Nordic model laws key to tackling trafficking for sexual exploitation
Nusha Yonkova, Gender and Anti-trafficking Expert, Immigrant Council of Ireland, said, “It’s almost exactly two years since the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act came into force. The Immigrant Council of Ireland alongside many other organisations associated with the Turn Off the Red Light campaign supported the introduction of this law which follows the Nordic model, adopted in countries like Sweden.
“This approach decriminalises those exploited in the sex trade and instead targets pimps and buyers, understanding the gender inequality, violence and greed which drives prostitution and supports trafficking in human beings for the purposes of sexual exploitation. Research shows that by disrupting demand for sexual services by criminalising purchasers, the trade in women and girls for sexual exploitation reduces.
“As we kick off a new gender-specific assistance programme which will provide support for the most vulnerable victims of trafficking, we will hear from other EU Member States with different legislative frameworks and share expertise on the best systems for best supporting trafficked women and reducing this horrific crime.”
Anja Wells, from German trafficking support agency SOLWODI, said, “Since 2002 Germany has decriminalised the sex trade, with slightly tighter regulations introduced in 2017. But this has not brought about increased safety for the women being exploited – in fact the opposite has happened.
“We have seen evidence the behaviour of the sex buyers has worsened with our laws effectively normalising prostitution, as the message to men is clear: There is ‘a right’ to buy sexual acts and no need to feel guilty about that any more.
“We have also seen an increase in the exploitation of more vulnerable women and girls, especially those from a migrant background. Today around 81% of prostituted women come from other countries. It has become a prostitution of poverty.
“Evidently, the German model of legalising prostitution has shown itself to be a law obliging the criminal world. We know from working with the police they feel powerless as the law has effectively turned criminals into recognised businessmen. There is clear evidence the 2002 legislation hasn’t prevented trafficking, but has effectively hidden it in plain sight.
“The Federal German Police Office recorded 484 cases of trafficked women for the purpose of sexual exploitation in 2017. The police have complained to us they have little power to intervene, because without any evidence of a crime, they cannot enter the brothels. Also, the legal proceedings depend on the women’s statement. Very often these vulnerable women are too afraid to give testimony and the procedures get stopped.”
Ms Wells added, “Added to the lack of legislative support, from providing services to those being sexually exploited we know prostitution cannot be viewed as a job, as it is extremely traumatising. Numerous studies have shown that the risk of developing post traumatic stress disorder is higher in prostitution than it is in war. Prostitution has nothing to do with sexual liberation; it is just money that counts. The impact of German laws has shown that far from making it easier to support and protect those exploited, it has had the opposite effect.”
Note to editors: German NGO SOLWODI is visiting Ireland to help launch a new EU joint project to assist the integration of migrant women trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation, funded by the EU Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund. The initiative is being led by the Immigrant Council with support from sister organisations in Germany, Scotland, Spain and Italy, and the European Network of Migrant Women.
This project is funded by the European Union’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund