[London, 13 March 2017, blog post by Abbie Osmond, NAWO Youth]. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more empowered than when I went to the Feminist Forum in Brussels on the 7th and 8th of March. The two days were full of events, debates, press conferences, cocktail receptions and flash mobs all for the cause to abolish prostitution in our lifetime. It was fantastic to hear that Ireland have recently adopted a law that has a similar approach to the Nordic model and it’s also exciting to hear that Scotland may not be far off from adopting something similar.
One of my highlights has to be the event where we had Simon Häggström (police officer from the Swedish police) and Marie Merklinger (a German survivor of prostitution) speaking on their experiences of prostitution and trafficking. Simon posed the question “how can we have brothels in a so called civilised society?”. He also raised the point that the pimps are not the biggest problems, the sex buyers are. The industry will always do what the buyers want as according to any industry, “the buyer is always right”.
Prostitution is a form of violence against women and in some cases children whereby they are turned into objects. It is ludicrous to suggest that prostitution gives the opportunity for sexual freedom for the women because they never decide what is does with their bodies, the men do – and it’s never pretty. Simon then went on to say how much of an important tool the Nordic model is for his line of work. One reason being, when you legalise the buying of sex, it becomes the buyers’ market therefore putting the women at immense risk. Legalisation will never be a good idea as it’s the buyers who are dangerous. If you criminalise the buyers and de-criminalise the prostituted persons, trust is easier to build between the prostituted persons and the police as the police are there to protect them.
By criminalising the buyers, there is more of a chance to decrease demand, which is why prostitution exists in the first place. Simon reported that the implementation of the Nordic model changes the mind-set of a society and that he believes that in Sweden for the majority of men, being caught buying sex brings extreme shame and most men will plead guilty to avoid a public trial. It was amazing to hear Simon speak of his experience first-hand and also to hear the perspective of an extremely well-spoken officer who has so much respect for women and their place in society.
One of the other speakers, Marie Merklinger, was sharing her experience of being in prostitution in Germany, a country wherein everything in the prostitution world is legal. She reported that one woman in prostitution dies each week due to the violence inflicted upon them. She also reported that there are organisations in Germany that encourage women and girls to stay in prostitution. She finally reported that in order to truly understand the horror of what it’s like, you must see for yourself. It was incredibly eye opening to hear a personal first-hand experience and also to hear her passion for more European countries to adopt a similar law to the Nordic model.
The two days were exhausting but absolutely amazing. It’s a huge privilege to be a part of something that’s very close to my heart. As each country starts to adopt a similar approach to the Nordic model, we are one step closer to abolishing prostitution. My next hope is that the UK will follow suit soon.
- Youth for abolition