Sweden has followed an interesting path in the legalize or do not legalize prostitution debate. For long periods, prostitution was illegal in Sweden; however, they took their lead from what happened in Australia when confronting the issue. In 1994, Australia decided to legalize prostitution in order to gain control over the trade and reduce organized crime. Unfortunately, legalizing prostitution seemingly invited human traffickers to increase their business. With legalization, the number of brothers, in Victoria alone, increased from 40% to 64% and escort services exploded. Moreover, in brothel busts, police reported finding more and more women who had been trafficked. Therefore, Sweden, in a revolutionary move, decided to legalize the sale of sex while criminalizing the buying of sex. In this scenario, prostitutes were not criminals, but the johns, pimps and brothel owners were. Concurrently, they launched a public awareness campaign warning that “patronizing prostitutes was criminal behavior”.
Personally, I love this response. So often in my field I and other colleagues are faced with victim blaming policies, programs, and advocates. For once, there is a law that condemn the perpetrators of violence and not the victims. Additionally, it allows women who want to be sex workers and control their own lives to do so without being arrested. Like Laura Carr points out, in the article that started this whole discussion, in most cases women are blamed and judged for prostitution while men are innocent paying customers– the Swedish solutions switches that up, and in my mind, puts blame and criminality squarely where it should be.