The text of this post orginates from my Final Paper in the Advanced Human Sexuality course. It takes about the new laws in Sweden and New Zealand regarding prostitution and the results of these. The word prostitute originates from Latin and means “to be exposed for sale.". Prostitution is called the world’s oldest profession. It may precede humanity. Animal behaviorists have observed primates in prostitution like behavior, offering sex for food, or avoiding an attack. Penguins have been studied exchanging sex for stones, including females with a partner. The first indications of human prostitution are from Mesopotamia 2400 BCE. Prostitution is a subject of controversy. Attitudes on prostitution are likely to take one of two approaches. First, respect a woman’s right to sell sex as an aspect of her right to choose what she will do with her body. Second, prostitution is a humiliation, and indignity, it is a way of male control over women’s bodies.
Sweden prohibited the purchase of sex 1999. New Zealand legalized prostitution in 2003. Two different approaches. Around the globe, countries have adapted different laws; from making prostitution illegal, restrict it, legalize it, to not to regulate it at all. Sweden has taken a unique approach, and countries like Norway and Iceland have followed.
The words on the streets of Stockholm do not support this official theory. In the capital, there is a place called Prostitution Center. It has a questionable reputation among the women on the street, referred to as having unfriendly and condescending social workers. The center assists prostitutes with filling out forms to different government agencies, refer to counseling, and schedule medical check-ups. Also, service the prostitutes' rate as unfriendly with an authoritarian approach. A prostitute who went to the healthcare clinic claims she received slow-release hormonal contraceptives without considering her doubts and objections.
Furthermore, social workers in Sweden oppose condom distribution to sex workers because it would make them accomplices in prostitution. No official data are available regarding whether or not violence against street prostitutes increased since the new law from 1999 that criminalizes the purchase of sex. The Swedish sex workers’ association, Rosea, stated that there had been an escalation in violence, both on the streets and elsewhere: The law scares away "normal" clients but not violent ones, pressure prostitutes to accept the latter. An obstetrician who works with abused women confirms an increase in sexual violence on the streets. It looks like the no-violent clients seek sex on the internet. The general secretary of the RFSU, the national association for sexual education, believes that the new law increased women’s vulnerability and as they have become less visible, more controlled by pimps. She claims prostitution is a social problem and can only be reduced by social actions and the change of attitudes- not by legislations. Prostitutes in Europe are critical and disapprove of the Swedish feminists who claim to be spokespersons for the prostitutes. They go so far and accuse that the law against buying sex was a way of non-prostitute women to dominate prostitutes. A prostitute who has been politically active for twenty years continues by stating that it’s like they (Swedish feminists) using the old patriarchal system to separate between descent and fallen women. This law was in many ways pushed by radical feminists who think that unthinkable a woman would voluntarily do sex work. Instead, the official Swedish stand is that women in prostitution are forced and oppressed by men. The new Swedish law doesn't distinct between trafficking and prostitution.
What is the result of the Swedish law?
A reduction in prostitution cannot be proven. It is impossible to establish a cause-effect link due to the expanding adverting on the internet. Five years after the implementation of the law, it was a 40% reduction of visible prostitutes on the street (in the center of Stockholm, there is only one street used by prostitutes). The Prostitution Center has contact with about 500 women annually. During the first four years of the new millennium (2000-2003) the center had 130 sex workers in their treatment program. About 60% stopped selling sex, and many claimed the new law was a significant incentive for them seeking help ). Because of the rise in the internet market, it does not point in the direction of the law’s aim. Furthermore, an official Swedish report states that the extent of prostitution and trafficking in Sweden is unknown.
What do prostitutes think about the new legislation in New Zealand
Since the Prostitution Reformed Act (PRA) that made buying and selling sex legal, it seems to have improved the situation for the prostitutes: (a) decrease in violence, more than before able to reject clients; (b) better relationship between sex workers and the police. Prostitutes can or at least threaten to report problematic clients to the police; (c) safer for streetwalkers, now they can work in more open locations; (d) because it is legal less stress to negotiate the prices; (e) the health of prostitutes has improved; (f) report increased level of wellbeing and validation as a result of that their work has become legal although sex work is still stigmatized; (g) flexibility where to work and under which conditions; (h) sex workers can manage their work reduces opportunities for exploitation by third parties like pimps, brothel, and massage parlor managers/owners. Like any other employer, they need to create an appealing work environment, or the sex worker will go somewhere else or work for themselves.
This paper explored prostitution. It focused mainly on the different situations in Sweden and New Zealand regarding the legislation of sex work. The former made purchasing sex illegal in 1999 and the latter legalized prostitution in 2003. The focus was on the situation of the prostitutes. There seems to be a “big brother” mentality in countries like Sweden, where the government and other vocal groups, and individuals act like spoke persons for all the sex workers. Laws are legislated and implemented without asking them how their situation could be improved. Is it naïve and absurd to think prostitution could become eradicated? Considering 400,000 prostitutes are working in Germany. In Zurich, there are over 2,5 million purchases of sex annually. I would say yes. As the secretary of the Swedish national unit for sexual education stated; prostitution is, to a large extent, a social problem and should be dealt with accordingly, not by illegalization. What can we do to make it as safe and healthy as possible for the prostitutes and their clients? The author of this paper thinks New Zealand has chosen a path that is necessary but not optimal. It needs some modifications. Prostitution, will continue to exist, like it or not, we all have to accept it.
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