Michael Lodberg Olsen has launched Sexelance, a project that makes street-based sex work more safe. Sexelance is an ambulance car that can be used by street-based sex workers to see clients. Inside the car there are banners saying that the volunteers will call the police if there are signs of violence. The banners also encourage sex workers to inform the authorities if they are victims of trafficking.
“We thought about creating better working conditions for street-based sex workers, but the neighbours were always against having sex workers near by. So we came up with the idea of providing safe mobile space for street-based sex workers,” said Michael who was interviewed by NSWP’s Regional Correspondent in Europe. “We are around 30 people on that project. They all are volunteers and it is a cooperation between 2 organisations: NGO Minority and Danish sex workers organisation SIO. Local people and local organisations have provided the financial support for Sexelance,” continued Michael.
Buying and selling sex has not illegal in Denmark since 1999, but third parties remain criminalised. The government is collecting taxes from sex workers. As the procurement law prohibits sex workers from renting rooms or hiring any help for their business, sex workers are forced to collaborate with criminals.
Street-based sex workers in Copenhagen are mostly migrants, but there are local sex workers as well.
Sex workers and their clients can use the Sexelance free of charge, otherwise it might be considered illegal. “In Denmark, in 2011 the government published a large national survey of sex work in the country. One of the conclusions was that while it is very safe to work from brothels, there is a large percentage of the women working the street who experience violence and threats. Sex workers from the street have difficulties to find places to do their business, in particular because they due to legislation can not rent a room to work in and the clubs where there is room they could use is closed by the police on charges of procuring,” explained Susanne Møller, the spokesperson of SIO.
Michael has already successfully implemented other social projects. Fixelance, Denmark’s first safe drug injection facility, was launched in a similar ambulance in September 2011. Now there are five permanent facilities across the country.
Illegal!, a street magazine about culture and drugs was launched in 2013 to help drug users get legal jobs and to sensitise society about the harmfulness of the criminalisation of drug users.
“Right now we are testing it and trying to find the right location for it. My plan is to make Sexelance fit the needs of sex workers as much as possible. And then hopefully sex workers will ask customers to use the Sexelance. So right now we are trying to redesign it a little bit. Hopefully it will be used and hopefully we will have a permanent safe place for street-based sex workers,” shared Michael.
At the moment only one sex worker used Sexelance with the client. “Sex workers suggest that we have to be patient, sex workers need to have trust in us, trust in the Sexelance,” concluded Michael.