Norway Makes Paying for Sex Illegal

A new law goes into effect in Norway today. Norwegian citizens caught paying for sex at home or abroad face fines, jail time or both. Authorities in Norway hope that this new legislation will stamp out sex tourism as well as street prostitution. There has already been a visible decrease in women working on the streets of central Oslo, local media report.

Percentage of men who purchase sex acts by country - 2004
Percentage of men who purchase sex acts by country - 2004

Sweden has used this type of legislation to achieve the same goals and also to successfully reduce forced prostitution and trafficking for sexual purposes.  See: Stopping the Demand for Trafficking in Women & Children.

Critics of this new legislation claim that it will just drive prostitution underground and make it more difficult to control, but evidence from the Netherlands where prostitution is legal suggests the opposite.

An article in Le Monde in 1997 found that 80% of prostitutes in the Netherlands were foreigners and 70% had no immigration papers, suggesting that at least some were victims of sex trafficking and forced prostitution. The Netherlands is a primary country of destination for victims of human trafficking. Many of these are led to believe by organized criminals that they are being offered work in hotels or restaurants or in child care and are forced into prostitution with the threat or actual use of violence. Estimates of the number of victims vary from 1000 to 7000 on a yearly basis. Prostitution in the Netherlands.

For a window into the life of a victim of sex trafficking read yesterday’s column by Nicholas D. Kristof of the New York Times. Kristoff has written extensively about this issue. The Evil Behind the Smiles describes the abuse and torture endured by Sina, a girl of 13, who was kidnapped from her native Vietnam and sold into prostitution in Cambodia.

The best way to stop human trafficking is to reduce the demand that drives it. Norway’s new law will deter many men from buying sex. There will be no more easy money to be made by traffickers, so Norway will stop being a destination country for trafficking.


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