such a labour?

The reason that Norway now wants to introduce a sex-purchase law is based on something completely different, they want to get rid of the visible street prostitution. The number of African women has increased among the sexworkers on the streets; these women are, in contrast to the Norwegian sexworkers, more visible on the streets. Some are the result of human trafficking, but not everybody. In Denmark the new director for NEC, criminal inspector Kim Kliver, says that max one percent of all foreign guest workers in the country are victims of forced sexual labour.

If you are a victim of trafficking for sexual purposes in Denmark or Sweden you are offered a place in a locked in facility, but only if you assist the police and expose yourself for threats against your family. When the police don’t have any more use for you, you’re deported back to your home country, straight into the hands of the traffickers. Where are the politician’s outrages against this behaviour?

Countries that are thinking about adopting the sex-purchase law has to be prepared to accept an increase in robberies, abuse and rape towards sexworkers and that the policy means the sexworkers will be afraid to turn to the police. The trust between sexworkers and authorities will plummet, the cooperation will get complicated and sexual trafficking will therefore be harder to detect. We have already seen this happen in Sweden.

In Sweden there exists only one political correct opinion by the politicians, police and social workers, that the sex-purchase law is good, that it helps sexworkers and is effective against humans traffickers. This image, based upon what you believe and not what you know, is now being
exported to other countries.

We in the business wish for a more open and democratic debate, that prostitution is decriminalized, and for equality and better working conditions for erotic- and sexworkers.

Maj Christensen
VIP Lounge Danish network for and by sex workers, clients and allies

Johanna Sirkiä
SALLI Finnish union of sex and erotica workers

Janni Wintherbauer
PION Norwegian union of prostitutes

Isabella Lund
SANS Sexsellers and allies network in Sweden