Amongst anti sex work feminists, the model of sex industry law reform preferred to decriminalisation is known as the Swedish Model. Based on legislation introduced in Sweden in 1999, the Swedish model criminalises the buying of sexual services. Selling of sexual services is technically not a crime, but buying them is punishable by a fine or gaol time. This legislation is based on a redefinition of sex work as ‘male violence against women’. Proponents of the Swedish model claim that it has reduced the amount of sex work occurring in Sweden, although this claim is disputed by Swedish sex workers and some researchers.
Recently, Swedish researchers Susanne Dodillet and Petra Östergren published a paper on the Swedish model, The Swedish Sex Purchase Act: Claimed Success and Documented Effects (be warned about the language: it’s generally supportive, but it uses the p-word). The paper is a must read for anyone with an interest in this topic. Briefly put, it’s conclusions can be summarised as follows: contrary to claims otherwise, the Swedish legislation does not appear to have reduced the size of the Swedish sex industry, has not deterred clients, is unsupported by Swedish sex workers and may make sex work more dangerous and increase risk of STIs. As noted in a survey quoted in the report, support for criminalisation in Sweden is strong, however, the majority of people surveyed support the criminalisation of sex workers as well as clients.
[...W]hile the legislation does not specifically criminalise the sex worker, it criminalises everyone around the sex worker. It becomes illegal to rent a room, house, hotel room or apartment for anyone to do sex work out of, or the land lord risks being charged with pimping. The real world implication of this, of course, is that if a sex worker’s sex work status is revealed, they are most likely going to be evicted even if they are not working from that property, as the land lord will fear being charged under Sweden’s strict pimping laws. ‘Pimping’ is also a charge applied to anyone who assists in finding clients, provides security services, or allows advertising for sex workers. Sex workers cannot work together or they risk being charged with pimping each other, which dramatically decreases our opportunity to look out for each other’s safety, reduce overhead costs, and establish peer support networks, which are known to be our most effective method of reducing the STI rate. Services which provide support to sex workers risk running foul of legislators who oppose anything that looks like ‘promoting’ sex work, which may even include distribution of condoms to sex workers. Sex worker organisations do not receive condoms from the government and are not able to buy them in bulk, so have found themselves forced to obtain them from organisations that provide them to men who have sex with men.
[...]I should note: the legislation, of course, is not inclusive of all women. When it is stated that sex work is ‘male violence against women’, what is meant is ‘cis male violence against cis women’. Women working explicitly as trans women (and cis and trans male sex workers) are completely erased in both legislation and discussion. They don’t fit neatly into the analysis, so they’re just ignored. As I’ve stated before, if your analysis doesn’t fit the affected community, it’s not the community that needs to change.
It’s a pretty simple decision to me: when the choice is between a legislative model that has been demonstrated to have some of the best health and safety outcomes for sex workers, and a legislative model that has the negative impacts on us listed above, I’m going to support the model that promotes our health, safety and well-being, and that sex workers actually want to work under. It’s not only the humane choice, it’s the feminist choice.
There was far more in the original. Good article.