Posts tagged Iceland

The Nordic model is the only model that actually works. ‘Duh,’ says Sweden 

An article was published recently in The Independent looking at the Nordic model in Sweden. The journalist, Joan Smith, took a ride in a squad car to see how a model wherein the buyer is criminalized and the prostitute is decriminalized actually worked. What she found will likely be met, by any progressive, intelligent, feminist person, with a resounding “Duh.”

Of course the cries of “uptight!” “freedom!” “choice!” “meandmydick!” will likely continue, regardless of facts, because North Americans have their hearts set on buying into ridiculous and illogical notions of liberty that imagine sex and SUVs to be some kind of human right. But here’s how it actually works:

Smith and the squad car pull up to a car park at the top of a hill where johns tend to go with prostitutes. She writes:

What happens next is a textbook example of the way Sweden’s law banning the purchase of sex works in practice. The driver of the car, who’s brought a prostituted woman to the island to have sex, is arrested on the spot. He’s given a choice: admit the offense and pay a fine, based on income, or go to court and risk publicity. The woman, who hasn’t broken any law, is offered help from social services if she wants to leave prostitution. Otherwise, she’s allowed to go.

So, dude pays a fine; the woman is offered alternatives without pressure. OPPRESSION!

It’s so obvious it makes your head spin. Some of the most progressive, egalitarian countries in the world have adopted this model and it’s working. Meanwhile, those who’ve opted for legalization or those like Canada and the U.S. who continue to treat prostituted women like criminals while offering them few alternatives, flail.

Julie Bindel points out that the only thing the Dutch government’s 12 year experiment with legalization succeeded in doing was to increase the market. The illusory labour-based approach, put forth by confused lefties, wherein prostitution is imagined to be “a job like any other” hasn’t worked either:

Rather than be given rights in the ‘workplace’, the prostitutes have found the pimps are as brutal as ever. The government-funded union set up to protect them has been shunned by the vast majority of prostitutes, who remain too scared to complain.

Under the “labour” model, assault and rape is no longer violence against women, but “an ‘occupational hazard’, like a stone dropped on a builder’s toe,” Bindel writes. There’s simply no reason for police to charge men for doing something they feel they are legally entitled to do. Without reeducation and training, which is a key aspect of the Nordic model, the police are unlikely to change their attitudes towards marginalized women, prostituted women, and, more generally, with regard to women’s human rights.

Those who argue that prostitution is dangerous due to “stigma” turned out to be wrong too, as Bindel reports: “Only 5 per cent of the women registered for taxation, because no one wants to be known as a whore — however legal it may be.” The stigma remains, as does the exploitation.

In 2009, the police had to shut down a large number of brothels Amsterdam’s red-light districts due to organized crime having taken over.

Under legalization, trafficking increased, organized crime moved in, and women have continued to be abused and degraded. Is this the “liberation” we’re looking for?

Talking about sex work as work doesn’t help women. It doesn’t help women leave the industry, it doesn’t create gender equality, it doesn’t stop the violence, and it doesn’t destigmatize prostitution. Reframing legalization as ending the “stigma” has not only been shown to be untrue, but it distracts us from the reality that violence and inequality doesn’t happen because of stigmatization — it happens because of male power and systemic injustice.

Detective Superintendent Kajsa Wahlberg, Sweden’s national rapporteur on trafficking in human beings, is quoted as saying: “The problem is gender-specific. Men buy women.” Which is why a feminist approach is needed. And, as of yet, the only legislation that is specifically feminist in nature is the Nordic model.

Smith writes that prostituted women who come to Sweden from the Baltic states or Africa, who have sold sex in other countries say “they’re much more likely to be subjected to violence in countries where prostitution has been legalized.”

Men in Sweden, on the other hand, are afraid to commit violence because they know the women they are buying sex from have more power in the situation than they do. They know they will be charged if the woman calls the cops and so they behave better.

Crime statistics show that trafficking has decreased since the Nordic model was enacted in Sweden. Places like Victoria (Australia), where prostitution has been legalized since the 80s, adopted the model in order to “contain the rampant growth of the highly visible brothel and street prostitution trade, eliminate organized crime, to end child prostitution and sex trafficking, and eliminate harmful work practices.

Instead, what’s happened is that “Victoria has created a two-tiered system—a regulated and an unregulated prostitution industry.” There are minimal exit programs for women who want to leave the industry (perhaps a moot point for legalization advocates, as the whole idea of exiting services seems to exist in opposition of the “job like any other” mantra — because what other, just, you know, “jobs” require therapy and exiting services in order to quit? The military, perhaps?), illegal brothels are rampant and trafficking has increased.

These facts fly in the face of the argument that criminalizing buyers will drive the industry underground. It seems that, in fact, legalization encourages the “underground” (illegal) industry. It’s no coincidence that those who wish to operate illegally or as part of a “black market” flock to countries where prostitution is legal.

There is, in fact, zero evidence that shows that criminalizing johns has driven prostitution underground. Under the Nordic model, there’s also absolutely no reason why, if prostitution is “underground” the cops wouldn’t be able to find these industries: “If a sex buyer can find a prostituted woman in a hotel or apartment, the police can do it,” one of the detectives Smith interviews says, “Pimps have to advertise.” Because the police have the resources and a vested interest in charging the exploiters, they have reason (and the support) to look for them.

In South Auckland, NZ, where prostitution has been legal (fully decriminalized, meaning that running a brothel, living off the proceeds of someone else’s prostitution, and street solicitation are all legal — which is what some are advocating for in Canada) since 2003, street prostitution has increased dramatically and recent reports show child prostitution is on the rise. Just like in Victoria and Amsterdam, illegal prostitution has increased.

In contrast, since the Nordic model has been in effect in Sweden since 1999, street prostitution, organized crime, trafficking, and pimping have decreased. The country also has strong social safety nets and exiting programs for women who want to leave the industry.

In a recent debate about the legalization of prostitution, hosted by New Internationalist Magazine, human rights lawyer, Diane Post begins her argument by saying:

Legalized prostitution cannot exist alongside the true equality of women. The idea that one group of women should be available for men’s sexual access is founded on structural inequality by gender, class and race.

As far as equality goes, there’s no argument here and we need to stop pretending there is. Prostitution doesn’t promote the status of women. Societies and countries that have been shown to be progressive, egalitarian, and “sex positive” (like Iceland, a place that has a much more open-minded and “liberal” approach to sex and sexuality than the U.S.) are also societies that have adopted legislation that works towards an eventual end to prostitution, supporting the women who are in it in the meantime, and teaching men that buying sex isn’t acceptable. It’s no strange coincidence that Iceland, which ranked first place in the 2012 Global Gender Gap Report, has also banned strip clubs, is considering a ban on hardcore pornography online, and has adopted the Nordic model.

The argument for the legalization of prostitution is largely about individual rights. But we do, sometimes, have to choose between prioritizing the rights of certain individuals and building an equitable society.

The popular position among some American feminists and progressives is to pretend as though prostitution is simply something open-minded people do “on the side” for kicks. This is to pretend gender, race and poverty don’t factor in. But prostitution isn’t merely a “zoning” issue. It isn’t, either, about fashion. To these people, I point you to commentary from Margriet van der Linden, chief editor of the feminist magazine Opzij, who said, in left-liberal daily De Volkskrant:

The daily practices of prostitution are portrayed as a romantic world full of mistresses with fishnet stockings and jovial laughs who embody the liberal values of the Dutch, and complaints ring out about the spread of narrow-minded bourgeois values. But not a word is said about the current legislation that has been such a disaster and has contributed to the shocking figures according to which approximately seven in ten prostitutes are victims of violence.

Prostitution hurts some individual women and benefits some individual men. But it is also part of, as lawyer, Gunilla Ekberg says, “a structure reflecting and maintaining inequality between men and women.”

Post points out that “the answer to poor jobs, low pay and harsh working conditions for women is not to consign them to a lifetime of abuse.”

“There is no alternative,” is, after all, what conservative British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher said. The response from the left has always been that, indeed, there is an alternative, and we’re going to fight for it.

You want proof that criminalization works? Look no further than the feminist movement 

The Nation and Tom Dispatch published an epic, historical look at the successes of the feminist movement over the past fifty-odd years and the long road ahead by Ruth Rosen yesterday.

In the article, Rosen points to various male “behaviours” like rape that, while once were viewed simply as “custom” were redefined, thanks to the feminist movement, as crimes.

Not so long ago, you may or may not recall that there was no such thing as rape in marriage. Husbands were entitled to sex, with or without the consent of their wives. Not so long ago, date rape was a common and unspoken experience for women. There were no conversations about consent when it came to sex. It simply wasn’t relevant.

Rape still happens far more than most would like to acknowledge or imagine and we still have a long way to go towards ending violence against women, but things have changed and things must continue to change.

Lately the issue of banning pornography has been a hot(ter) topic of debate due to the fact that Iceland is considering banning online pornography. noted, in her article for The Observer, that Iceland, one of the most progressive countries in the world, ranking in first place in Global Gender Gap Report 2012, that the ban is widely supported among police, health professionals, educators and lawyers.

In anticipation of the typically silly and ignorant responses from libertarians and pro-sex industry types claiming critics of sexualized violence against women are simply prudish, conservative, freedom-haters, McVeigh quotes Halla Gunnarsdóttir, adviser to the interior minister Ögmundur Jónasson, who says, about the prospective ban:

We are a progressive, liberal society when it comes to nudity, to sexual relations, so our approach is not anti-sex but anti-violence. This is about children and gender equality, not about limiting free speech

In other words, this is a feminist initiative.

Now, talk of bans or of criminalization of things like pornography often lead to people to say things like: “FREE SPEECH!” “RIGHTS!” “CENSORSHIP!” But these people are stupid.

We live in what is commonly known as “a society”. Within said “society” we tend to rely on things we call “laws” in order to help us function in a way that is conducive to living in said “society”. This isn’t to say that all laws are necessarily good laws and, often, criminalization targets the marginalized in disgusting and oppressive ways.

This is not the case for feminist laws that prevent men from abusing women.

Much of the work the feminist movement has done in terms of making the world a more equitable one, has been with regard to legislation. Without changes to legislation, women would still be owned by their husbands and wouldn’t be able to do things like vote or have jobs or get a university education or say no to sex. Laws aren’t bad. Criminalizing certain behaviours is also not (necessarily) bad.

Let’s reflect on the behaviours we’ve criminalized in our society: murder, rape, domestic abuse, animal abuse, advocating genocide, and creating, buying, or selling child pornography. There are other behaviours we’ve criminalized that are silly, like doing certain kinds of drugs, but that’s a whole other political can of worms.

The point is that, as a society, we support the censorship of things we believe are deeply harmful to individuals and to society as a whole. Many of us, particularly feminists and other progressive types,  support the criminalization of behaviours that are violent and abusive. Whether we like it or not, laws do shape our behaviour and agitating for changes to legislation and been hugely successful for feminists (though there is much, much more work to do).

There is no need to share “information” that encourages and perpetuates and supports the oppression of women. In fact, I’m pretty sure that would count as some kind of hate speech. Pornography encourages and perpetuates and supports both rape culture (so, violence against women) and the oppression of women.

True freedom and true freedom of speech would exist in a society without systemic oppression. In a world wherein male violence against women is an epidemic, it is not reasonable to say that we live in a free society. It is also not reasonable to defend behaviours that perpetuate oppression and violence on account of “freedom” and “freedom of speech”. Those who argue this are stupid, narrow-minded jerks who’ve spent too long eating American freedom fries and only care about “rights” in as much as those “rights” provide them with access to the sex/money/power they believe they were born entitled to.

To those who argue that it’s impossible to ban pornography because it’s so popular, universal, or “normal”, well, so was marital rape at one time. So was smoking in hospitals. So was owning slaves.

What’s “normal” and acceptable today likely won’t be in 20 or 50 or 100 years. Banning pornography won’t lead to an immediate disappearance of all pornography, just like the illegality of murder hasn’t stopped murders from happening. But it does set a standard and it does teach us what is acceptable behaviour in society. The fact that we’ve criminalized rape has led us to understand that sex should not happen without consent (lest it become ‘rape’ and not ‘sex’).

Changes to legislation won’t solve everything, but is necessary.

Now, pornography is not “good” for society and it isn’t “good” for women (it isn’t even “good” for men!). Because of the internet, it’s readily available to children which means that this generation and all those that follow learn that women are to be fucked and to be humiliated and to be degraded from the beginning.

If you think change isn’t possible then you have no place in any progressive movement, conversation about equality, or, really, in a democratic society. If you think your “freedom” should come at the expense of half the population, then you’re the problem and your protests will fall on deaf ears, your cries of “censorship” growing ever more quiet as the rest of us move towards emancipation.