NSWP Publishes Statement in Response to Norwegian Evaluation of the Ban on the Purchase of Sex

NSWP has published a statement in response to the recent release of a report by the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security following an evaluation of the ban of the purchase of sex which came into force in 2009 in Norway. The report has been heavily criticised by various sex worker rights groups for its poor quality and contradictory claims and findings presented throughout the report's 168 pages. 

The report claims that a number of outcomes identified by researchers are positive (in terms of the stated objective of eliminating sex work) when in fact these outcomes affect the working conditions and incomes of sex workers negatively to an unacceptable degree. 

Some findings of the report include:

  • reduced power for sex workers and more favourable market conditions for clients - sex workers negotiating position has been weakened due to clients' fear of arrest resulting in fewer clients and lower prices. These factors compound to reduce sex workers' incomes and their agency and autonomy with regards their choice of occupation;
  • more police surveillance as police need to find clients who are committing the illegal part of the transaction - sex workers have routinely reported increased police surveillance and harassment (although not considered in this report) in Norway;
  • displacing sex workers from their homes and other places where they work. The police do 'education' of landlords and hospitality managers to allow them to recognise potential sex workers and to evict suspected sex workers summarily from their homes or other rented accommodation;
  • the violence that sex workers are vulnerable to is reported as something that comes with the territory, and according to the authors sex workers are weary to report as it may come back to haunt them (due to the stigma attached to being a sex worker affecting someone’s chances of 'improving their  life and situation'). That this is reported in such a tone is heavily problematic and should be of concern to human rights advocates everywhere. It effectively condones violence committed against sex workers as sex workers are involved in an activity that is condemned by the state.

NSWP member, SWOP-NYC said the following about the report:  The most disturbing parts of the findings were the many noted increases in vulnerability, while acknowledging the on-going need for resources and services. The findings openly state that “there is a need for providing more options for people that want to get out of prostitution. Language classes, work training and work options are considered to have clear positive effects and there is a need for more of such initiatives.” But despite this need for more options the study points out that for those in the sex trade, life is harder.

Pye Jakobsson, President of NSWP said: “This report shows the responsibility the police has in terms of the impact of their tactics and policing of the ban. Sex workers face tougher conditions in that outdoor sex work environments have become less favourable; sex workers are more reluctant to report crimes of violence to the police, sex workers’ income is reduced due to sex workers now having weaker negotiating power as clients are nervous, want to leave faster, and there are fewer clients. Indoor sex work has also become more difficult as working together for safety is not an option due to third party laws; also distressing is the fact that sex workers working indoors are constantly in danger of being evicted from the premises they are working in due to police ‘educating’ landlords and hotel managers on how to recognise sex workers and to evict them.”

NSWP’s statement strongly condemns this report published by the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security as it fails to recognise the grave violations to Norwegian sex workers’ human rights that are taking place with state impunity under the current model that bans the purchase of sex. The statement further urges the Norwegian Government to listen to the experiences of sex workers and acknowledge that the criminalisation of the purchase of sex in Norway is resulting in health and human rights violations of sex workers. 

You can read the full statement here or download it here. The statement is in English.