EWL News

Sweden hosts event on Stopping prostitution and trafficking

(Brussels, 30 September 2013) The Permanent representation of Sweden to the EU hosted an important event on 30 September, reiterating Sweden’s commitment to end prostitution and trafficking. The event gathered Swedish officials, MEPs and NGOs, demonstrating that the issue of prostitution is a shared concern in society.

Ms Ulrika Stuart Hamilton, State Secretary for Gender Equality of the Swedish Government, presented the experience of the Swedish legislation that criminalizes the purchase of sex. For Sweden, prostitution is a form of violence against women: “It is shameful and unacceptable for men to buy sex”. Like any other market, it is the demand for prostitution that fuels the supply, that is mainly women and girls (and also some men and boys) being used for some men’s so-called needs. “We cannot fight trafficking without addressing the issue of prostitution”. Sweden saw a change of mentalities which coincides with the legislation that makes the purchase of sex an offense. The State Secretary said that she is glad and honored to see growing interest in other member states for the Swedish model (like France or Ireland for example).

Permanent Representative Dag Hartelius then gave the floor to MEP Mikael Gustafsson, who stressed on the importance to decrease the market (by changing men’s attitude), but also to avoid normalizing and institutionalizing prostitution. He said: “The issue of the abolition of prostitution is a gender equality issue”. He also said that Sweden should export its model much more, as it’s proven to be efficient to protect women and deter procuring.

Viviane Teitelbaum, EWL President, presented the campaign of the EWL towards a Europe free from prostitution and called on Sweden to be more active in spreading information and good practices on the issue: “The Swedish model is the right example of a public policy making the links between prostitution and gender equality. By addressing the demand, Sweden is saying that any act of violence will be punished and that everyone needs to change its stereotypes on women and men. The time of hegemonic masculinity is over.” She then gave the floor to Sarah Benson, Executive Director of Ruhama, who presented the new project CAP International, gathering 13 frontline NGOs from 3 continents calling for the abolition of prostitution worldwide.

Rachel Moran, co-founder of SPACE International (Survivors of Prostitution-Abuse Calling for Enlightenment), gave a testimony of her experience of prostitution. “When people ask me about violence in prostitution, they miss the point: the act itself is violence”, she said. She gave an example of survivor’s strategies in prostitution, and encouraged people to look behind appearances.

The EWL would like to thank again the Swedish Permanent Representative and the State Secretary for their commitment and hopes that this event will pave the way for more active action of Sweden in the European political arena on the issue of prostitution. As Ms Stuart Hamilton said, “The Swedish model is the only way to move forward if we want to reach gender equality”.

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