What is the legality of prostitution in Sweden?

Is Prostitution Legal in Sweden?

In Sweden, prostitution is not entirely legal. While selling sex is not considered a crime, buying sexual services is illegal. This approach, known as the Swedish model or the Nordic model, has been implemented in other countries, including Norway and Iceland. The purpose of the model is to combat sex trafficking and reduce the demand for prostitution, which is considered a form of gender-based violence.

What Are the Laws, Penalties, and Law Enforcement Strategies?

Sweden’s prostitution laws were introduced in 1999 through the Sex Purchase Act. The act criminalizes the purchase of sexual services and penalizes the client, rather than the sex worker. The main provisions of the law are:

  • Buying sexual services is punishable by a fine or up to six months in prison.
  • Attempting to buy sexual services is also a criminal offense.
  • Pimping, procuring, and operating a brothel are illegal.
  • Advertising sexual services is prohibited.
  • Sex workers are not criminalized and are offered social services to exit prostitution.

Law enforcement strategies include regular patrols in areas known for prostitution, monitoring online advertisements, and conducting undercover operations to catch individuals attempting to purchase sexual services.

How is Prostitution Referred to Locally in Sweden?

In Sweden, prostitution is often referred to as sexköp (sex purchase) or prostitution. The term sexarbetare (sex worker) is also used to describe individuals who engage in selling sex. The Swedish model is commonly known as sexköpslagen (the sex purchase law) or den svenska modellen (the Swedish model).

What is the History of Prostitution in Sweden?

Prostitution has a long history in Sweden, dating back to the 13th century. However, the country’s approach to addressing the issue has evolved over time:

  • In the early 1900s, prostitution was regulated and tolerated, with licensed brothels operating in major cities.
  • In 1918, the Vagrancy Act was introduced, criminalizing both the selling and buying of sexual services. This led to a decline in visible street prostitution but did not address the root causes of the issue.
  • In the late 20th century, feminist movements began to challenge the traditional view of prostitution as a necessary evil, arguing that it was a form of gender-based violence.
  • In 1999, the Sex Purchase Act was passed, implementing the Swedish model and shifting the focus of criminalization from sex workers to clients.

How Do Government Laws and Policies Address Prostitution in Sweden?

The Swedish government’s approach to addressing prostitution is based on the belief that prostitution is a form of gender-based violence and a barrier to gender equality. Key aspects of this approach include:

  • Legislation: The Sex Purchase Act criminalizes the buying of sexual services, sending a strong message that prostitution is not tolerated in society.
  • Education: Public awareness campaigns are conducted to inform citizens about the negative consequences of prostitution and the legal penalties for buying sexual services.
  • Support services: Social services and exit programs are offered to help sex workers leave the industry and rebuild their lives.
  • International cooperation: Sweden actively promotes the Swedish model in international forums and supports efforts to combat human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

While the Swedish model has been praised for its progressive approach to addressing prostitution, it has also faced criticism from some sex workers and human rights organizations who argue that it further marginalizes and stigmatizes sex workers, making them more vulnerable to violence and exploitation. Despite these concerns, the Swedish model remains an influential approach to addressing prostitution and has been adopted by several other countries.

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