Benjamin Perrin’s September 2010 article, Sweden’s Fix: Jail the Johns, on The Globe and Mail presents information we should neither put aside nor ignore
His article points the blame for violence, rape, and murder in the sex trade to brutal johns and vicious traffickers. These crimes are often against women, girls, and boys forced into prostitution.
Countries that have legalized prostitution, Perrin goes on to write, have either failed to address these problems or have not succeeded in stopping the crimes through regulation. He points out that in the Netherlands officials had to shut down much of the red-light area in Amsterdam because it was infiltrated by organized crime.
And in 2005, the European Parliament found that legalized prostitution’s effect was in increased levels of violence against prostituted women. In concurrence with that, New Zealand’s regulations for prostitution did not improve the horrific conditions of brothels.
In 1999, Perrin continues, Sweden took a different approach to the sex trade. Rather than jail the prostitutes (many of whom are already victims), the country now charges the johns with responsibility for sex acts. After all, without their demand, prostitution and sex trafficking would disappear.
Sweden also effected a multi-million dollar plan to help those caught in the sex trade to escape and, hopefully, receive the counsel and therapy they need to re-enter everyday life. In a broad move, Sweden acknowledged the link between sex trafficking and prostitution and has stated the impossibility of real freedom for individuals who are sexually, economically, and racially used as “goods” by another part of its society.
Because of this approach and over the next 4 years, prostitution levels dropped by 40%. A 10-year record was held up with findings that the Swedish approach not only cut sex trade purchases, street prostitution, and organized crime, but also helped changed public opinion. This approach is spreading to Norway and Iceland.
Let’s congratulate these countries on what they are doing and see if we can do the same in America.