Tragic Death of a Sex Worker in Oslo

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Author: 
European Regional Correspondent

Galina, a 28-year-old Bulgarian sex worker was found murdered in Oslo in a carpark, on the 17 of December, the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. She went missing on Wednesday the 16 of December. Her friends did not go to the police but went looking for her themselves, only calling the police when they found her body the day afterward.

In 2009 Norway introduced the “Swedish Model”, which criminalises clients and third parties. Supposedly, these laws protect sex workers. In practise sex workers’ fear of the police increased, therefore making them more vulnerable. The law also increases stigma against sex workers.  

Astrid Renland, the Managing Director of NSWP member PION  has highlighted that five female sex workers have been killed over the past three decades: Trine Jensen in 1981, Gry Storvik in 1985, unknown woman in 1994, Rebekka Rist in 2006, and the fifth victim, Galina, believed to be killed on 16 December 2015. Common to the killings is that no one has been convicted of the crime, except Galina’s murderer.

A 24-year-old man was arrested and charged with the murder at his work place just a few hundred meters from the place where Galina was murdered. The accused is known by the police, but not for any serious crimes.

According to the Board Member of PION Monica Clef, interviewed by NSWP’s Regional Correspondent for Europe, “it's more difficult to work from the street now because sex workers have to be more quick to enter strangers cars in fear of police, and the clients are scared too. It is also very cold outside during the winter. This are some of the reasons why many sex workers feel safer to have their own car to work from.”

Monica also added, “it's difficult to rent apartments, especially if you don't have references, if you're not a Norwegian citizen, or if you don’t have the money to do so. It is hard to rent an apartment if you don't have a reliable source of income, which can be hard if you are not a Norwegian citizen. If you are evicted from the apartment because of sex work, you can be deported from the country and you don't get your deposit back even with the help of a lawyer. Deposits are often 40000NOK (or 4-5000 Euro), so then if the police finds out you are selling sex you risk a lot. Renting a room in a cheap hotel can risk clients getting noticed in a matter of days or less and then fined by the police. The fine of 25000 NOK (2700 euro) is most of the times accepted by the client even if the only evidence is that they entered the sex workers’ room because of the fear to lose their job or family finding out even if they just visited the sex worker to talk. Condoms can be confiscated as evidence, which leads to unsafe sex and increased risk of STIs. It became the sex workers’ responsibility to ensure that clients are safe from the police, and this adds extra stress, can cause harassment and leads to dangerous situations ”

The Open Society Foundation has published a briefing paper against using condoms as evidence of sex work entitled “Criminalizing Condoms”. Treating condoms as contraband has forced many sex workers to choose between unprotected sex or being arrested by police. The report also notes the consequences of this practice on sex workers' lives, including their vulnerability to STIs, such as HIV.

NSWP published the Community Guide: The Real Impact of the Swedish Model on Sex Workers, describing the harmfulness of the “Swedish model”. This model has damaging consequences for sex workers’ health, rights and living conditions. However, these negative impacts are rarely discussed by policy makers, and sex workers’ voices are often silenced.