Vice Squad
Monday, April 23, 2007
Norway to Follow Swedish Model on Prostitution

In Sweden, since 1999 it has not been illegal to sell sexual services, but it has been illegal to purchase them. This Swedish version of one-sided prostitution enforcement differs from that which often has been (and is) the norm, criminalising the behavior of prostitutes while giving a (de facto or de jure) pass to johns. Sweden's prostitution laws also differ from the more usual approach to criminalised vices of all sorts, where sellers are treated more harshly than buyers. During Prohibition in the United States, for instance, alcohol sales were illegal, but purchases were legal.

It now appears that Norway intends to follow its neighbor's example.

I do not support the Swedish approach, nor the standard US approach; rather, I believe that channels for legal and regulated adult prostitution should be available. (This is in keeping with my support for application of the "robustness principle" to all of the traditional vices; here's a paper that applies the principle to prostitution and pornography.) Over the centuries, anti-prostitution laws have suggested more than a hint of the demonisation of prostitutes; the Swedish approach (which defines prostitution as a form of male violence against women and children -- 4-page pdf available here) suggests different demons, but the demonisation continues. The robustness principle shields (some forms of) adult consensual prostitution from legal demonisation, though individuals can apply their own standards.

Incidentally, the Swedish approach, like just about all prostitution regulatory regimes, is rather controversial, of course. Here's a supportive view, and voices of opponents can be found here.

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