Prostitution has been defined as the world’s oldest profession for women.

Prostitution is something that occurs in every country, and it is not just a problem for big cities. It takes place everywhere. Not only on Friday and Saturday nights either. Prostitution is an operation, which is conducted also during weekdays and some buy sex during their lunch break. Some claim that prostitution is necessary and a reduction of prostitution may have direct negative consequences for society and is described as a safety valve. Furthermore, some people state that without prostitution we would experience an increased number of rapes and other sexual assaults.

A question might be whether this statement only is a lame excuse to let prostitution remain in societies?

Countries take different actions to oppose prostitution. The majority of the states in the United States of America have criminalized both parts; selling and purchasing sexual services. In Sweden and Norway it is illegal to buy sex but legal to sell, while some countries such as Germany and Netherlands have legalized prostitution completely.  Legal measures seem to be imperfect in order to help and empower the woman in prostitution. More so, since we live in a globalized world where borders between nations fade out e.g. the European Union, which inter alia facilitates for people to move for employment, union with family members etc. However, movement of people also means that the illegal trafficking increases, a more developed cooperation between nations is needed.

In 1998, the International Labour Organization (ILO) recommended countries to legalize prostitution in order to benefit from the revenues. Countries such as the Netherlands, Germany, New Zeeland and some parts of Australia implemented this. In comparison to Sweden and Norway that tried to oppose prostitution by criminalizing the purchaser of sexual services. The Swedish law on prostitution, enacted 1999, makes it illegal to buy sexual services but not sell them in Sweden. The aim with the law was initially meant to protect women who were involved in prostitution. In spite of the good aims of the law, does it truly help and contribute to better protection and support for women in prostitution in Sweden? The empirics, collected from organizations that work to support people with experiences of prostitution, demonstrate that the situation women in prostitution are facing today is more brutal than before this law was established.

Gothenburg city

According to a survey completed by Dagens Nyheter (one of Sweden’s biggest daily newspapers) there are approximately 300 women circulating around Malmskillnadsgatan, Stockholm (the area where street prostitution is located in Stockholm) offering their sexual services. Prostitutionsgruppen, Gothenburg, reported that every tenth man in Sweden has bought sexual services some time during his lifetime. These numbers are an indicator of the extent of prostitution and the problem Sweden faces today.

In SOU, the Swedish Government Official Reports Förbud mot sexuell tjänst. En utvärdering 1999-2008, it is reported that the ambition with Sweden’s legislation that criminalizes the purchase of sexual services, was due to the focus on women’s vulnerability. The main concern raised in regards to the implementation of the Swedish law on prostitution was that street prostitution would be driven underground. Consequently, the hidden operation would make it even more difficult to reach women in prostitution with support and necessary protection.

Although a decline of the purchase of sexual services, street prostitution has been more brutal and harsh since the customers have decreased and the competition increased.

Also, the woman is more likely to be required to accept certain things and obey the customer to do miscellaneous things they earlier did not have to. Women who have experienced street prostitution report violence as something always present and a part of their reality. Women inform that according to the customers themselves they also “buy the right” to use violence against women in prostitution.

Why is not prostitution or trafficking discussed more in society? It is a huge operation since 400-600 women are transported to Sweden to be abused/ exploited in prostitution every year, and politicians in Sweden do not see a connection between trafficking and prostitution…why is it so?

The featured image for this post is from Salon's article: When prostitution wasn't a crime.

The Conversation

13 Responses

  1. Mari, that’s a great article! I’m absolutely sharing it on my Twitter. What I realized from the above stated, decriminalization of the prostitution does not affect or reduce it anyhow. In Russia, we have prostitution completely illegal and the situation is completely the same (if not worse), therefore, a lot of people suggest to make it legal. However, apparently, it’s not the remedy at all.

    1. Yana I am glad the article evoke something in you, moreover that you are sharing this on your twitter. Spread it all over!! Prostitution is a dilemma with wide complexity, and it is not about legislation I think, It is about people’s perception of women and valuations.

      1. Mari, the issue is that a lot of people think that if we legalize prostitution, it will improve the situation and the numbers will go down. I don’t know the statistics on that in the Netherlands or Germany but I’m guessing it didn’t have any serious impact. You’re absolutely right that legislation has nothing in common with the problem. It’s not the remedy.
        You speak of how men perceive women. I can add that it also immensely depends on how women perceive themselves. After two wars and a revolution, Russian women don’t want to be strong or independent. The rights like suffrage or job equality for which women had fought in other countries, were granted here because there was no enough men to work at the factories and industries. Therefore, a typical role model for a Russian woman is to wait for a strong, powerful man to help her and solve her problems. Also, we now have a tremendously popular LJ blog and Twitter owned by a prostitute. I mean, just think of it: almost 40,000 Russians (mostly from Moscow and St. Petersburg, with good education and career) daily read a diary of the whore. What I see in my society now is a big mess: people lost the sense of what is right and what is wrong; there is no moral, ethics or values left if people enjoy reading stories about clients, how much she spent in shops, her reflections about that a man should pay for everything (otherwise, he is not a man), support his family financially (thus, a wife shall not work or develop herself as a person because her only worries are kids, home and how to stay pretty); and they even seek advice from her (her typical response is like “So, you’re cheating on your wife? Ok, keep going. Don’t ever dare tell her the truth — it will traumatize her”). Sum it up with the idea of a strong man beside and you’ll see what image of a woman is now being promoted in Russia. No wonder we have high prositution rates: why to have education and job and work hard if you can simply be a whore and get a luxury life much easier? So, it’s really important that girls have self-respect and dignity.

      2. You are absolutely right Yana. I believe that women, you, me we all are maintaining the degrading view of women, and I really think that it matters how we represent ourselves as women. Women must be respected and appreciated and treated the same as men.It is a pitty that so many women frpm Russia are involved in prostitution. Also, all over the world people are loosing the sense of what is right and wrong, and compassion for your neighbor is diminishing in all the individualism. It might sounds like a cliche but it is time to let the world and all people really understand the meaning of showing care and love and to love your neighbor as yourself. Much more needs to be done and we can only achieve our goals together, that is my belief!

      3. Mari, thanks for a profound article and I’ll be waiting for parts 2-4. To my view, prostitution is a serious problem which cannot be solved by a simple ban or legalization. So, I believe, it’s great you speak of this. Good luck with your work and, if I can be of some use, I’ll be glad to help!

  2. Interesting that the ILO thought that prostitution ought to be legalised as it would bring in revenue to the govt ! I conjure up an image of retinues of higher end women expensively servicing the men in the executive positions there who think that prostitution is a fun business for the service provider to be in.

    All that the ILO has done is shown itself to be pitiless – and amoral, with regard to respecting a woman’s life cycle, which is to enter into a long term stable relationship with a man, who can provide her with the economic security she must have, within which she can have the children she is equipped to have, as, obviously, he is only the bearer of the seed and not the fruit.

    In support of what i am saying, only 3% of the women in prostitution want to be in it; well, at least for them, it’s bearable, as the rest feel degraded by to varying degrees.

    Mention is made of the 400-600 women brought annually into Sweden for prostitution; which can only be with mindless govt complicity, getting their moral cue from the ILO, supposedly to bring in more revenue !

    But does it bring in more revenue, as, either these additional women work on the streets, or displace other women who then do, for working on the streets is a cash in hand only zone in the gloom of night ?

    No, methinks that the ILO is not only not immoral and pitiless as it does not understand such terms, being bereft of the capacity to, but makes these pronouncements with ulterior motive, the internationalisation of the workforce – only a small part of which are prostitutes, to eventually make all nation states borderless, to then implode their representative governmental institutions, making for a leaderless peoples completely open to the profoundest of degradation to be visited upon them by the naturally predatory globalising private central banks.

    The ILO knows exactly the long term implications of what it espoused in 1998, and their overall labour policies thus set in motion will meet the targets set for them by these bankers unless people wise up to the fact that the ILO is not at all a benign organisation solicitous of the welfare of the toiling masses, but fronts for the supremacist bankers ladling out literally Trillions in counterfeit money to their affiliates, and working people get less than nothing as a consequence.

    1. Micheal, I appreciate your comments and your involvement! You contribute with more information and knowledge about the situation for women in prostitution which is needed.

      Some men in powerful position are customers and think prostitution is a fun business and that women who are prostitutes made the decision themselves. But as you said only 3 % do not have a pimp who control, abuse and threaten them. The image of a happy whore does not longer exist and women in prostitution need help to be able to get out from the inferno they’re living.

      Last week the police caught a new gang, here in Gothenburg who trafficked women and children to Sweden by promising them a work with old people, which later on turned out to force them sell their bodies. Abuse people in poor situations like this evoke strong and hard feelings in me. Prostitution is still a huge problem in all societies when will people wake up and realize what is going on???

      It is scary that ILO have that standpoint, that money is given priority over a woman’s right of self-determination over her life.

      Once again, thank you Michael for reading!
      Shortly the remaining parts 2-4 will be posted on Girl’s Globe!

  3. Mari, loved the post. Very eye opening! I am shocked. I can’t believe it was not long ago when they were encouraging prostitution. Time to end human trafficking and modern-day slavery.

    1. Thank you Elisabeth…I am happy to hear that! Yeah I know it is so frustrating, awful and scary! It is definitely time for societies to take a step further in this question. Another scary thing though is that politicians and people with power are customers too, and therefore one of the factors why laws etc does not change!!!

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