Sweden Threatens 'Mandatory Jail' for Clients of Sex Workers

Sweden Threatens 'Mandatory Jail' for Clients of Sex Workers

STOCKHOLM — The European Sex Worker Alliance (ESWA) is circulating a petition in solidarity with Swedish sex worker activists fighting a politically motivated attempt to require mandatory jail time for their clients.

In a letter to the Swedish Parliament published in English and Sweden, the ESWA addressed the upcoming May 31 vote on "a proposal to increase the minimum punishment for the purchase of sexual services from a fine to a prison sentence."

“Sex workers in Sweden, as in many countries in Europe and globally, are amongst the most marginalized and discriminated against members of society and experience high levels of violence and human rights violations,” the letter read.

The group urged Swedish politicians who are threatening the livelihoods of the country’s sex workers to “listen to sex workers, to consider current, as well as upcoming, research on the matter and to take into account the countless recommendations from organizations, including the sex worker-led organization Red Umbrella Sweden, to start committing to supporting a legal framework for people working in the sex trade, that protects and affirms those individuals’ human rights.”

The ESWA letter quoted scholar Niina Vuolajärvi, a professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science, whose research indicates that “the pursuit of sex buyers and combatting sex trafficking functions as punitive and racialized policing, targeting people in the sex trade and resulting in forced evictions, deportations and police harassment... increases their vulnerability for violence and experiences of stigma.”

An activist for Red Umbrella Sweden told ESWA Communications Officer Marin Scarlett that the current threat of mandatory prison time for consensual sex buyers has been Trojan-Horsed into “a series of legal reforms by the government that will be voted on by the parliament of Sweden.”

The title of the Swedish political proposal, lent momentum by various sex panics fostered by the press, translates as: “Sharpened View of Rape and Other Sexual Violation.”

“It is mostly about increasing the protection of children and adults who are exposed to sexual abuse,” Scarlett explained. “Out of the blue, it also includes raising of the minimum punishment for purchase of consensual sexual services from a fine to a prison sentence.”

Red Umbrella Sweden released its own statement, warning that “neither Red Umbrella Sweden, nor any other sex worker rights organization in Sweden was officially invited to give our input on the matters of this political process. Matters that will have a detrimental effect on our lives.”

Sweden is one of the nations held up as an example of the "Nordic Model" in other countries, by advocates who seek to reform sex work legislation by eliminating sex workers' means of support through increased criminalization and public shaming of clients.

To sign the ESWA petition, click here.

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