Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Bying is illegal – but selling is not

Some 20 men in various ages are being indicted right now in the city of Gothenburg. They are charged with accusations of having bought sexual services, mostly from women illegaly trafficked in from Russia.
Ten years ago bying sexual services became illegal in Sweden. Infringements can lead to prison up to six months, but the Gothenburg trial is one of few cases where the public prosecutor insists on a prison term. Critics have from the start claimed that the law from 1996 only will push prostitution underground. With the advent of the Internet, much of those fears also came true.
Supporters of the law often use the once so controversial law against beating children as a reference. Then, in the early 1970's, Sweden was much ridiculed for actually making it illegal for parents to chasten their offspring. Since then, fewer and fewer believes in beating their children as a means of their upbringing.
That does not mean enforcing the law against bying sex has been without difficulties for the judiciary. Very soon after it was legislated, a judge was litterally caught with his pants down in a cemetary in central Stockholm. For some reason he was never brought to the arraignment, and received a modest fine discreetly by mail. Last year another judge at the court of appeals in Malmö was caught as a regular at a solarium cum brothel. This time duly processed along with other customers.

But the most positive thing with the law is that it refrains from criminalising the seller. As prostitution with few exceptions derives from poverty, drug abuse, illegal trafficing ans so forth, it was regarded as inhumane to criminalise its main victim: the women and men forced to sell their own bodies. Sadly enough, the same line of thought is all too vacant with controlled substancens: Being a drug addict in Sweden is illegal and the strictness has caused irreparable damage helping to spread hiv and aids due to difficulties for drug addicts to get hold of clean and legal syringes.

In my view the inconsistency does not lie in a law that forbids bying a sexual service, the same time ignoring the provider of it. It is the lack of aplying the same basic soundness – refraining from further victimising victims –  on other areas such as drug addiction, which on the whole is a far larger problem in this country.

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