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In 1999, the Swedish government embarked on an experiment in social engineering1 to end men’s practice of purchasing commercial sexual services. The government enacted a new law criminalizing the purchase (but not the sale) of sex (Swedish Penal Code). It hoped that the fear of arrest and increased public stigma would convince men to change their sexual behaviour. The government also hoped that the law would force the estimated 1,850 to 3,000 women who sold sex in Sweden at that time to find another line of work.

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NSWP statement strongly condemning the recent report released by the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security for failing to recognise the grave violations to Norwegian sex workers’ human rights that are taking place with state impunity under the current model that bans the purchase of sex. NSWP urges the Norwegian Government to listen to the experiences of sex workers and acknowledge that the criminalisation of the purchase of sex in Norway is resulting in health and human rights violations of sex workers.

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In December 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously decided that several parts of Canada’s Criminal Code dealing with prostitution are unconstitutional because they violate the rights of sex workers by undermining their health and safety. The Supreme Court decided that its ruling would take effect in one year’s time, at which point those unconstitutional parts of the law would no longer be in force.

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This Report aims to summarize the arguments for and against the criminalisation of the purchase of sexual services. It first describes the experiences of Swedish and Dutch legal regulation relating to the purchase of sexual services. In Sweden, there is a wish to abolish sex work by way of criminalising the client. In the Netherlands, sex work is allowed within certain limits (only involuntary sex work comes under criminal rules).

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The Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) have released a statement strongly condemning the recent EU Parliament vote on the flawed report prepared by MEP Mary Honeyball.

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The International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe (ICRSE) has spearheaded a campaign to critically review the draft report by MEP Mary Honeyball which proposes the criminalisation of clients based on factually incorrect and misleading information. Ninety-four academics have signed this letter of critique.

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This NSWP Statement responds to attempts to criminalise the purchase of sex in France. We condemn these proposals which are ideologically driven rather than evidence-based, and incorrectly view sex work through the prism of ‘violence against women’ whilst also irresponsibly conflating trafficking with sex work.

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This  resource looks at the Canadian legal system and hierarchy of laws from the perspective of launching a court case to protect the rights of sex workers. It discusses the Canadian law and sex workers' rights, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, limits to the Charter, and how to challenge unconstitutional laws.

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This resource offers a succinct introduction to the Bedford v. Canada Supreme Court case. Bedford v. Canada challenges three anti-sex work laws in Canada which prevent sex workers from engaging in safety measures that would make their work safer. The appellants in the care are challenging the constitutionality of the communicating, brothel keeping, and living off the avails provisions in the Criminal Code of Canada. They say these laws violate their right to Life, Liberty, and Security of the Person as guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

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The article explores the policy underpinning Sweden’s 1999 ban on the purchase of sexual services in the context of the social and health service sectors and the way that these sectors interact with sex workers. It argues that the rationale behind the sex purchase ban is difficult to reconcile with social policy outwith the 'merits' of criminal justice.

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This is a summary of the Criminalisation of Clients briefing paper. The criminalisation of sex workers’ clients is often claimed to be part of a new legal framework to eradicate sex work and trafficking by ‘ending demand’. In 1999, Sweden criminalised sex workers’ clients and maintained the criminalisation of third parties such as brothel-owners, managers, security and support staff. The individual selling of sex remained legal. This model is frequently referred to as the ‘Swedish’, ‘Nordic’ or ‘End Demand’ model. There is great pressure in many countries to advance such legal and policy measures. The damaging consequences of this model on sex workers’ health, rights and living conditions are rarely discussed.  

This briefing paper discusses the trend towards criminalisation of sex workers’ clients, a policy that is part of a new legal framework to eradicate sex work and trafficking by ‘ending demand’. In 1999, Sweden criminalised sex workers’ clients and maintained the criminalisation of third parties such as brothel-owners, managers, security and support staff. The individual selling of sex remained legal. This model is frequently referred to as the ‘Swedish’, ‘Nordic’ or ‘End Demand’ model. There is great pressure in many countries to advance such legal and policy measures. The damaging consequences of this model on sex workers’ health, rights and living conditions are rarely discussed. A  summary is also available.