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It’s pretty simple really. The Nordic Model acknowledges that less demand for prostitution and less demand for trafficking = less prostitution and less trafficking ? reducing the number of women exposed to these particular types of abuse and creating a better chance of achieving gender equality.
If you think that the state should encourage the growth of the prostitution industry and treat it as a form of gainful employment for women, then you’re bound to disagree, but that doesn’t mean the Model denies anybody’s agency.
5. The Nordic Model conflates prostitution and trafficking.
Many proponents of the Nordic Model adopt the understanding of trafficking advanced by the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children (see Article 3a). This is a more nuanced understanding of trafficking than the “people moved across international borders at gun point” version that is popular in much of the mainstream press. Perhaps this is where the confusion sets in.
But even in employing this more realistic, UN-supported understanding of the mechanics of coercion and trafficking, the Nordic Model does not assume that every woman in prostitution is necessarily trafficked.
What the Nordic Model does do is recognize that there is a connection between the market for prostitution and sex trafficking, specifically that the demand for sexual services fuels sex trafficking. So, if you want less sex trafficking, then you need to shrink the market for prostitution.
This logic was further supported by a recent study of 150 countries, conducted by economists in the UK and Germany, showing that “the scale effect of legalized prostitution leads to an expansion of the prostitution market, increasing human trafficking.”
6. The Nordic Model doesn’t work/pushes prostitution “underground”.
The contention that the Nordic Model has not reduced demand for prostitution is one often repeated without evidence, but occasionally it is claimed that the Swedish government’s own review of their legislation showed the failure of the Model. As legal scholar Max Waltman has demonstrated, it did no such thing. Research commissioned by the Swedish government for its official review showed that street prostitution had halved.
“Ha!” The critics say, “That study employed a flawed methodology and prostitution has just gone underground.” Perhaps, but that overlooks other sources, including research indicating the number of people in Sweden buying sex has fallen and that police report having intercepted communications from traffickers declaring that Sweden is a “bad market.”
It’s also worth considering what “underground” is supposed to mean in this context, as in legalized and decriminalized systems, like some in Australia, “underground” is taken to mean street prostitution. So if prostitution has moved off the streets, where has it gone? Online and indoors, is the assertion of critics, which is quite odd given that advocates of legalization frequently tout the benefits of indoor prostitution.
7. The Nordic Model deprives women of a living.
This myth is the most intriguing because it is actually an admission that the Nordic Model works, directly contradicting myth six. The Model can only deprive women of a living if it does, in fact, reduce the demand for prostitution. What’s more, comprehensive exit programs are a critical part of the Model, involving access to a wide variety of services including retraining and employment support.
Hashtags like #nothingaboutuswithoutus (used by a number of groups, not just sex industry organizations) regularly appear alongside this claim as though the only satisfactory option available is for everyone to accept a flourishing prostitution market because some people want it that way.
Not just any people though, of course — workers — if you buy the “sex work is work” line. Leaving aside the problems with the concept that prostitution is a job like any other, if we accept this premise, then the argument doesn’t follow, as workers in any given industry don’t get to determine whether or not that industry continues.
Take the brown coal or forestry industries in Australia, for example. These are sectors that have been deemed by governments to be harmful in a number of ways and that, as a result – while they are still potentially profitable – they no longer have a social license to continue operating uninhibited. Workers in these industries are often outraged at seeing their jobs threatened, which is why unions advocate for “just transitions,” providing retraining and facilitated access to social and employment services for those workers affected (sound familiar?). For the most part, these unions have given up arguing that the harmful industry in question should continue simply to avoid employment disruption for workers.
If sex work is work, and prostitution is just another industry, then it is open for wider public discussion and policy changes like other industry, including the possibility that governments will no longer want it to function.
8. The Nordic Model has made prostitution unsafe.
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