Essay 7: The Swedish Model: Abolitionist Nirvana? Part 2

The Swedish sex purchase ban isn’t self-executing. It has to be enforced. How does that happen?

Once the sex purchase ban went into effect in 1999, police immediately targeted streetwalkers. They were the most visible prostitutes, their customers were conveniently accessible. In areas where streetwalkers congregated, police showed up in marked and unmarked cars. They would “ostentatiously” point video cameras at cars cruising by, stop drivers for minor infractions, shame them and lecture them on the sex purchase ban; and they would stroll the sidewalks, interrupting conversations between prostitutes and potential customers.[1]  These were ways of intimidating men seeking prostitutes.

According to Kajsa Wahlberg, Sweden’s trafficking Rapporteur, police also frequently “intervene” before actual purchases or even actual attempts can take place, in order to apprise men of the law. Further, she claims, police frequently patrol “areas like parks and cemeteries, hotels, bars and restaurants, and massage parlours” (where, I suppose, they do more “intervening”).[2]

Police also make arrests. Out of sight in their unmarked cars, they can observe a streetwalker getting into a customer’s vehicle, follow it to a parking place, wait a few minutes to catch the occupants in flagrante delecto, “then we [would] leap out . . . pull open the doors.”[3] Sometimes the police photograph the naked couple.[4]

Police also raid hotels or apartments based on tips.[5] According to Simon Häggström – the head of the Stockholm Police’s sex-buyer-chasing section – success in this enterprise comes easily. “If a sex buyer can find a prostituted woman in a hotel or apartment, the police can do it too,” Häggström “sardonically” informs a reporter.[6] The Stockholm Police approach and train hotel staff to be alert for the sex trade.[7] Do tips abound? The National Council on Crime Prevention (Brå) presents a different picture.

Despite . . . efforts to educate hotel staff and taxi drivers to a greater extent to notify police when they see something suspicious, tips from these groups hardly ever occur. In a few cases the police have received information from a hotel staff that has led to a notification.[8]

Police are tireless, nevertheless. They continue to tutor hotel staff hoping for more tips that will let them catch malefactors in the act. Their efforts may be working; recent reports show prostitution moving away from hotels and into short-term apartments.[9] However, as we will shortly see, police have other ways of turning hotels to their purposes.

After sex trafficking legislation was enacted in 2003, most police efforts focused on street prostitution, organized prostitution, and trafficking cases, the latter two often involving months-long surveillance activities resulting in a raid on one or more apartments or hotels, seizing computer files, phone logs, and other evidence that support not only charges of procuring or trafficking against the principals in the case but collateral charges of sex-purchasing against men listed in the files and logs.[10] Thus, the number of sex-purchase offenders recorded in any one year is largely a function of whether the police break a big organization or not.

Here are some figures about charges and outcomes.

 Table 1

Table 2

Table 3

These tables show very few trafficking and procuring convictions.[11] Trafficking cases, in particular, are hard to prosecute. The National Crime Prevention Council (Brå) reported in 2011:

So far, 25 people have been indicted as a result of the completed police investigations in 2008-2010, six for trafficking and nineteen for aggravated procuring. Five of those accused of human trafficking have been convicted of the crime and have gotten between one and six years in prison. All of these convictions were for trafficking minors; no cases involving an adult woman has led to a conviction . . . . In most cases, the women were “uninformed,” afraid, or bound to the perpetrator so that they rarely contribute information or wish to participate in the investigation.[12]

Nor, in fact, is it always easy successfully to convict individuals of violating the sex purchase ban itself. The police can stake out obvious sites of prostitution, arrest visitors, present evidence of payment to the court – and still come up empty.[13]


Abolitionists contend that the Swedish Model makes selling sex legal and buying sex a crime. This inaccurately describes Swedish law in two ways. First, it is not true that there are no direct legal consequences to selling sex. A non-Swedish woman, visiting or temporarily staying in Sweden, can be immediately deported if caught prostituting, whether she has a work permit or not. Aliens living in Sweden must make a living “in a decent fashion” and prostitution is not decent.[14]

Second, in a number of ways the prostitute labors continually under the law’s menacing shadow. If she works with fellow prostitutes she puts herself in jeopardy of a pimping or procuring charge. If she works openly she (1) risks eviction from her rented premises; (2) invites police to stake out her workplace, to monitor her visitors; (3) makes herself subject to compulsory custody if she is young or takes drugs.[15] Thus, if she’s a Swedish resident, she works in isolation and secrecy, unable to turn for assistance to agencies or authorities she might otherwise seek out for help with problems.

Indeed, to fall under various informal liabilities, a woman needn’t actually be a prostitute; she need only seem like one. She can be turned away at the border if border guards “suspect” she is a prostitute.[16] She can be legally denied a seat in a restaurant because she’s Asian and “looks” like a prostitute.[17] Police need only “tip” a hotel that one of its occupants is a prostitute and she will be evicted or barred from returning, whether she is a prostitute or not.[18]

A prostitute also has strong reasons to conceal her occupation from welfare services, the Prostitution Agencies, and other public authorities. If she has children, she fears – not without reason – that her children will be taken away because she is an unfit parent.[19]

The case of Petite Jasmine (her working name) provides a graphic illustration. Separated from an abusive husband, with two children to raise, she turned to prostitution as an effective way to support herself. Social Services took her children away, placing them with her husband. According to Pye Jakobsson, coordinator of the Rose Alliance, a sex workers support group,

[t]hey told her she didn’t know what was good for her and that she was “romanticizing” prostitution, they said she lacked insight and didn’t realise sex work was a form of self-harm. . . . [T]he Swedish model encourages the state to see sex workers as victims, and any sex worker who doesn’t perceive herself that way must be deluded. Thus, the state saw Jasmine as psychologically unsound because she didn’t agree with their viewpoint on her job—and thus they concluded she was an unfit mother. . . . [At one later custody trial] the judge gave her shared custody [of her children] but pointed out that it was a problem that she failed to realize that sex work was “a form of self-harm.”

By then Social Services had become embarrassed by its initial stance, had reversed course, and was helping Petite Jasmine. Unfortunately the help was too little, too late. On July 11, 2013, at a supervised child visitation, Jasmine’s husband stabbed her to death.[20]

A common claim among police spokesmen and apologists for the sex purchase ban maintains that it has helped strengthen the hand of prostitutes. “According to police, the prostitutes saw it as a reassurance that there was police presence in the street environment.” Anna Skarhed writes this with a perfectly straight face. We are supposed to believe that as the police are hassling the streetwalker’s customers, or catching the streetwalker herself naked in the sex act, she nevertheless likes having the cops around. In fact, that’s exactly what Kaisa Claude, a writer for the Swedish Institute, wants us to think:

As a rule, the police and the women on the street have a mutual understanding. “It’s true that we disrupt them in their client contacts [notes a police spokesperson] but at the same time, they feel secure knowing that we’re out here.[21]

And Simon Häggström, the sardonic cop who runs the prostitution unit in Stockholm, wants to clear away any confusions we might hold about the sex purchase ban.

[Has it caused] prostitutes to refuse all cooperation with the authorities? Just the opposite has happened: the law gives the possibility for victims to talk to the authorities. Because the country has taken a position, not against prostitutes, but against the clients, it has given power to the prostitutes. . . . By penalizing the customer, the legislature and society as a whole sends a positive message to people who are prostitutes, by offering to help rather than punish.[22]

What is officer Häggström talking about when he declares that society is now willing to help rather than punish the prostitute? Before 1999 it was not illegal for a woman to sell sex. She could report crimes to the police without fear of arrest for prostitution, couldn’t she? Why, then, would the sex purchase ban – which didn’t change her status at all – now make her better situated to report crimes to the police?[23]

And what power does the prostitute have vis-à-vis the Swedish state? If she is a foreign-born prostitute, reporting anything to the police that gives away her occupation makes her eligible for a speedy exit from Sweden. If she is a native Swede, she does not want to draw attention to herself because doing so invites both legal and extra-legal jeopardy. And what positive message does the Swedish state send to the prostitute? None at all. It declares prostitution an intolerable social blemish that needs to be extirpated. It has zero-tolerance for what the prostitute does.[24] It tells her that if she feels even more stigmatized now than before, that’s all to the good.[25]


Abolitionists say, “Prostitution is male violence against women.”[26] They could say there’s a lot of violence connected with prostitution, and they do. But they insist further on saying prostitution is violence. Is this a discovery of some further fact, is it a definitional stipulation, or just a rhetorical way of saying there’s a lot of violence connected with prostitution? It is hard to give clear answer. (See Essay 11 for more on this.)

This particular claim is associated with the Swedish Model. Thus, Gunilla Ekberg writes: “In Sweden, prostitution is officially acknowledged as a form of male sexual violence against women and children.”[27] Kajsa Wahlberg offers confirmation: “Our measures, both preventative and reactive, are informed by international human rights and feminist principles underlining that prostitution is a serious form of violence against women.”[28] And Anna Skarhed, in her report, makes the same point: “The view that underpins Swedish gender equality policy is that the sex trade is . . . a form of male violence against women.”[29]

But if this view underpins the sex purchase act, its underpinning is not evident in the legislation itself. The sex purchase ban was initially included in a broader piece of legislation dealing with violence against women — the “Kvinnofrid” Bill (“Protection of Women”). The bill touched on several forms of violence, especially domestic battering and rape. It also included a ban on sex purchases but without explicitly connecting these purchases to violence itself. Indeed, the supporting commentary on the legislation included comments that seem to distinguish prostitution in general from specific kinds that may be violent:

Violence against women can be seen as an umbrella term for many different phenomena, most of which are punishable by current legislation. . . . According to the Declaration on Violence against Women by the UN General Assembly, adopted in 1993, the concept of includes physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family, in society, and the violence perpetrated or condoned by the State . . . . The concept of violence against women includes, under this Declaration . . . domestic violence, female genital mutilation, sexual harassment at work, trafficking in women and forced prostitution.

The Kvinnofrid legislation was the fruit of two distinct investigative reports, one by a Commission on Violence against Women and the other by a Prostitution Inquiry. The two reports, according to the legislative commentary, dealt with

issues that largely affect relationships between women and men, conditions that are important for gender equality, both in individual cases and in society at large. In this manner, the questions can be said to be related. Men’s violence against women is not consistent with a path towards an equal society and must be fought in every way. In such a society, it is also unworthy and unacceptable that men obtain the casual sexual relations with women against compensation.

Violence and prostitution are related here not as genus and species but as two species of inequality. They are not the same.[30]

Ideas about inequality were the driving force behind abolitionist views in 1970s/1980s. Prostitution had to be abolished because it reflected and reinforced men’s oppression of women. In a recent defense of Swedish policy, Gunilla Ekberg and Kasja Wahlberg reprise the animating idea behind feminist thinking that led to the sex purchase ban.

You have to talk about the historical power differences between men and women which lead to men oppressing women and putting women and girls in a subordinate position. If you don’t have that analysis, you will never understand prostitution. Those who are pro-prostitution of course ignore power differences between men and women. They boil prostitution down to individual choice.[31]

Thus, although the 1970s/1980s analysis of prostitution pictured the prostitute as a self-harming creature in need of help, this focus on individual damage was subsumed in a broader notion:

[T]he harm of prostitution was perceived as not only inflicted on women involved in prostitution but on women as a class, since its existence was seen as perpetuating and reinforcing women’s subservience to men and the definition of women as sexual beings for men.[32]

Attacking prostitution, then, had less to do with the self-harming creatures in need of rescue and more to do with the crucial role that the institution played in gender oppression generally. And already in the 1970s and 1980s the key to attacking prostitution lay in suppressing demand: so thought an increasingly influential coalition that stood behind the sex purchase ban. Go after the men who use prostitutes.

After Sweden passed anti-trafficking legislation in 2003, attending to demand seemed all the more compelling. The media in Sweden offered up the same litanie d’horreurs featured in the sex trafficking excitement all over the world. Stories of girls kidnapped, lured away from home by scheming men, sold by their families, kept in captivity, forced to sexually service a steady stream of faceless men – these and more sold newspapers, generated high TV audience ratings, and prepared the public to back any attack on “modern-day slavery.”[33] The abolitionists offered a simple and seemingly compelling formula: if there were no demand, there would be no prostitution; if there were no prostitution, there would be no modern sex slavery. Therefore, kill demand.[34]

The sex purchase ban represented a double shift in Sweden’s approach to prostitution. In the investigations of the 1970s and 1980s, prostitution was seen as a “social problem” requiring social measures to solve.[35] Both sex seller and sex buyer were pictured as figures responding – in a personally unhealthy and socially undesirable way – to background determinants. The Prostitution Inquiry that preceded the sex purchase ban proposed for the first time that more was needed: “[Prostitution] is an activity that government finds so reprehensible and harmful to those involved that they should be branded as criminal.”[36] Seller and buyer alike should be sanctioned. However, a coalition of women inside and outside the legislature proposed a substitute: make the sex buyer a criminal but not the sex seller; and this carried the day. The view that prevailed held, in the words of the legislative commentary, that “it is not reasonable to also criminalize those who, at least in most cases, are the weaker party exploited by others who want to satisfy their own sexual drives.”[37] Although women take part in this socially reprehensible activity, they are not to be held accountable. Men are. As Josefina Erikson describes the legislative decision:

The buyer was deemed to be aware of his actions and responsible for them. This framing of a criminal policy differed from the one represented by advocates for social measures against prostitution. The latter put the responsibility on society and absolved individuals from responsibility for their actions.[38]

Thus, the sex purchase ban yoked together as justification several discordant themes, moving back and forth between individualist, determinist, and structural pictures. Prostitution is an institution in which men oppress women (men and women are understood here as occupiers of certain socially structured roles); but individual men are deemed aware of and in control of their actions, appropriately subject to criminal liability. Women are the weaker party “for the most part” and not responsible (an amalgam of determinist and structural views).

From a structural standpoint, it makes no difference whether many or most prostitutes are trafficked or act from severe economic constraint or engage in self-harming conduct. Even if they weren’t or don’t, prostitution is still male oppression of women, if feminists are right. Yet, Swedish abolitionist defenses continue to marshal the familiar factoids we’ve encountered before (all of which consolidate individual cases). Here, for example, is the Swedish Ministry of Industry, Employment and Communications’ propaganda fact sheet:

[I]international studies show that between 65% and 90% of prostituted women were sexually abused by male relatives or acquaintances as girls. Many children, mainly girls, who are sexually exploited, are sold into prostitution at an early age by the men who abuse them. According to recent international studies, the median age for the entrance of girls into prostitution is 14 years of age.[39]

A whole lot of individual women are abused by adults and damaged by prostitution. They are determined in what they do by background and circumstance; they shouldn’t be held responsible.

Yet Sweden has never given up its view of sex buyers themselves as also pathologically determined. Even the legislative commentary leading up to passage of the sex purchase ban allowed that “[p]robably, many of the men [buyers] require treatment.”[40] Currently, attached to the Prostitution Agencies are units (referred to by the acronym KAST) designed specifically to help sex buyers.

Many of the people who come to KAST experience feelings of powerlessness over their behavior . . . They feel that they cannot control their desires. . . . In recent years, hypersexuality or sex addiction has come into play as an explanation for sex purchases . . . . Behaviors that fall within the hypersexual disorder can be compulsive masturbation, pornography addiction, multiple sexual relationships, or purchase of sexual services. . . . [KAST] respondents, on average, had 10.7 . . . potentially traumatic experiences . . . while growing up. The corresponding figures among men [in the general population survey] who never paid for sex . . . was 6.4.[41]

Pathologically determined or not, men are held responsible for their behavior. Pathologically determined or not, women aren’t.

Even as the legislature was passing the sex purchase bill, the legislative commentary recognized that

social [welfare] efforts will naturally be equally important to continue to motivate prostitutes to seek help and get away from the destructive life that they live. Criminalization cannot constitute more than an adjunct of efforts to reduce prostitution and can in no way substitute the social measures.[42]

Yet, in the decade and a half between 1999 and 2015, the social welfare model has been significantly eroded. Swedish prostitution policy has swung heavily toward crime control. Police initiatives have been well-funded while NGOs and the Prostitution Agencies have had to make do with meager scraps. Moreover, the entire Swedish welfare system has constricted considerably since 1999.

Trafficking dominates all discussions, as it does in most countries now. Fighting trafficking is a law enforcement business. Police forces need money and resources. Traffickers have to be hunted down and trafficking victims rescued.


Students of the Swedish prostitution regime have noted the increasing dominance of a law enforcement framework for thinking about prostitution.[43] Though nominally feminist, the Swedish approach in fact may not be serving feminist goals very well at all. We need to itemize more clearly those goals and the effects on them of the Swedish policies. I tackle these tasks in the next essay.


Short titles used in notes:

SKARHED REPORT: Förbud mot köp av sexuell tjänst: En utvärdering 1999–2008 [Prohibiting the purchase of sexual services: Evaluation 1999-2008], Stockholm 2010, SOU 2010:49,

BRÅ 2011: Prostitution och människohandel för sexuella ändamål Slutredovisning av regeringens handlingsplan (Prostitution and trafficking for sexual purposes: Final accounting of the government’s action plan), Rapport 2011:18, Brottsförebyggande rådet [National Crime Prevention Council (Brå)],

STOCKHOLM COUNTY REPORT: Prostitutionen i Sverige 2014: En omfattningskartläggning [Prostitution in Sweden 2014: A survey of extent], Stockholm: Rapport 2015:10,

LINKÖPING 2: Ingrid Åkerman och Carl Göran Svedin, Kartläggning av insatser mot prostitutionen i Stockholm, Göteborg och Malmö-Delrapport 2 ur Prostitution i Sverige –Kartläggning och utvärdering av prostitutionsgruppernas insatser samt erfarenheter och attityder i befolkningen, Linköping University Electronic Press, 2012,

LINKÖPING 3: Ingrid Åkerman och Carl Göran Svedin, Ett års kontakter med prostitutionsenheterna (FAST); En beskrivning av insatser till personer med prostitutionserfarenhet (Försäljare av Sexuella Tjänster, FAST) – Delrapport 3 ur Prostitution i Sverige–Kartläggning och utvärdering av prostitutionsgruppernas insatser samt erfarenheter och attityder i befolkningen, Malmo:  Linköping University Electronic Press, 2012,

LINKÖPING 6: Cecilia Kjellgren och Carl Göran Svedin, Utvärdering av samtalsbehandling med köpare av sexuella tjänster (KAST)-Delrapport 6 ur Prostitution i Sverige –Kartläggning och utvärdering av  prostitutionsgruppernas insatser samt erfarenheter och attityder i befolkningen, Malmo: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2012,

EDLUND & JAKOBSSON: Carina Edlund & Pye Jakobsson, En Annan Horisont: Sexarbete och hiv/STI-prevention ur ett peer-perspektiv, HIV-Sweden & Rose Alliance, 2014,

HOLMSTRÖM 2015: Charlotta Holmström, “Förbud mot köp av sexuell tjänst i Sverige: en kunskapsöversikt om avsedda effekter och oavsedda konsekvenser” (Prohibiting the purchase of sexual services in Sweden: A knowledge of the intended effects and unintended consequences), Riksförbundet för sexuell upplysning-RFSU (The Swedish Association for Sexuality Education), February 2, 2015,


[1] Swedish Police Website, “Prostitution,”; Don Kulick, “Sex in the New Europe: The Criminalization of Clients and the Swedish Fear of Penetration,” Anthropological Theory, Vol. 3 (2003), p. 204; Skarhed Report, p. 191; The Phenomenon of Prostitution in Sweden Blog, October 20, 2012, (“Fifteen years ago, there were about fifty girls in the streets of Stockholm,” says Jonas Trolle, the head of the police surveillance of Stockholm. “Nowadays, they are barely a dozen. We have a brigade patrolling the streets every week to verbally harass customers, and two teams working undercover, 24 hours out of 24, 7 days out of 7, to constitute court records“).

[2] Statement by Kajsa Wahlberg, Swedish National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings, Conference on the ” Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Human Beings and Reducing Prostitution and Sexual Exploitation,” Plzen, The Czech Republic, June 3 2009,; Speech by Kajsa Wahlberg, Swedish National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings at the Third Swedish-Dutch Conference on Gender Equality: Trafficking in Human Beings and Prostitution, organized by the Swedish Institute the Swedish National Police Board, the Swedish Embassy, and the Netherlands National Police Agency, den Haag, The Netherlands, December 6, 2010,
. Indeed, Gunilla Ekberg, a vigorous proponent of the sex purchase ban, thinks the primary job of police is “to intervene before a potential buyer commits a crime rather than when the crime is a fait accompli.” Gunilla Ekberg, “The Swedish Law That Prohibits the Purchase of Sexual Services: Best Practices for Prevention of Prostitution and Trafficking in Human Beings,” Violence Against Women, Vol. 10 (October 2004), p. 1209.

[3] Joan Smith, “Why the Game’s Up for Sweden’s Sex Trade,” The Independent (UK), March 26, 2013,; Kalsa Claude, “Targeting the Sex Buyer: The Swedish Example – Stopping Prostitution and Trafficking: Where It All Begins,” The Swedish Institute, 2011,; Skarhed Report, p. 40 (It is considered difficult to prove attempted crimes, with the result that, in connection with street prostitution, the police deliberately wait until the sex act has begun before intervening, and the offense has been completed in full”).

[4] Skarhed Report, p. 191 (“Police describe the normal case as one in which a buyer gets caught in the act. Often a suspected sex buyer circles the block in his car, then “picks up” a woman known to the police as a prostitute. The police follow after the car and then wait a few minutes after the car is stopped and the engine turned off. Often the sexual service will have started, the parties having already prepared themselves by undressing and folding down the seats of the car. . . . The reason the police wait to intervene is that they want to be sure that a criminal offense is underway. In some cases they document the offense by filming or taking photographs, but police believe it is less appropriate to the prostitute’s privacy”); see also pp. 180, 288. Kajsa Wahlberg, however, insists that “police seldom catch men in the middle of the sexual act.” A few sentences later, however, she observes that arrested buyers will sometimes “deny committing a crime, even if the police have found them literally with their pants down.” Statement by Kajsa Wahlberg, p. 5 (supra note 2). Wahlberg’s contention that most arrests are for attemps to purchase rather than actual purchase is not born out by various reports. See for example, table 6.4 and accompanying text, Skarhed Report, p. 206.

[5] Daniela Danna, “Client-Only Criminalization in the City of Stockholm: A Local Research on the Application of the ‘Swedish Model’ of Prostitution Policy,” Sexuality Research and Social Policy, Vol. 9 (2012), p. 86; “Sexköpare ska tas med byxorna nere” (“Sex buyer with his pants down”), Dagens Nyheter, October 27, 2014, See also “Polis!” by Emma Rosenqvist (a fictionalized account), in Edlund & Jakobbson, pp. 122-124.

[6] Joan Smith, “Why the Game’s Up for Sweden’s Sex Trade,” op cit., (supra note 3). Likewise, this is a mantra in Wahlberg’s speeches and writings.

[7] “Sexköpare ska tas med byxorna nere,” op cit. (supra note 5).

[8]   Brå 2011, p. 19.

[9] “Sexköpare på hotell ska tas på bar gärning” [“Sex buyers in the hotel caught in the act”], Swedish Radio, October 27, 2014, See also Människohandel för sexuella och andra ändamål: Lägesrapport 17 (2016), pp. 15, 64 (major hotel chains alert for signs of prostitution),

[10] Skarhed Report, pp. 196, 215; Stockholm Report, p. 65.

[11] Stockholm Report, pp. 65-66.

[12] Brå 2011, p. 21. Emphasis added. These latter cases are easier to prosecute. All that needs establishing is that the prostitute works with a pimp and that she is under 18. Trafficking of adults requires prosecutors to show that “improper means” – coercion, threats, deception, and the like – were used to get the trafficking victim to sell sex.

[13] You win some and you lose some: CASE 1: “When it came to the final three men, the evidence consisted of witness statements from police officers who had the apartments under surveillance. The police officers’ testimony showed that the men entered the apartments where it was known prostitution was taking place. After about half an hour, the men left the apartments. Two of the men would not acknowledge that they visited the actual apartments. These men were convicted of buying sex, the district court arguing that the men had been in apartments where, at the that time, prostitution was going on. The third of these men gave as his explanation for having been in the apartment that he had bought a striptease from a woman. The district court accepted the man’s explanation and did not consider it proved that the man bought anything other than striptease. Charges against the man were therefore dismissed.” CASE 2: “In a pimping case concerning Russian women, there was an interception of a suspicious customer phone call. One of the men who called this phone . . . was charged for the purchase of sexual services. The man denied the offense. He stated that he had called and intended to buy sex. He then had picked up the woman and then he and she went to take out the money [from an ATM]. When they arrived at the man’s home, it “didn’t feel good,” according to the man and the purchases was not concluded. The woman demanded that he pay anyway, so he gave her 700 crowns. The man stated that he also later called the telephone number through which he came into contact with the woman. The district court dismissed the indictment [as] it was not considered proven that the man bought any sexual services and even if he tried, he had backed off voluntarily.” CASE 3: “The judgment concerned a pimping case concerning Russian women who sold sex primarily in apartments in the Stockholm area. The Court examined five cases of alleged sex purchase or attempted purchase. In one case, the accused man he went to the apartment in question with the intention of buying sex. When he came to the apartment, the woman began stripping for him, but there was trouble about the payment and he left the apartment. Given that no other evidence was presented other than the accused’s own story, [the court decided] that it was not proved that the man even offered money to have sex, and indictment was dismissed.” CASE 4: “In a pimping case involving prostitution in apartment in the Stockholm area, two computers were seized. Police found on them customer registers with documented descriptions of sexual services performed by mainly Estonian women. 571 customers on these lists purchased 1117 sexual services in 2000-2002. The judgment dealt with nine of these customers, of whom eight were fined. Six of the defendants were sentenced despite their denials. Four defendants acknowledged that they had made contact with the pimp via the Internet and that they had met the women, but that it concerned only striptease or other meetings without sexual contact. Two of the defendants stated that they could not explain why their name appeared in the register. The district court attached no credence to the defendants’ own avowals and sentenced all six using the customer list as conclusive evidence.” CASE 5: “The case concerned, inter alia, pimping where more than 20 women from countries in the former Eastern Europe sold sex in apartments in the Stockholm area. The judgment also included a case of buying sex where the accused denied the crime. According to the man’s own statement, he went from a club to an apartment where he was having sex with a woman when the police arrived on the scene. The man denied that there had been any compensation involved. The only evidence was a surveillance video of the police crackdown on the apartment. The district court noted that the apartment had been identified as a brothel and that the circumstances of the man’s visit was such that payment could be presumed to have taken place. Although the man himself may not have made any payment, the District Court considered that he had to have been aware that the payments were made. The man was convicted of violating the ban on purchase of sexual services.” Skarhed Report, pp. 284-288.

[14] Skarhed Report, pp. 88; Swedish Police Website, “Prostitution,” op cit (supra note 1); Daniela Danna, “Client-Only Criminalization,” op. cit (supra note 5), p. 84 (“According to the Alien Act, foreigners who do not ‘earn a living in a decent way’ [försörja sig på ett ärligt sätt] are deported to their home countries and not allowed to return to Sweden for 2 years. Unless already held for at least 3 years, residence permits may also be withdrawn as a result of prostitution charges”).

[15] Anna Hulusjö, The Multiplicities of Prostitution Experience: Narratives about Power and Resistance, Malmo University, 2013, p. 317,; Skarhed Report, p. 85; Stockholm Report, p. 68; Ola Florin, “A Particular Kind of Violence: Swedish Social Policy,” Sexuality Research and Social Policy, Vol. 9 (2012), p. 274; Linköping 3, p. 33; Holmström, pp. 33, 40; Petra Ostergren, “Sexworkers Critique of Swedish Prostitution Policy,”

[16] May-Len Skilbrei and Charlotta Holmstrom, “Is There a Nordic Prostitution Regime?” Crime and Justice, Vol. 40 (2011), p. 487; Edlund & Jakobsson, p. 99. This turning away from borders happens in Norway, too; see Espen Røst, “Ikke noe problem, vi skal selge sex,” Dagbladet, April 20, 2011,

[17] “Pub cleared for rejecting ‘Asian looking’ women,” The Local, September 12, 20-13,

[18]  A hotel worker’s “gut feeling” may be enough to bring about the police, and a police visit can be followed by an eviction.Jens Larsson, “Krafttag mot prostitution på hotel,” SVT (Swedish Television), Feb 3, 2015; See Lägesrapport 17, op.cit. (supra note 9), p. 67: suspicion, not adjudication, is sufficient for eviction.

[19] Edlund & Jakobsson, p. 96 (“Several informants expressed concern over losing custody of their children. A female informant involved in sex work has been questioned about her parenting during the talks with the social services. Another informant had her children taken into care by social services when they found she sells sex, although she does not serve customers in the city where she lives, nor have any other problems that could possibly affect her parenting. . . . This is despite the National Board guidelines that prostitution by itself is what determines if the parent can satisfy the child’s needs or not”). See also Jay Levy, “Swedish Abolitionism as Violence against Women,” Sex Worker Open University, Sex Workers’ Rights Festival, Glasgow, Scotland, 6 April, 2013,; Petra Ostergren, Sexworkers Critique of Swedish Prostitution Policy,; Linkoping 3, p. 33; Anna Hulusjö, “The Multiplicities of Prostitution Experience,” op cit (supra note 15), p. 317; Holmström, pp. 33, 40.

[20] “The Bloody State Gave Him The Power: A Swedish Sex Worker’s Murder,” interview with Pye Jakobsson, July 16, 2013,; emphasis added. See also Kate L. Gould, “Stabbed to Death by Stigma,” Huffington Post, July 17, 2013,; Edie Lamort, “Stigma and the Consequences of Being the Wrong Kind of Woman,” July 18, 2013,; Melissa Gira Grant, “Sex Workers Rise Up After Fatal Stabbings,” In These Times, July 22, 2013,

[21] Kaisa Claude, “Targeting the Sex Buyer: The Swedish Example – Stopping Prostitution and Trafficking Where It All Begins,” The Swedish Institute 2011, p. 15, Another exponent of the sex purchase ban says that prostitutes “have learned to trust the police, and [to believe] that the police are ‘on their side.’ If a woman is being abused by a purchaser, the woman is more willing to both file a report on the abuse, but also on the purchase itself. This helps the police.” Maria Ahlin, “The Swedish Law (on prostitution)-A Survey,” FREETHEM, p. 6, By contrast, see Susanne Dodillet and Petra Östergren, “The Swedish Sex Purchase Act: Claimed Success and Documented Effect,” Conference paper presented at the International Workshop: Decriminalizing Prostitution and Beyond: Practical Experiences and Challenges. The Hague, March 3 and 4, 2011, “(The National Board of Health and Welfare reports that due to the ban sex workers feel less trust in social authorities, police, and the legal system . . . . Instead of the police being a source of protection, sex workers feel hunted by them, and are subjected to invasive searches and questioning.”).

[22] Testimony of Simon Häggström, “Comptes Rendus de la Commission Speciale sur la Lutte Contre le Systeme Prostitutionnel,” French Senate, mardi 20 mai 2014, Emphasis added.

[23] See, e.g., “Kännedom om prostitution 2007,” Socialstyrelsen, December 2007, p. 46,

[24]  Skarhed Report, p. 141; “Inspektion av polismyndigheternas förmåga att utreda ärenden om människohandel för sexuella ändamål och köp av sexuell tjänst” (“Inspection of the police authorities’ ability to investigate cases of trafficking for sexual purposes and the purchase of sexual services”), Tillsynsrapport 2013:7, p. 8,

[25] Skarhed Report, p. 130.

[26] Christine Stark and Carol Hodgson, “Sister Oppressions: A Comparison of Wife Battering and Prostitution,” Journal of Trauma Practice, 2 (Summer 2003), p. 27); Finn MacKay, “Prostitution Is Violence Against Women,” Labour Left Review, November 2007,; Interview with Sheila Jeffreys, Australian Centre for Leadership for Women, May 13, 2012,; Monica O’Connor and Grainne Healy, “The Links between Prostitution and Sex Trafficking: A Briefing Handbook,” 2006. Prepared for the Joint Project Coordinated by the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) and the European Women’s Lobby (EWL) on Promoting Preventative Measures to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings for Sexual Exploitation: A Swedish and United States Governmental and Non-Governmental Organisation Partnership,; Melissa Farley, Isin Baral, Merab Kiremire and Ufuk Sezgin, “Prostitution in Five Countries: Violence and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder,” Feminism & Psychology, Vol. 8 (1998), p. 406; Dianne Post, “Prostitution and Sex Trafficking: Inescapably Linked.” September 11, 2013,; Julie Bindel, Ruth Breslin and Laura Brown, Capital Exploits: A Study of Prostitution and Trafficking in London: A Study Commissioned by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, London: Eaves, June 2013, pp. 66, 77,; “Uncovering the Misconceptions: The Realities of Legalized Prostitution,” Ruhama, November 1, 2006,
; Janice Raymond, Not a Choice, Not a Job: Exposing the Myths about Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade (Washington, DC: Potomac Books, 2013), p. 9.

[27] Gunilla Ekberg,“The Swedish Law that Prohibits the Purchase of Sexual Services,” op cit (supra note 2), p.1189. See also Gunilla S. Ekberg and Kajsa Wahlberg, “The Swedish Approach: A European Union Country Fights Sex Trafficking,” Solutions, 2 (March 2011),

[28] Speech by Kajsa Wahlberg, Third Swedish-Dutch Conference on Gender Equality, op cit. (supra note 2).

[29] Skarhed Report, p. 55.

[30] Regeringens proposition 1997/98:55 – Kvinnofrid, §4, Emphasis added.

[31] Gunilla S. Ekberg and Kajsa Wahlberg, “The Swedish Approach,” op cit (supra note 27).

[32] Anna Hulusjö, The Multiplicities of Prostitution Experience, op. cit (supra note 15), p. 120..

[33]  See the Skarhed Report, p. 59; Kaisa Claude, “Targeting the Sex Buyer;” Ulrikke Moustgaard, “Prostitution legislation: Will they go the same way?” (“The media in all the Nordic countries have, from the turn of the millennium onwards, been filled with stories on human trafficking. The focus has been on women being seriously abused or even forced or kidnapped into the sex business.”)

[34] “[Stating] the obvious: if there was no demand there would be no prostitution. . . . The insight involved a perspective shift: if there was no demand there would not be any prostitution.” Skarhed Report, pp. 30, 55; ”[T]he client, the buyer of sex, is the last link in this chain. Without demand, no prostitution,” Lise Tamm, “Une procureure de Stockholm décrit la réussite de l’abolitionnisme en Suède. Transcription de l’audition de Mme Lise Tamm, procureure au Parquet international de Stockholm, devant la Commission spéciale prostitution (5 novembre 2013).; “[H]uman trafficking and prostitution are maintained by demand, i.e., that men buy sex,” “Inspektion av polismyndigheternas förmåga,” op cit. (supra note 24), p. 8.

[35] See Josefina Erikson, Strider om mening: En dynamisk frameanalys av den svenska sexköpslagen (Battles of meaning: A dynamic forward analysis of the Swedish sex purchase law), Uppsala University, 2011, pp. 165ff, For further accounts of the ideological background to the sex purchase ban, see Anna Hulusjö, The Multiplicities of Prostitution Experience, op cit. (supra note 15), chapter 5; and May-Len Skilbrei and Charlotta Holmstrom, Prostitution Policy in the Nordic Region: Ambiguous Sympathies, Ashgate, (Farnham, Surrey, UK: 2013), chapters five and six.

[36] Quoted in Skarhed Report, p. 71.

[37] Regeringens proposition 1997/98:55 – Kvinnofrid, §16.1.

[38] Josefina Erikson, Strider om mening, op cit. (supra 35), p. 172.

[39] Fact Sheet, Ministry of Industry, Employment and Communications, April 2005, The Fact Sheet left no stone unturned; it even dragged in the bogus claim that a “Canadian study showed that prostituted women are 40 times more likely to be murdered than the female population as a whole.”

[40] Statens offentliga utredningar 1995:15 Sammanfattning av betänkandet Könshandel (Summary of the report “Sex Trade”)

[41] Linköping 2, p. 31 (In 2008, for example, the Stockholm Prostitution Agency had 52 women participating in therapy sessions); Linkoping 6, pp. 9, 10, 24.

[42] Regeringens proposition 1997/98:55 – Kvinnofrid, §16.1.

[43] May-Len Skilbrei and Charlotta Holmstrom, Prostitution Policy in the Nordic Region, op. cit. (supra note35), p. 31 and elsewhere; Gregg Bucken-Knapp, Johan Karlsson Schaffer, and Karin Persson Strömbäck, “Security, Equality, and the Clash of Ideas: Sweden’s Evolving Anti-Trafficking Policy,” Human Rights Review, Vol. 13 (2012), pp. 168ff.