Buying sex in German Homes for the Elderly

Catharina KönigThursday, May 19 (This appeared in a Swedish publication. In Sweden, it is a crime to purchase sex. This was translated from Swedish to English by Google Chrome)

In Germany, prostitution is permitted since 2002. Disabled people who buy sex could not expect compensation from the insurance fund, unlike in the Netherlands where prostitution is legal since 2000 and where you can get money for buying sex and using money from the insurance fund as part of the individual’s personal budget.

The union of healthcare workers, Nu91, in the Netherlands is currently running the campaign ‘Here I draw a border “since the staff complained that they asked to perform sexual acts.

In several municipalities in Denmark, staff at nursing homes help provide sex toys.
Continue reading

Note to anti-prostitutionists: Sex worker movements are nothing to sneer at

[Article by Laura Agustin in response to a book written by Swedish anti-prostitution propagandist Kajsa Ekis Ekmans]

Ordinarily I avoid ideological debates, but this time I had to chime in, because the author of a nutty Swedish book actually lied about me in it. I don’t mean she distorted my ideas – that is conventional amongst feminists who feel they are engaged in a battle to the death about prostitution. No, this was a lie about me and my life: she described me as an employee of the Network for Sex Work Projects, and the company publishing her book didn’t get anyone to check her facts – even about living people, which is reprehensible. Since I am independent with a highly precarious income, and because my opinions are only my own, I could not allow the lie to go uncontested.

The book’s an attack on two activities: commercial sex and surrogate motherhood. The drivel about me is a very small part of the book, which also provides an egregiously selective and ideologically driven version of the history of sex worker rights movements. I decided to use the publishing opportunity to provide a more honest, if still very brief, version, complete with links to the evidence – probably the first such thing published in Sweden. The original book title can’t be translated exactly but means something like Being and Being a Product – the idea of commodification. Continue reading

Swedish minister faces prostitution claims

Jul 10, 2010 2:23 PM | By Sapa-dpa

A sex scandal is rocking the Swedish government in the run-up to general elections, with the Aftonbladet newspaper reporting – three days after his resignation – that labour minister Sven Otto Littorin once hired a prostitute.

Paying for sex has been a crime in Sweden since 1999. Proven interactions with prostitutes are punishable with fines and, in some cases, imprisonment.

The affair is all the more explosive because Littorin, 44, did not mention the paper’s allegations while announcing his resignation on Wednesday, even though he reportedly had been informed of the charges shortly before. Continue reading

SWEDEN: Women are not children – remember? Flawed ideas about improving the sex-purchase law

From The Other Swedish Model
Gender, sex and culture, by Laura Agustín

Much of my work revolves around prostitution law, sex worker rights and the cultural study of commercial sex: see Border Thinking, where I blog several times a week. I wrote the following piece after some people in Sweden welcomed a parliamentarian’s suggestion that Sweden change to a regulatory regime that comes from the 19th century.

Does sexköpslagen, the law against buying sex, work or not? Everyone wants to know. Camilla Lindberg is right that talking about the possibility that the law does not work is taboo in Sweden. The government’s official evaluation of the law has been delayed, probably because it has not been easy to find evidence to demonstrate the reasons behind an absence. That is, you may look around and not see sex workers and their customers where you did before. But you cannot know whether they have stopped buying and selling sex or, if they have not stopped, where they have gone.

Evaluators will question police and social workers, and maybe get to speak to a few sex workers, but none of these can give an overview of sex markets that operate via private telephones and the Internet, in the privacy of homes and hotel rooms. And evaluators certainly cannot say how many people are doing what. Street prostitutes are estimated in some countries to constitute less than ten per cent of all sex workers, so, even if there are few left to see, 90% are unaccounted for. When businesses that sell sex are outlawed, they hide, so government accountants are unlikely to find them – and, after all, many are just individuals working alone.

But if we want to discuss the whole sex industry more openly, we should not focus on the concept of brothels, as Lindberg suggests – particularly not on the idea of health checks for workers. This 19th-century French idea could not be more patriarchal and thus the very opposite of jämställdhet, sexköpslagens guiding principle. Basic common sense tells us that, if disease-transmission is a concern, all parties exchanging fluids have to practice safer sex – not ‘be checked’. And although laws in the Netherlands, Germany, New Zealand, Nevada and parts of Australia allow and regulate brothels as one form of commercial sex, many people who sell sex in those countries prefer to work on their own, in small groups in flats or – yes – on the street. In France, organised sex workers vociferously oppose a proposed return to the old system of maisons closes with health controls that stigmatise prostitutes as (female) carriers of sexually-transmitted diseases…

Read the rest at The Other Swedish Model

Prostitution debate rages worldwide

Natalie Alcoba, National Post
Friday, Oct. 16, 2009

A prostitute in Amsterdam’s red light district. The debate around legalizing the sex trade rages in many countries around the world, including Canada. – Anoek de Groot/AFP/Getty Images

One of the latest battlegrounds for the highly charged issue of prostitution – is it violence, is it a job? – is Britain, home to an estimated 80,000 sex workers, and an untold number of johns.

Horrified by the 2006 murders of five women who sold sex for a living, legislators and activists are debating how government should be controlling the age-old profession. Advocates fall into two camps: those who want to follow Sweden’s lead and ban the purchase of sex, and those who say decriminalizing it, like New Zealand, is the right move. Continue reading

A Swedish sexworker on the criminalization of clients

Watch Pye Jacobsson discuss the consequences of the Swedish Model.

The oldest conundrum

Policing prostitution

The red lights are going out all over Europe—but not elsewhere

From The Economist print edition


WHEN the Netherlands legalised brothels eight years ago, the mood was upbeat. Politicians thought they were well on the way to solving one of the world’s perpetual policy dilemmas: how to stop all the bad things that are associated with the sex trade (coercion, violence, infectious diseases) while putting a proper, and realistic, limit to the role of the state.

The Dutch were hoping that links between prostitution and multiple forms of crime, from money laundering to smuggling, could finally be severed. Ultimately, they believed, the buying and selling of sexual services would become a freely undertaken transaction, in which the state would only be involved as a regulator and tax-collector. The police could then concentrate on criminals, instead of harassing people engaged in exchanges that were nobody’s business but their own.


While the Dutch experiment was beginning, another European country was trying out a different approach. From 1999 onwards, Sweden began penalising people who patronise prostitutes (through fines, jail terms of up to six months, and “naming and shaming”), while treating people who sell their bodies as victims.

All over the world—especially in rich democracies—policymakers have been watching the two places to see which philosophy works best. In reality, neither is a silver bullet; neither country has found a perfect way of shielding prostitutes from exploitation and violence, while avoiding a nanny-state. So the arguments rage on, from liberal New Zealand to San Francisco, where people will vote on November 4th on virtually decriminalising the sex trade.

In Amsterdam—where the spectacle of half-naked women pouting behind shopfront windows is a city trademark—the link between prostitution and organised crime has proved durable. Efforts to break it have been a “complete failure”, says Lodewijk Asscher, a deputy mayor who has led the city hall’s effort to buy up and transform much of the red-light district.

Fresh arguments in favour of his campaign emerged from a report published in July by Dutch police and prosecutors. It drew heavily on the case of three Turkish-German vice barons who were sentenced recently to long prison terms for running a ring of 120 prostitutes in three Dutch cities. Their operation included many of the ghastly practices that the liberal law was supposed to stamp out.

Saddled with fictitious debts, the women under the barons’ control were made to take 20 clients a day, subjected to forcible breast enlargements and tattooed with the names of their “owners”. Such exploitation is not exceptional: the policemen who patrol Amsterdam’s red-light district reckon that more than half the ladies posing in windows are there against their will.

All that helps to explain why the Swedish experience is finding imitators in several countries—including England and Wales where people will soon be liable to prosecution for “paying for sex with someone forced into prostitution…or controlled for another’s gain”. It is also becoming easier for English and Welsh police to prosecute people (either pedestrians or motorists) who solicit sex on the street. In Scotland, kerb-crawling was banned a year ago. The British moves were made after studying the Dutch and Swedish experience.

But what is really happening in Sweden? The policy of penalising clients or “johns” enjoys widespread consent. It was introduced by a centre-left administration, despite opposition from the centre-right. Now it is accepted by all Sweden’s main parties. The authorities say the number of streetwalking prostitutes fell about by 40% during the first four years of the new regime. Swedish politicians say they have made their country a bad destination for traffickers. But a sceptic might retort that by driving prostitution away from Sweden, the authorities have simply exported it, sending sex-hungry Swedes to nearby countries or else to Thailand.


It’s dark underground

Moreover, a sex-workers’ association in Sweden says the law makes life dangerous for those who ply their trade secretly. A life of dodging between apartments and exchanging furtive texts can leave women more reliant on pimps. Another argument is that fear of prosecution reduces the chances that clients will report the exploitation of under-age girls or boys.

Some drawbacks of doing things the Swedish way have been noted in more established quarters. A report by Norway’s justice ministry, in 2004, cited evidence of an “increased fear of attack” among Swedish prostitutes, who found it harder to assess their clients because transactions had to be agreed hastily or on the telephone. But for Norway, it seems, these considerations have been trumped by others, including a sense that prostitution is getting out of control after an influx from Africa, South America and eastern Europe. The Norwegian parliament is on the verge of mandating Swedish-style penalties for buying sex. In a similar spirit, Italy’s cabinet has agreed to outlaw prostitution in public and make penalties harsher.

In Europe, then, things are moving towards tighter regulation—in part because many of the continent’s richer countries feel inundated by a wave of newcomers to the trade, some of whom are trafficked. But there are other places where more liberal voices seem to be gaining the upper hand.

In the United States, trading in sex is a misdemeanour, at least, almost everywhere, with the exceptions of Rhode Island (where it can take place only indoors, but not in brothels); and, most famously and brashly, in parts of Nevada. So if residents of San Francisco vote for “Proposition K”—which would bar police from taking action against sex workers—it will be a landmark in American history.

Supporters of the change (including sex-workers’ unions) say it will transform the role of the police. Instead of pointlessly arresting prostitutes, the police can help them stay healthy and protect them from violence. Advocates of a “no” vote say that if the hands of the police are tied, they will be unable to deal even with obvious cases of abuse. Some say the Dutch experience has made nonsense of the case for liberalisation. Others say Proposition K could lead to a worse situation than the Netherlands’: a free-for-all without the Dutch level of regulation and social security.

But for liberals in search of success stories, New Zealand appears to provide more promising evidence. In 2003, that country decriminalised the sex trade with a boldness that exceeded that of the Dutch. Sex workers were allowed to ply their trade more or less freely, either at home, in brothels or on the street.

A study published by the government in May, measuring the impact of the new law, was encouraging. More than 60% of prostitutes felt they had more power to refuse clients than they did before. The report reckoned that only about 1% of women in the business were under the legal age of 18. And only 4% said they had been pressured into working by someone else.

The report also acknowledges one distinct advantage enjoyed by New Zealand. Although some illegal immigrants are engaged in the sex trade, the country’s isolation and robust legal system make it relatively free from the problem of trafficking, at least by European standards.

But there is also a big difference between the policy of New Zealand and that of other places where prostitution is legal. In the Netherlands and Nevada, the business is confined to brothels, which are usually run by businessmen rather than the sex workers themselves.

Clearly, the brothel-masters’ status as the sole legal providers of commercial sex enhances their grip on the women who work for them. In New Zealand, prostitutes can fend for themselves. As well as letting them keep all their earnings, this independence gives them freedom to reject nasty clients and unsafe practices. “They feel better protected by the law and much more able to stand up to clients and pushy brothel operators,” says Catherine Healy, head of the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective.

Unsurprisingly, the New Zealand system’s critics include brothel owners, both in that country and elsewhere. Going with a girl outside a licensed establishment is like “Russian roulette”, says the website of the Chicken Ranch, a brothel that serves the Las Vegas crowd. In New Zealand, one brothel keeper fumes that the earnings of independent sex workers are “tax-free money, which is not benefiting the Inland Revenue Department”.

What about other interested parties—such as respectable Kiwis who resent kerb-crawlers? According to polls, people are sure the number of prostitutes has risen—although the government says this is not true. Auckland city council is trying to allay public concerns by restricting brothels to commercial and industrial areas. Something similar happens in Nevada, where only the smaller counties may host brothels, and they are kept away from town centres. (Such curbs have some bad effects; prostitutes say they are stranded in the desert, totally reliant on brothel owners.)

In any case, one unusual investigation concluded that from the prostitutes’ point of view, the New Zealand system was the fairest. A pair of British grandmothers from the Women’s Institute—a homely club that is more often associated with cooking tips—made a tour of brothels in the Netherlands, America and the Antipodes: their aim was to find which system was best for the women who worked in the business. Their top marks went to a discreet house in a suburb of Wellington—classed in New Zealand as a “small owner-operated brothel”—where two women offered their services from Mondays to Fridays. “Just like a regular job,” one of the grannies noted.

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