A study commissioned by Norway’s government shows that criminalizing the purchase of sex has decreased trafficking and has not caused violence against women to increase, as some have claimed.
Johns have been criminalized in Norway since 2009, following in Sweden’s footsteps.
The nearly 200-page report is based on six months of research, including interviews with male and female prostitutes, police and support organizations.
The Norwegian law applies to all its citizens anywhere, making it illegal for Norwegians to buy sex even in countries where the activity is accepted.
Penalties for breaking the law are set by local municipalities. In Oslo, Norway’s largest city, convicted sex buyers face a 25,000 crown ($4,000) fine.
Since criminalizing the purchase of sex in 1999, the number of men who buy sex in Sweden went from one in eight to one in 13.
Opponents of the Nordic model tell us that criminalizing the purchase of sex will make it more dangerous and push the trade “underground.” Despite the fact that there is zero evidence to back up these claims and that, in truth, the “underground”/illegal sex trade thrives under legalization, this myth persists, thanks to this oft-repeated misinformation.
The truth is that criminalizing the purchase of sex makes countries that do so less desirable for pimps, johns, and traffickers. It is no real surprise that organized crime has taken over the trade in places that have legalized — it’s simply easier to buy and sell women in places where the practice is normalized and legal. Women and girls are trafficked because there just aren’t enough of them who enter the trade willingly — demand begets exploitation; reduce demand, reduce exploitation.
Meanwhile, claims that legalizing or decriminalizing the purchase of sex and the exploitation of women would make the trade safer, have not proven to be true. As a result, countries like Germany and New Zealand are reconsidering their laws.
In 2012, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said that he didn’t think the Prostitution Law Reform Act 2003 had reduced street prostitution or underage prostitutes, stating:
“The argument was that it would eliminate all the street workers and underage people, particularly girls, and the reports that we see in places like South Auckland is that it hasn’t actually worked… I think it’s been marginally successful, if at all.”
The study is timely as the Canadian government has recently put forward a bill that, if passed (which it most-likely will), will target demand and criminalize pimps and johns.