Traditionally it’s been treated as a crime.
The solution has always been to stop women selling their bodies for sex, by arresting them.
The thinking is, to cut off the supply.
If there is no supply of prostitutes there can be no prostitution. Pretty simple.
Trouble is for thousands of years it hasn’t worked.
Prostitution has been illegal, women have been arrested, but it’s still flourished.
Modern, enlightened thinking has been to decriminalise prostitution.
Like alcohol or marijuana, prohibition didn’t work, so accept it, make it legal and have the state regulate it.
The problem is in the countries that tried it, it hasn’t worked either.
Not only has prostitution increased, but so have brothels, organised crime, and sex-trafficking.
Marie De Santis is director of the Women’s Justice Center.
She writes about the uniquely creative way Sweden tackled it and why they were able to do so.
Traditionally prostitution has been seen from the male angle.
The crime was always a woman choosing to sell her body. So the woman was the criminal.
Swedes say this is because the lawmakers have always been men.
In Sweden, they decided to reverse the situation.
Research showed that 80 per cent of prostitutes were doing it involuntarily.
So the supplier wasn’t the criminal, the user was.
They decided to turn the problem round 180 degrees.
Instead of targeting supply, they targeted demand.
They decided to treat prostitution as a crime against women.
So the prostitute herself wasn’t guilty, the man paying was guilty.
Marie De Santis writes, "Sweden’s unique strategy treats prostitution as a form of violence against women, and the men who exploit them by buying sex are criminalised. The prostitutes are treated as victims who need help".
By criminalising men, the source of income has dropped massively.
Prostitution had been cut by two thirds.
De Santis writes, "The number of foreign women and children now being trafficked into Sweden for sex is nil".
Nil seems pretty impressive.
But surely all Scandinavian countries have a more enlightened view, so they have less of a problem to start with?
We need another Scandinavian country for comparison.
De Santis writes, "Compare this to the 15,000 to 17,000 females yearly sex-trafficked into neighbouring Finland. No other country, nor any other social experiment, has come anywhere near Sweden’s results".
Okay, but why is Sweden the only country to have thought of this?
What makes Sweden different?
Well here’s the really interesting point.
Sweden has the highest proportion of women at all levels of government of any country in the entire world.
In fact 50 per cent of the Swedish parliament is female.
So for the first time a country could look at prostitution from an angle no one else has thought of.
The female angle.
Which enabled them to take a problem they couldn’t solve, get upstream, and change it into a problem they could solve.
A different kind of predatory thinking.