22 Years of End Demand: The Evidence is in

Pictured: Protesters in France fight the introduction of the Nordic Model in the country.

It doesn’t change whether people trade sex — It Changes the Conditions under which people trade sex

In each country, people who traded sex reported various changes in the conditions under which the operated, noting the passage of the law as the catalyst. In areas where street-based policing and harassment increased, people either migrated to other physical locations, or moved online to avoid police. This not only meant more isolation from peers and supports, but challenges for service providers trying to offer resources.

Reports of Violence Go Up

In multiple countries, sex workers and service providers reported increases in violence, pointing to the worsening conditions for sex workers overall as contributing to vulnerability. Northern Ireland, which has a centralized system of reporting violence in the country, immediately saw increases in assaults, sexual violence and threatening behavior. Other countries noted both an increase in the incidents of violence, and an increase in severity of the violence — especially before someone would consider reporting the incident.

No Change in the Size of the Sex Trade

One of the main claims against decriminalization and for the increase in policing, is that overall, the size of the sex trade will decrease. While many saw a migration to different areas, not facing criminal penalty was not driving people into the sex trade, and criminalization wasn’t moving people out. Sex workers trade sex in order to access resources, clients access services for a range of intimacy and personal needs. Criminalization caused movement to other areas and platforms — not other jobs.

No Changes in Trafficking of Workers

Despite being one of the most cited reasons for passage of the law is the assumption that it curbs trafficking, or exploitation, of people who trade sex. No country has been able to demonstrate this link, either in increasing or decreasing incidents of trafficking. While Sweden has often cited that they have sought to address trafficking through these policies, Swedish police have twice cited that there has been no drop. Police in Northern Ireland have also reported no changes in the incidents of trafficking.

We have evidence. Lets use it.

After twenty two years, relying on guesses and economic modelling isn’t just unnecessary, it’s negligent. We have the information on the impact across multiple countries, and as these conversations ripple through the country, it is incumbent upon advocates and policymakers to understand that these policies will only retrench the violence that people who trade sex experience.

  1. While seven countries have passed these regimes, only five are included in this paper. While Iceland passed the law on paper, it was never funded and therefore, never implemented and so the impact cannot be assessed. Israel criminalized the purchase of sex in 2019 and went into effect in 2020, therefore data on its impact is not yet available. For a discussion on the bill’s challenges from Israeli news, including two advocates who have opposing views on the bill but share critiques on implementation, watch here.
  2. Many of the reports on the impact on the ban’s passage in Norway exclusively used the term “Nigerian” to describe racialized sex workers of the African diaspora. It was not clear from reports why Nigerian was exclusively used, or how they identified the women as exclusively Nigerian.

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Reframe Health and Justice

Reframe Health and Justice

A collective of individuals dedicated to reframing the sociopolitical paradigms through which we understand race, gender, health, and justice.