Sex working in Sweden

Today, June 2, is International Sex Workers’ Day. It is celebrated today because on 2 June, 1975, 100 sex workers occupied the Sant-Nizier Church in Lyon, France to express anger about their exploitative living conditions and work culture. The Church was brutally raided by the police forces on 10 June. This action became a national movement and the day is now recognised in Europe and worldwide.

In 1999, Sweden was unique in the world with the introduction of a ‘Sex Purchase Act’. The act makes it illegal to purchase sex but not to sell it. Under this law, it is the customer that is the criminal but not the sex worker, who is considered to already be in a vulnerable position. The law is based on the principle that prostitution is an act of violence against women. The ‘Swedish Model’ has been duplicated and adapted in the other Scandinavian countries as well as Canada, Ireland and France.

The Swedish Sex Purchase Act stands as a complete opposite to the laws in Germany and the Netherlands where the purchasing of sex services is legalized. Proponents of the Swedish law would at this is why Germany and the Netherlands have become European hotspots for sex tourism and trafficking.

However, many organisations, including Amnesty International, WHO and Human Rights Watch oppose the Swedish model. They suggest instead that legalization improves the sex worker’s access to health care, their ability to report crime and ability to organize themselves in, for example, unions. They also claim that the sex worker is not always a victim of the situation and that the Swedish law forces them into risky behavior and contributes to their poverty.

Despite the criticism, the Swedish law stands strong and does not look like it will be changed anytime soon. It seems that most Swedes agree with the law, based on the belief that nobody has the right to buy another person’s body.

What do you think?

What kind of streets does Sweden want?


Yesterday, hundreds of people gathered for a peaceful manifestation in the centre of Stockholm. They listened to live music and speeches and they sang and danced. The manifestation was being held to shine a light on the rights of unaccompanied refugee children in Sweden.

About 30 people from a right-wing group decided to attack the demonstrators with verbal abuse, threats, kicks and punches. Many of the victims were teenagers who were left shocked, scared and even more isolated from the society that is hosting them.

Is this what we want the streets of Sweden to be like? Groups of thugs attacking peaceful demonstrators and youngsters? In my world, this is totally unacceptable.

Democracy in Sweden is about having the right to express your opinion, whatever the political colour. It is about creating change through dialogue and activism. It is about getting involved and giving your opinion. It is not about employeeing violent methods to subdue and placate contradicting points of view. It is not about threatening and trolling and spewing hate. It is not about spreading fear in others just because I am fearful myself.

As members of an open, democratic country, each and every one of us should verbally and actively condemn what happened yesterday in Stockholm. A few short weeks after the love manifestation that filled the streets of the capital, we should not accept this attempt to drag our democracy into the shadows. This is not what we want on our streets, in our homes or in our society.

Yesterday, after the attack was over, people stayed behind to console and comfort the teenagers who has been brutally attacked. According to a witness, one of the teenagers found a thread of strength from within. He stood up and held a heartfelt, dignified speech – in Swedish. And he finished with a song – ‘Sverige’ (Sweden) by pop group Kent. One of the lines goes something like this:

‘Welcome, welcome here. Whoever you are, wherever you are.’

In that one song, this teenager showed us all what is means to be dignified and strong in the face of adversity. Violence and hate is not welcome here.