Criminalising men can cut prostitution, say visiting experts

 

THE CRIMINALISATION of men who purchase sex must be central to any strategy to combat prostitution, according to a number of world experts on the issue who are in Dublin to brief the Gardaí and the HSE.

From Sweden, Det Supt Jonas Trolle operational head of crime and narcotics surveillance with Stockholm Police Department and Patric Cederlof, the national co-ordinator against prostitution and human trafficking were joined by Det Chief Insp Thor Martin Elton and Det Insp Stian Jacobsen both of the Oslo police in Norway.

They are here at the invitation of the Immigrant Council of Ireland and Ruhama which works with women in prostitution.

Sweden passed legislation in 1999 specifically criminalising the purchase of sex, rather than the sale. A 10-year review of its impact highlighted a halving of street prostitution and a reduction in organised crime in general.

Det Supt Trolle said the Swedish legislation had resulted in a “radical” reduction in both street and indoor prostitution. Trafficking of women and girls into Sweden has been almost eliminated.

“If we talk of specific figures, the number of girls in street prostitution on a night in Stockholm would be five to 10. If we talk about indoor prostitution – found on the internet, about 80 to 100.”

This compared with the number of women and girls engaged in prostitution in a European city of similar size, such as Barcelona, where there are about 20,000.

“Looking at the number of clients, it used to be about one in eight men in Sweden had at some stage bought sex. Now surveys find it is about one out of 40 men. Acceptance for the legislation is at about 80 per cent of people supporting it. It is widely seen as shameful and unacceptable to purchase a woman for sex.

“Today it is impossible to run a brothel in Sweden,” said Det Supt Trolle.

The rationale for its introduction was a “question of gender equality” he said.

Mr Cederlof said in his 21 years working to tackle trafficking and prostitution he had “never met a woman who freely wanted to be in prostitution”.