MEPs, feminists and police officers met today, on International Women’s Day (8 March), at the European Parliament, to discuss a new approach to criminalising prostitution: the Nordic Model.
First introduced in Sweden, the model focuses on acknowledging prostitutes as victims instead of independent workers. The model aims to get prostitutes help instead of jail time while prosecuting the “real” culprits: the buyers.
“Sex buyers are the most important link because they are the ones that have the money, by reducing the buyers of sex you already starve the traffickers,” Simon Häggström, a Swedish police officer and Nordic Model supporter, said.
According to Häggström, 99 out of every 100 prostitutes will claim to be working independently, when in fact, 80-90% were forced into selling their bodies.
“Human trafficking will always pose as voluntary prostitution, it’s how it works in the world of prostitution. It’s about creating an illusion,” the police officer added.
Häggström said prostitution is incredibly lucrative in the realm of organised crime, but the only ones bathing in champagne are the pimps and the traffickers.
When examining evidence to prove that the majority of these women are victims, Häggström looked at the countries they originally came from and found that most were from poorer areas.
Several members of the panel said few of the prostitutes working in countries such as Germany were actually from there.
“With prostitution, and I’m even talking about legal prostitution, we must understand that a majority of the woman are from Romania, Bulgaria, Nigeria and so on. They are not doing this out of free choice—this is organised crime,” Häggström said.
He added that he thinks the European Union should be doing much more to combat this epidemic, especially in countries, like The Netherlands, where prostitution is legal.
“We cannot talk about equality between men and women until we shut down these brothels and criminalise the buying of sex. The European Union has a long way to go because we have to speak the same language on this issue.”