In short you can say that the Swedish sex-purchase law has increased the risks and violence sexworkers experience in Sweden, and that the law against procuring or pimping further more makes it impossible for sexworkers to work in a safe and secure environment.

Sweden criminalized the buying of sexual services January 1 1999. The sex-purchase law makes it a crime to buy a sexual service in Sweden. It is still completely legal to sell sexual services.

According to the law against procuring or “pimping” it is illegal to facilitate or in an undue way economically exploit a person who have brief sexual relations for money.

The purpose of both laws is to hinder the sale of sexual services.

On this page you can get information about the law against procuring or “pimping” and also information about the background and history to why Sweden criminalized sexworkers clients:

  • The Sextrade – the inquiry behind the sex-purchase law
  • The decision about the sex-purchase law

Please also read about the negative consequences the Swedish laws surrounding the sale of sexual services has brought to sexworkers in Sweden.

Procuring or “pimping”

According to the law against procuring or “pimping” it is illegal to facilitate or in an undue way economically exploit a person who have brief sexual relations for money.

A landlord is required to terminate the lease if the person is aware that the sale of sexual services is happening in his/hers property.

The law against procuring hinders sexworkers to:

  • hire the help of others.
  • work together.
  • work indoors in their own facility.
  • market their services in the press.
  • share their profits with a partner or husband.

The Sextrade – the inquiry behind the sex-purchase law

The government 1993 appointed an investigation into prostitution that would look into if it was appropriate to criminalize prostitution. After weighing the different arguments against each other the lone investigator Inga-Britt Thörnell recommended that a criminalization of both the seller and the buyer was the appropriate action to take. The research resulted in a report from the department for social welfare called The Sextrade.

In it the sale of sexual services, sexworkers, and their clients are all described with words like gender buyer and sextrade victims, and other emotionally charged terms.

Even if the knowledge about sexworkers is limited to the visible prostitutes on the streets the report establishes that the female prostitutes:

  • often are alcohol- or drug addicts. The drug abuse is often a reason for the prostitution, and sometimes something they turn to cope with their situation.
  • has an increasing degree of psychological problems.
  • had a bad start to life, very early on been deprived of self respect and acquired a negative self image.
  • that the injuries and scars the women had thru earlier abuse is reinforced in the prostitution.
  • relatives and children are affected directly and indirectly from the harm the women experience in the sextrade.
  • often have been drifting towards prostitution for a very long time because of reasons that dates back a long time. Sometimes it is a question of gradual and step-by-step habituation to the sextrade. A lot of factors affect this process, among them sexclubs, and the pornography industry plays a major role.

The clients in the investigation is referred to as gender buyers and are supposed to be:

  • deviant in their attitudes towards sexuality and women.
  • they sometimes have serious psychological problems in their views of sexuality.
  • the contacts with the prostitutes mean a sexual fantasy without the demand for a relation, closeness and obligations, a contrast to genuine human relationships.
  • the sexbuyers problems are strengthened and aggravated in the sextrade and it is believed that many of the men require therapy.
  • the johns family is exposed to harm thru their actions, not at least they risk infection from sexual diseases transmitted from sexual intercourse.

In the inquiry they also write that:

  • it’s hard to define the differences between homosexual sexual contacts and contacts for prostitution purposes and that prostitution is a relative frequent occurrence in the male homosexual culture.
  • the differences between the heterosexual and homosexual prostitution is that the homosexual prostitution can sometimes be a combination of business and sexual pleasure for the seller, which in practice never happens in the heterosexual prostitution.
  • prostitution is harmful for the public moral.
  • that men can purchase female bodies to satisfy their own sexual needs is a violation of the concept that all human beings have the same worth and the goal of equality between men and women.
  • the sextrade represent an unacceptable position and is an obstacle for the individuals development.

The report recommended a criminalization of both the buyer and the seller with the motivation that a criminalization would:

  • act as a normative function that prostitution is not socially acceptable.
  • the risk for arrest, investigation by the police and risk of a public trial would act as an abstaining factor for sexbuyers.
  • a criminalization would act as a abstaining effect for women to enter the prostitution market. The females would also get a stronger position when standing up against persuasions if they could say that it was illegal.

The report was sent out for referral and consideration. Only two organisations were in complete favour – the women forum foundation and the Stockholm police – of the proposal. 24 organisations were against a criminalization of the sextrade and 14 organisations favoured only criminalizing the buyer. The rest didn’t have an opinion.

The sexworkers themselves did never get a chance to express their feelings about the proposal.

The decision about the sex-purchase law

The government took up the issue of criminalizing prostitution in connection with their treatment of a report from the commission against violence towards women called “Women peace” that proposed a number of measures to raise the equality between men and women and to prevent violence against women.

The government did not think it was acceptable that men could buy sexual services from women in an equal society. They reached the conclusion that only to criminalize the buyer of sexual services. The government didn’t think it was reasonable to criminalize the seller since they considered the sexworker the weakest part, a person that is being exploited by others who want to satisfy their own sexual desires.

Sweden criminalized the buying of sexual services January 1 1999.