Red Light Herring

Sex for sale: Why Sweden punishes buyers

At a time when some governments are trying – and failing – to combat sex trafficking by legalizing prostitution, Sweden’s innovative approach stands out as an exemplary model of lawmaking that reduces prostitution, penalizes men, and protects women.[…]

In July, the government of Sweden published an evaluation of the first 10 years of the law. While acknowledging that much remains to be done, the report’s findings are overwhelmingly positive:

•Street prostitution has been cut in half, “a direct result of the criminalization of sex purchases.”

•There is no evidence that the decrease in street prostitution has led to an increase in prostitution elsewhere, whether indoors or on the Internet.

•Extensive services exist in the larger cities to assist those exploited by prostitution.

•Fewer men state that they purchase sexual services.

•More than 70 percent of the Swedish public support the law.

Everyone is salivating at Sweden’s prohibitionist model. Oh yes, no more prostitutes, no more sex work in the streets (how bourgeois, how enlightened to remove the eye sore from our well polished and trimmed urban spaces) but this patriarchal and paternalistic approach actually does nothing to address the reality of those people who actually want to work in the sex trade. I know it is difficult for many to believe that such people exist but they do, I know several myself.

You know what would work better than prohibition and eliminating sex workers from the public eye? Start treating sex work as a form of therapy. Why is it legal to provide mental health therapy but not sex work? I know this will be a polemic opinion but I really do not see a difference. Both provide a service for the fulfillment of a human need. I would even argue that a health care approach towards sexuality would, in many cases, be as important (if not more) than  a health care approach to psychotherapy (a health care approach in terms of sexuality would respect people’s choices, genders, orientation, would be consensual and involve informed practices as per the person’s comfort levels). Consensual sex workers are sex educators but they do not get the respect or the framework to advertise themselves as such. Neither do they get the legislation that respects their body autonomy and their desires.

We are tending towards a general consensus amongst those in the left that the War on Drugs has been an utter failure in preventing addiction and illegal trade. Maybe it is time we start thinking how prohibition legislation in regards to sex work is doing little to prevent human trafficking, slavery and exploitation. Instead, a legislative framework that elevates the trade and, like mental health services, affords a fair compensation would probably yield better results for everyone involved.

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