Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Police Affairs, op. cit.; Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare op. cit.; Dodillet & Östergren, op. cit.; P. Östergren (2003)

Sex Workers Critique of Swedish Prostitution Policy

Author’s Introduction:

In this article I will not deal with the complex issue of whether prostitution is socially or otherwise desirable. Rather this article seeks to document some of the experiences and opinions of female sex workers in Sweden. I have been concerned by the fact that the very women who are at the center of prostitution policy are so rarely heard and so often feel discriminated against. If equal rights for women is important, then the experience of sex workers themselves must surely be central to our discussion, regardless of what position one takes on prostitution.

The law against procurement of sexual services (promotion or deriving profit from prostitution) and a recent law prohibiting the purchase of sexual services introduced in 1999 are the two main ways the Swedish state sees itself as “combating” prostitution. Swedish politicians and feminists are proud of the state’s prostitution policy. They insist that it has positive effects. Sex workers are of a different view. Most of the female Swedish sex workers I have interviewed voice a strong critique of their legal and social situation. They feel discriminated against, endangered by the very laws that seek to protect them, and they feel under severe emotional stress as a result of the laws.

The material in this article stems from my interviews, informal talks and correspondence with approximately 20 sexworkers since 1996, as well as published and broadcasted interviews with sexworkers in Swedish media. It is also based on interviews with people working with women selling sex to support a drug habit (most whom also are homeless). This article also contains a summary of reports conducted by Swedish authorities after the introduction of new legislation (the criminalization of clients)

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