Swedish Justice Minister to the pillory!
– one Swedish woman’s view on the nation’s Prostitution Law Review report
SPARKS are still flying after Sweden’s self-congratulatory Skarhed report on its law criminalising sex workers’ clients, notably over inflated Danish sex worker figures used for comparison. Here is a guest post by language teacher Helena von Schantz in Sweden, who has kindly translated it for us from her excellent blog. Over to you, Helena…
Background: During a seminar on prostitution on the 18th of March this year, Swedish Minister of Justice Beatrice Ask (right) came up with a novel idea: Public disgrace for suspected punters.
This is a direct quote from the seminar: “I want to send garish envelopes to the sex buyers, because I think the worst thing that can happen to a sex buyer is that somebody in their surroundings finds out what they have done, the wife or the neighbour… We should have purple envelopes, it should be clear that you’re suspected of having bought sex.”
When confronted with the question, what if a child finds the envelope, she answered thus: “The daughter might just as well find out what kind of father she has. You have to remember not to protect the wrong factor (just as abstruse in Swedish). If the daughter has been abused by her father the letter may give her the courage to come forward.”
Naturally there was a lot of outrage and also demands for Beatrice Ask’s resignation. In the beginning she stuck to her guns, but six days later she made a half-hearted apology that allowed her to remain in office.
I thought a Utopian world view was the prerogative of the Communist party. However, our attorney general Beatrice Ask must lean that way too. At least, that’s the only reason I can think of why she would commission a study where the conclusions are made before the investigation begins. Now it turns out that even the few meagre facts that are actually presented in the study are faulty.
The statistics on Danish street prostitution are based on nothing but air. Not only is it not known how many of the women reported actually are in the sex trade and how many others are homeless, drug addicts or for other reasons in need of assistance and protection. Even when that is disregarded the figures are off. Way off. But in this “investigation” facts have no bearing. The sex law simply may not be questioned.
If you consider the purple envelope debacle in March, things become a bit clearer. What can you expect from an Attorney General who suggests that men suspected of buying sex should be paraded in the square? Convicted murderers, bank robbers, smugglers and rapists do not need coloured envelopes and public condemnation, prison suffices for them. Men suspected of having paid for sex, however, they should be tarred and feathered. From this follows that being suspected of buying sex is worse than being a convicted rapist. What happens to rape statistics when the authorities send out that kind of signal?
The European Council has recommended that prostitutes should have their say in decisions that affect them, but that advice falls on deaf ears in Sweden. Beatrice Ask’s starting point is a zero vision. We are supposed to heap shame and disgrace on sex buyers until the market is dead, because sex is not a commodity.
How naïve can you get? Sex not a commodity? It’s probably one of the very first commodities. There are prostitutes of both sexes in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Iran, although the penalty is death – usually a painful and disgraceful death at that. Have none of the pro sexlaw people watched the documentary ”Prostitution behind the veil” by Nahid Persson? Do they really think that the Swedish sex law will succeed where Sharia laws have failed? Are they under the illusion that buying or selling sex without getting caught is hard in Sweden? I could probably not steal a car or rob a bank without going to prison, but I could definitely buy and/or sell sexual favours morning, noon and night without anyone being the wiser.
Consequently there were all of 69 poor sods prosecuted for buying sex in Sweden in 2009. I’m thinking that they were either drunk, incredibly stupid or had really nasty enemies, because this is a “crime” any fool should be able to perpetrate without being caught. You would have to have an advanced system of informants or police with Orwellian rights for us to keep track of whether people are paid for sex or not.
It’s so easy to judge people who buy or sell sex from your sheltered suburban world. It’s easy, and it’s wrong. Moralizing about other people’s choices is wrong. Judging other people is wrong. Limiting the rights of others to rule over their bodies and their lives is wrong. Far more wrong than buying or selling sex – something that generally neither concerns nor harms anybody else. That’s why it’s Beatrice Ask, our own little Dolores Umbridge, who should be marched to the pillory. Not the sex buyers.
Marched to the pillory, or even better, made to resign.
(Photos of sex worker executions in Ghanzi Province, Afghanistan, by Rahmatullah Naikzad, AP Photos)