Nordic Model approach to prostitution

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The Nordic Model approach to prostitution (also known as Sex Buyer Law, the Swedish, Neo-Abolitionist[1], or Equality Model) is a model that decriminalises people that are prostituted and offers them support for exiting the sex trade while at the same time criminalising those who buy sexual services. The main objective of the model is to decrease the demand for prostitution by punishing the soliciting of sex workers in order to slowly decrease the volume of the illegal sex industry overall.[2] In 2014 the European Parliament passed a resolution in favor of the Nordic Model urging member states to criminalize the purchase of prostitution and offering support for trafficking victims to exit the sex trade.[3]

Amnesty International opposes this type of legislation and calls for the repeal of these laws.[4] Some academics have argued that there is insufficient evidence that this form of legislation actually reduces demand, others have argued that prostitution is not reduced, but simply pushed underground.[5]

Adoption of the model[edit]

Countries that adopted the Nordic Model approach on prostitution (2019)

The model was first instituted in Sweden in 1999 as part of the Kvinnofrid law (Voilence against women act). The model came into effect in Norway in 2009 as part of Sexkjøpsloven (Sex Buyer Law).[6] Iceland adopted the model as well in 2009. Opinion polls had shown that 70 % of the population supported banning the purchase of sexual services.[7] Canada enacted the Nordic Model in 2014 as part The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act.[8] Northern Ireland adopted the model in 2015.[9] France adopted the model in 2016.[10] In Ireland the purchase of sexual services was made illegal in 2017 as part of the sexual offenses act.[11] In 2018 Israel became the latest country to adopt the Nordic Model approach.[12]

Evaluation of the models efficiency[edit]


In 2008 the Swedish government apointed a special committee of inquiery known as the Committee of Inquiry to Evaluate the Ban against the Purchase of Sexual Services headed by the former Supreme Court Justice Anna Skarhed. It's purpouse was to evaluate how the law had affected the sex industry since it's implementation in 1999 until 2008. The report stated that street prostitution had been reduced by half. The report noted that in Oslo, Copenhagen and Stockholm street prostitution was at similar levels in 1999 but it was three times higher in Oslo and Copenhagen than in Stockholm in 2008. [13] The police had focused on reducing street prostitution also as a sign for the public as that form of prostitution was the most visible. The committee further stated that the public opinion had changed in comparison to that in Norway and Denmark and that 70 % of the population were in favour of the ban on the purchase of sexual services in Sweden.[14] The Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality of the European Union stated in 2013 that: "Sweden’s prostituted population is one-tenth of neighbouring Denmark’s where sex purchase is legal and has a smaller population. The law has also changed public opinion. In 1996 45% women and 20% men were in favour of criminalising male sex purchasers. By 2008 79% women and 60% men were in favour of the law. Moreover, the Swedish police confirm that the Nordic Model has had a deterrent effect on trafficking for sexual exploitation."[15] It has also been reported that 12,5 % of men used to solicit prostitutes before the implementation of the law in 1999 whereas in 2014 only 7,7 % of men purchased sexual services.[3]

A 2013 report by the Swedish Government stated that street prostitution had halved in the previous 10 years, but that escort advertisements (off-street prostitution) had increased from 304 to 6,965.[5]


A report conducted by the Norwegian authorities five years after the law came into effect found that the model had a dampening effect on prostitution and that it contributed to making Norway a country that is less attractive for sex trafficking.[16] However, this has been questioned by academics on the basis that there are too many uncertainties in the data used to claim success,[5] and the Co-ordination Unit for Victims of Trafficking in Norway (KOM) reported that the number of identified potential victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation increased every year between 2007 and 2012. Although the figure dropped in 2013, the number of victims was still higher than in 2007. The number of victims again increased in 2014.[17] The Government report also stated that there were no indications found by the police force that the violence against sex workers had increased. Research indicated that the street prostitution market fell to 45-60 % in comparison to the levels before the law was introduced. [16] It was estimated that the total prostitution market decreased in volume by 25 %. [18] Surveys among prostitutes conducted indicated that the customers had changed after the law was introduced. There were fewer young men, fewer upper class men and more foreigners. Just like in Sweden it was also found that the attitudes towards men buying sex had changed. Especially among young men who developed a more negative opinion on it.[19] The report also acknowledged though that prostitutes might be more afraid to file charges against violent customers due to a fear of being evicted from the place they use to sell their services.[20] The evictions are due to the law prohibiting profiting from the work of prostitutes. Landlords profit from the income of the prostitutes thus as soon as police finds out that a place is used for prostitution they contact the landlord and ask them to evict the prostitutes.[21]


In 2009, paying for sex was outlawed, criminalizing the clients, while selling sex remained decriminalized. The new law placed Iceland in line with Sweden and Norway. However, prostitution in Iceland is thriving despite paying for sex being illegal.[22] A report published in 2017 by the National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police states that prostitution had "exploded" in the previous 18 months.[22] The vast majority of prostitutes in the country are foreign.[22] Police believe prostitution in Iceland is partially tied to organised crime and human trafficking.[22] The country has become a sex tourism destination.[23] It is believed that there are several factors, which prevent the full implementation of the law. One factor is that suspected victims of human trafficking refuse to cooperate with the police and refuse to testify against their traffickers. Another factor is that tourism has increased significantly in Iceland overall during the last years, heightening the demand for prostitutes. At the same time as Iceland is part of the Schengen zone it is easy for traffickers to smuggle victims from poorer countries of the EU to Iceland and have them stay there within the three months rule without them being registered officially.[24] Furthermore it is stated that within the justice system of Iceland a substantial change in attitude has not occurred yet. Trials are often held privately without there being any effect on the reputation of the man being trialed for buying sex. The fines that are given out are also comparatively low.[25]

Women from Eastern Europe, the Baltics, and South America are subjected to sex trafficking in Iceland, often in nightclubs and bars. The United States Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons downgraded Iceland's ranking in 2017 from a 'Tier 1' to a 'Tier 2' country.[26]

Comparison to legalisation[edit]

In 2012 researchers in Germany, Switzerland and the United Kingdom examined the effect that legalisation of prostitution had on human trafficking. The overall conclusion was that human trafficking inflows increased and that trafficking was overall not reduced because the substitution of illegal prostitution with legal prostitution could not compensate for the higher number of people being trafficked.[27] [28]The increase in illegal prostitution following the legalisation of prostitution might be caused by two factors: Illegal supply can masquerade as legal and legalisation reduces the stigma associated with the consumption of the banned good. An example for the increase of prostitution after legalisation is Denmark in which the volume increased by 40 % between 2002 and 2009 after it was legalised in 1999.[29] Some studies within Europe have suggested that human trafficking is lower in countries where prostitution and its procurement are illegal and highest in countries in which prostitution is legalised.[30]


  1. ^ Kingston, Sarah (25 October 2018). "No model in practice: a 'Nordic model' to respond to prostitution?". Crime, Law and Social Change. 71 (4): 423–439. doi:10.1007/s10611-018-9795-6.
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  3. ^ a b Murphy, Meghan (2014-02-26). "EU Parliament passes resolution in favour of the Nordic model". feministcurrent. Retrieved 1 August 2019.
  4. ^ "Amnesty International Policy On State Obligations To Respect, Protect And Fulfil The Human Rights Of Sex Workers" (PDF). Amnesty International. 26 May 2016. Retrieved 3 August 2019.
  5. ^ a b c "Prostitution - Third Report of Session 2016–17" (PDF). Home Affairs Select Committee. Retrieved 3 August 2019.
  6. ^ Amnesty International 2016. "THE HUMAN COST OF 'CRUSHING' THE MARKET" (PDF). amnestyusa. Retrieved 1 August 2019.
  7. ^ "A new law makes purchase of sex illegal in Iceland". Jafnréttisstofa - The Centre for Gender Equality. Retrieved 1 August 2019.
  8. ^ Haak, Debra. "Canada's laws designed to deter prostitution, not keep sex workers safe". Retrieved 1 August 2019.
  9. ^ d'Urso, Joseph (June 2015). "Buying sex a criminal offense under controversial Northern Ireland law". Reuters. Reuters. Retrieved 1 August 2019.
  10. ^ Murphy, Megan (2016-04-06). "France adopts the Nordic model". Retrieved 1 August 2019.
  11. ^ Fisher, Anna. "Lessons from Ireland on Prostitution". Nordic Model Now!. Nordic Model Now!. Retrieved 1 August 2019.
  12. ^ Harkov, Lahav. "ISRAEL BECOMES 10TH COUNTRY TO CRIMINALIZE HIRING PROSTITUTES". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 1 August 2019.
  13. ^ "―The Ban against the Purchase of Sexual Services. An evaluation 1999-2008‖" (PDF). Swedish Institute. Retrieved 1 August 2019. p.7
  14. ^ "―The Ban against the Purchase of Sexual Services. An evaluation 1999-2008‖" (PDF). Swedish Institute. Retrieved 1 August 2019. p.8
  15. ^ Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality. "on sexual exploitation and prostitution and its impact on gender equality". European Parliament. Retrieved 1 August 2019.
  16. ^ a b Rasmussen, Ingeborg. "Evaluering av forbudet mot kjøp av seksuelle tjenester" (PDF). Justis- og beredskapsdepartementet. Retrieved 2 August 2019. p. 7
  17. ^ "The Human Cost Of 'Crushing' The Market Criminalization Of Sex Work In Norway" (PDF). 2016. Retrieved 3 August 2019.
  18. ^ Rasmussen, Ingeborg. "Evaluering av forbudet mot kjøp av seksuelle tjenester" (PDF). Justis- og beredskapsdepartementet. Retrieved 2 August 2019. p. 8
  19. ^ Rasmussen, Ingeborg. "Evaluering av forbudet mot kjøp av seksuelle tjenester" (PDF). Justis- og beredskapsdepartementet. Retrieved 2 August 2019. p. 9
  20. ^ Rasmussen, Ingeborg. "Evaluering av forbudet mot kjøp av seksuelle tjenester" (PDF). Justis- og beredskapsdepartementet. Retrieved 2 August 2019. p. 10
  21. ^ Nielsen, Alek (2018-12-29). "Nordic Model: The Ongoing Criminalization of Sex Workers in Northern Europe". Medium. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
  22. ^ a b c d "Organized Crime and Prostitution on the rise in Iceland". Iceland Monitor. 26 October 2017. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
  23. ^ Hafstað, Vala (26 August 2015). "Sex Tourism a Problem in Iceland". Iceland Review. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
  24. ^ Demurtas, Alice. "Prostitution In Iceland Mostly Occurring In AirBnB Apartments". grapevine. Retrieved 4 August 2019.
  25. ^ Sigridur, Ingebjörg. "The effect of the law on prostitution in Iceland – Changing laws, changing attitudes". Ingebjörg. Retrieved 4 August 2019.
  26. ^ "Iceland 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report". U.S. Department of State. Archived from the original on 3 July 2017. Retrieved 1 February 2018. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help) This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  27. ^ MEHLMAN-OROZCO, Kimberly (2019-03-19). "Legalizing prostitution could end sex-trafficking investigations". the hill. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
  28. ^ Akee, Randall. "Transnational Trafficking, Law Enforcement and Victim Protection: A Middleman's Perspective∗" (PDF). Retrieved 2 August 2019.
  29. ^ Hedlin, Simon. "Why Legalizing Prostitution May Not Work". Forbes. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
  30. ^ Jakobsson, Niklas (25 February 2011). "The law and economics of international sex slavery: prostitution laws and trafficking for sexual exploitation". European Journal of Law and Economics. 35 (1): 87–107. doi:10.1007/s10657-011-9232-0.