EWL News

EWL study visit in Norway in times of discussion on the Nordic model

[Brussels, 25 January 2014] From 17 to 20 January, EWL Interim Coordinator Pierrette Pape made a study visit to Norway in the framework of the European Women’s Lobby’s (EWL) campaign ‘Together for a Europe free from prostitution’.She met with a series of stakeholders to discuss the Norwegian legislation on prostitution and trafficking in women, and share EWL’s demands for abolitionist policies in order to reach gender equality in Europe.

In 2008, Norway passed a very progressive law addressing prostitution and trafficking, on the model of the Swedish legislation (from 1999), but adding the criminalizing of Norwegians buying sex abroad. A few years later, Iceland also decided to address the demand for prostitution, and the Nordic model on prostitution and trafficking has now become an example of successful approach to uphold women’s rights, achieve gender equality and tackle pimping and trafficking.

Last year, Norway had parliamentary elections and a new government, formed by two conservative parties (the Progress Party and the Conservative Party, in coalition with the Left Party and the Christian Democrats), promised to evaluate the Norwegian approach to prostitution and trafficking. While the Left Party wants to stop criminalizing the purchase of sex, the Christian Democrats are supporting the current system which proves to have changed mentalities. Indeed, two surveys from January unveiled that more than 67% of the population support the current legislation; the figures are higher amongst women (70%of them support the law) which makes sense since the law tackles an archaic men’s rights to access women’s body and sexuality. (press articles on the surveys here and here)

The debate was high on the agenda also due to an interview unveiled in the major Norwegian newspaper with a Danish survivor of prostitution, Tanja Rahm, who supports the Nordic model. Moreover, two important personalities of the Conservative parties, the Mayor and the Governor of Oslo, both expressed their wish to strengthen the legislation, which has proven successful to deter trafficking and pimping. However, some voices are developing the same critics as against the Swedish approach, with assumptions that lack evidence (such as the idea that women in prostitution in Norway face more violence).

During her meetings with stakeholders, Pierrette Pape insisted on the need to debate the issue from a gender equality perspective: what is the impact of the current legislation on women’s rights and equality between women and men? Facts and figures show that it has succeeded in changing mentalities and deterring pimping and trafficking. Projects to support victims of trafficking and prostitution have been implemented, such as the ROSA Project, in cooperation with the women’s shelters movement. The evaluation currently being undertaken by the government should look at the measures that need to be strengthened in order for the legislation to be fully successful: abolishing prostitution should be a political priority, with sustainable and adequate funding and training of the professionals (police, justice, social workers, NGOs).

Pierrette Pape met with partner NGOs, such as FOKUS, the Women’s Front, the ROSA Project and the Women’s shelter movement. All of them are signatories of the Brussels’ Call, together with 200 organisations from all over Europe. Norway is not in the European Union, but its policies are concretely impacting on the rest of Europe, and this is why women’s NGOs are pressing Norway to strengthen its legislation and promote the Nordic model.

Pierrette Pape also met with representatives of the Ministry of Justice, of the Ministry of Equality and with the office of the Ombud who has taken a clear abolitionist view on the issue of prostitution. She also met with MP Marit Nybakk, from the Labour Party, and with the women of the Socialist Left Party, including Inga Marte Thorkildsen, former Minister for Equality. Both parties are supporting the current Norwegian legislation and were interested in the situation in other European countries, such as the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Sweden, France and Ireland.

Finally, Pierrette met with State Secretary for EU Affairs Ingvild Naess Stub, to present the work of the EWL and discuss the issue of prostitution. The EWL is organizing a side event on prostitution during the 58th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women on 11 March in New York, and hopes to see a Norwegian Minister or State Secretary join the French Minister for Women’s Rights and the Swedish Minister for Equality who have already confirmed their participation and/or support.

More information: Challenging the ad hoc Norwegian approach to eliminate trafficking in women, Rachel Eapen Paul and Line Nilsen, Oslo 2009

Pierrette Pape has been interviewed for an article of the Norwegian newspaper Klassekampen.

article klassekampen ewl january 2014 small

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