The Nordic Prostitution Model is not for everyone

Red: Prostitution is illegal, Pink: Nordic model implemented, Yellow: Sex industry fully legalized, Green: Prostitution legal with restrictions
Source: University of Exeter

By Amal Guerdali and Ronja Pilgaard
March 18 2014

You can’t expect a law to apply in different countries without different outcomes. So says Norwegian professor in criminology and sociology of law at the University of Oslo, May-Len Skilbrei.

“Taking a law from one country, doesn’t mean, it will be a success in another European country. Laws are different in different countries.”

At the moment European countries all over the EU are drawn to the so called Nordic Model, where buying sex is illegal, but selling it is legal, to bring down human trafficking for sexual exploitation.

Sweden has been criminalizing the sex buyer since 1999 with Norway following in 2009.

Very law-abiding people
Skilbrei’s research shows, that a law like the Nordic prostitution model, is more likely to succeed in Norway and Sweden than elsewhere, because people are very law-abiding in these countries. In other countries in Europe, people are not as law-abiding. Their crime rates are higher and the policy context is different from the context in the Nordic countries.

This however is an assessment that Britta Thomsen, MEP and supporter of the law does not agree with.

“If the prostitution laws do not work in their current form, then why not try something new?” she says.

Britta Thomsen sees one clear advantage with the Nordic model.

“It will at least give the women a legal stance when talking to the police, as they are not the ones, who risk being charged with a crime. Now a prostitute in Sweden calls the police when she is in trouble; she is not the one at fault,” she says.

No overview
But according to May-Len Skilbrei you can’t conclude whether or not the law is a success in Sweden.

“There’s no overview of the size of the prostitution market. There are many claims about what outcomes the law has had in Sweden. But we haven’t seen a thorough analysis of what has actually been going on,” says Skilbrei who does not believe, that a total harmonization is an option.