‘The UK is a magnet for sex traffickers,’ Swedish Ambassador for Combatting Trafficking tells MPs.

Swedish Ambassador Per-Anders Sunesson today addressed MPs and Peers in Parliament on the ‘Nordic Model’ of prostitution.


The Nordic Model (also known as the ‘End Demand’ approach or ‘Sex Buyer Law’),

reduces demand for prostitution through legislative change by decriminalising the sale of sex; criminalising the buying of sex; providing support and exiting services for those exploited through prostitution.


The Ambassador for Combatting Trafficking explained how Sweden, the first country to adopt the ‘Nordic Model’ in 1999, has evidence that shows a dramatic decline in the number of men paying for sex. The model has since been implemented in Norway, Ireland and France, amongst others.


Sunesson described how public attitudes towards paying for sex have transformed in the two decades since the law’s implementation. In 1996, prior to the law’s adoption, 45% of women and 20% of men in Sweden expressed support for criminalising paying for sex. The most recent statistics in 2015 revealed that 85% of women and 60% of men were in favour of the law criminalising the purchase of sex. In France a recent survey showed 78% support the law and 74% think that buying sex is an act of violence.


Answering a question about the impact of the legislation on trafficking flows, Sunesson explained how in Sweden the law creates a less conducive environment for trafficking and sexual exploitation by shifting opinions, implementing new sanctions and creating pro-active law enforcement. This creates barriers for traffickers and disincentivises them from establishing operations. He pointed to an Interpol report describing Sweden as a ‘dead market’ for potential sex traffickers.


Sunesson argued that compared with countries that legalise prostitution, such as the Netherlands and Germany, Sweden has observed far lower levels of prostitution. It is estimated that the Netherlands has nine times and Germany between 30 and 40 times the rate of prostitution in Sweden.[i] Per-Anders argued “the Nordic Model is needed in the UK to prevent a ‘race to the bottom’ where pimps and sex traffickers take advantage of lax laws. Without it the UK is a magnet for sex traffickers.”


Responding to a question about the alleged negative unintended consequence that the law drives prostitution ‘underground’, Sunesson explained that there is no evidence to suggest this is the case. Sunesson said that prostitution needs to be visible to attract potential buyers, and the research showing a decrease in prostitution evidences reduced demand, not that it becomes hidden.


Sarah Champion who chairs the APPG on Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade and hosted the event said:


“Sweden, Norway, France and Ireland are among the countries who have already introduced the Nordic Model and the evidence shows us that it works: women are protected from exploitation and supported to exit. The UK needs to adopt similar legislation to keep all women safe.


I am constantly amazed that people fail to make the link between prostitution and sexual exploitation. By turning a blind eye to this abuse we allow traffickers, pimps and organised gangs to ply their evil trade with seeming impunity.”

[i] ‘Comparative Report: Disrupt Demand’, Executive Summary, Immigrant Council of Ireland 2018, p.14.

Jim Pomeroy