Posts Tagged ‘Sweden’

still circling around the Swedish law against buying sex, together with its self-congratulatory evaluation published by Swedish government this post might allow to take a somewhat different view on the issue of prostitution and its regulation. the entry was prompted by two remarkable images posted on the blog An Anthology of English Pros in an article Swedish Justice Minister to the pillory! by Helena von Schantz (link to her blog in Swedish).

(Photos of sex worker executions in Ghanzi Province, Afghanistan, by Rahmatullah Naikzad, AP Photos)

apart from the pictures and author’s insights that go with them the post begins with yet another shocking (at least for me) piece of information which is worth reporting. according to von Schantz, on the 18th of March during the seminar on prostitution, Swedish Minister of Justice Beatrice Ask said:

“I want to send garish envelopes to the sex buyers, because I think the worst thing that can happen to a sex buyer is that somebody in their surroundings finds out what they have done, the wife or the neighbour… We should have purple envelopes, it should be clear that you’re suspected of having bought sex.”

however shocking this may seem, von Schantz proceeds:

“When confronted with the question, what if a child finds the envelope, she answered thus: “The daughter might just as well find out what kind of father she has. You have to remember not to protect the wrong factor (just as abstruse in Swedish). If the daughter has been abused by her father the letter may give her the courage to come forward.””

and i though that duo bindel and harman were lunatics!

“Naturally there was a lot of outrage and also demands for Beatrice Ask’s resignation. In the beginning she stuck to her guns, but six days later she made a half-hearted apology that allowed her to remain in office.”

one might wonder were do they find these people?

subsequently, we are referred to the evaluation report and in this respect von Schantz mercifully points out lack of any data that could warrant the conclusions reached by the author of the report; and while addressing these few figures that are presented in the report she mentions shambles with numbers of Danish prostitutes used by Swedish officials in their evaluation, which turned out to be false and inflated (i reported on that story in one of my earlier posts).

“If you consider the purple envelope debacle in March, things become a bit clearer. What can you expect from an Attorney General who suggests that men suspected of buying sex should be paraded in the square? Convicted murderers, bank robbers, smugglers and rapists do not need coloured envelopes and public condemnation, prison suffices for them. Men suspected of having paid for sex, however, they should be tarred and feathered. From this follows that being suspected of buying sex is worse than being a convicted rapist. What happens to rape statistics when the authorities send out that kind of signal?

The European Council has recommended that prostitutes should have their say in decisions that affect them, but that advice falls on deaf ears in Sweden. Beatrice Ask’s starting point is a zero vision. We are supposed to heap shame and disgrace on sex buyers until the market is dead, because sex is not a commodity.’”

and that’s how we arrive at the pictures of afghan prostitutes before and after execution; von Schantz writes:

“(…) There are prostitutes of both sexes in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Iran, although the penalty is death – usually a painful and disgraceful death at that. Have none of the pro sexlaw people watched the documentary ”Prostitution behind the veil” by Nahid Persson? Do they really think that the Swedish sex law will succeed where Sharia laws have failed? Are they under the illusion that buying or selling sex without getting caught is hard in Sweden? I could probably not steal a car or rob a bank without going to prison, but I could definitely buy and/or sell sexual favours morning, noon and night without anyone being the wiser.

Consequently there were all of 69 poor sods prosecuted for buying sex in Sweden in 2009. I’m thinking that they were either drunk, incredibly stupid or had really nasty enemies, because this is a “crime” any fool should be able to perpetrate without being caught. You would have to have an advanced system of informants or police with Orwellian rights for us to keep track of whether people are paid for sex or not.”

it seems disturbing but at the same time hard to deny that the purpose of the Swedish law is not to aid sex workers nor is it related in any way to the notion of equality between the sexes; it seems clear that the primary goal of the law is to impose on every individual one particular, obtrusive and highly questionable kind of morality with the full force of the state.

one might wonder what century are we living in? public executions and shaming practices for those merely accused of minor and by all means questionable offences? which were concocted by governmental officials who seem to regard some dubious moral standards as being superior to factual data? which is further entrenched by these officials complete disregard or maybe even ignorance of scientific method of enquiry? aren’t these the main characteristics of inquisition tribunals? it seems like it; maybe the next step of Minister of Justice Beatrice Ask and Swedish government will be to publish fit for XXI century’s social ills new version of once renowned and highly regarded Malleus Maleficarum.

and indeed, doesn’t the reasoning behind the Swedish report and official news-releases resemble the kind of “logic” brilliantly depicted in this unforgettable scene:

i would say it does.

on the one hand this post could be seen as an update to my earlier writing about Swedish sexköpslagen (pdf); however, today i am not going to merely dump on the page quotations, links and/or references but i am going to encourage my readers to conduct their own bindel-style social research into sex markets. however, in doing so i am not going to be particularly inventive and quotations will remain crucial part of my post. nevertheless i can assure any potential reader that this time the quotations are going to be of particularly cheerful nature.

unwilling to waste any more time i would simply refer those who are unfamiliar with the sexköpslagen to aforementioned article or in fact to any other one treating on this particular subject (more detailed examination of the report could be found in “Smoke gets in your eyes: Evaluation of Swedish anti-prostitution law offers ideology, not methodology”, “Evaluating the Swedish Ban on the Purchase of Sexual Services: The Anna Skarhed Reportand “Behind the happy face of the Swedish anti-prostitution law.“)

in this post, however i am going to take a look at “Swedish Sex Law Report: ‘We’re Sorry We Haven’t a Clue’ (or, How to Make the Channel Tunnel Profitable)” from An Anthology of English Pros. apart from many facts and references found in the text and which link to other interesting articles and studies carried out on prostitution within last few years, we could also find some hysterically funny material:

“With a degree of effrontery that had to be heard to be believed, the chair of the inquiry, Anna Skarhed, told a press conference that they started with their conclusions and then worked out a rationale for them: “I think that these are quite obvious conclusions. But the important thing for the inquiry has been to try to, so to speak, get the basis for being able to draw them. And this is how we have worked,” she announced.
Oh, for such refreshing transparency at Westminster!”

i cannot think of any plausible term that could possibly describe such baldness and honesty about own ignorance on the part of government official but it seems quite certain that Ms. Anna Skarhed is not very familiar with “mystical and ancient knowledge” represented in the drawing below:

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in any case, subsequently in his article the author considers the research findings in respect of prostitution on the internet; this part of the text could show to all interested in conducting their own study in what way one should approach methodological issues of social research in a bindel-like manner (it is important to remember that at this point one must forget the ideas presented in the picture above as they are incompatible with bindel-like mode of research). so firstly we read:

“The Swedish evaluation then turns to internet prostitution, saying:
“In the last five years, Internet prostitution has increased in Sweden, Denmark and Norway. However, the scale of this form of prostitution is more extensive in our neighbouring countries, and there is nothing to indicate that a greater increase in prostitution over the Internet has occurred in Sweden…”
“Nothing to indicate” is, of course, another way of saying they haven’t a clue. The report is peppered with such phrases: we do not know very much (about male prostitution); there [is no] information that suggests that (prostitutes formerly on the streets are now involved in indoor prostitution); and there is nothing to indicate that (prostitution in massage parlours, sex clubs, hotels, restaurants and nightclub settings has increased in recent years)…etcetera…”

afterwards, wannabe-bindel-like-researcher is given step by step instructions on how to conduct the actual research, and the description provided bears remarkable resemblance to the methodology used by julie bindel and her gang of “social scientists” in their academically “acclaimed” (for shorter text see here) research report “big brothel”:

“Now let’s try a quick and inexpensive (if unscientific) experiment with a Google search engine.
Iceland: Reykjavík + escort = 77,400 results in 0.21 seconds.
Finland: Helsinki + escort = 136,000 results in 0.35 seconds.
Norway: Oslo + escort = 246,000 results in 0.19 seconds.
Sweden: Stockholm + escort = 491,000 results in 0.16 seconds.
Back in 1999, the official estimate of sex workers in the whole of Sweden was a mere 2,500. Even rabbits, it would seem, could only aspire to multiply as fast.”

and there we have it! now we would have to add more or less plausible “explanation” of our “findings” which necessarily must incorporate some kind of suffering endured by one or another group of individuals and with report prepared in such a manner we might try to approach government officials with a hope to secure monetary grants from government for carrying out further research into this particular area in order to end inequalities and suffering of those in need.

i would be glad to hear from anyone who like our noble star julie bindel would manage to turn bindel-style social research into successful money making scheme.
good luck

i was deeply disappointed when several weeks ago i read (1, 2) about Swedish officials struggling to produce their final evaluation of controversial sexköpslagen. obviously i read earlier reports attempting to assess the impact of the law against buying sex published by swedish and norwegian governments (Kännedom om prostitution 1998–1999, Kännedom om prostitution 2003, Kännedom om prostitution 2007, Purchasing Sexual Services in Sweden and the Nederlands. Legal Regulations and Experiences) and was extremely eager to see the final evaluation. i admit that lecture of earlier reports as well as my broader studies into the available literature on the subject left me feeling that most of the critique of the law presented by academics and sex workers themselves was not wholly unreasonable. which means that in my view most of the pessimistic prognoses as to the impact of this moralistic legislation was sadly true. not to mention that it entrenched my somewhat racist and totally unreasonable beliefs in that people living in northern part of Europe are rather strange folks.

nonetheless, the report was published on 2nd of july and in accompanying press release Swedish Ministry of Justice announced that

“(…) criminalisation has contributed to combating prostitution and human trafficking for sexual purposes.”

also we are told that

“The ban has proved to act as a deterrent to sex purchasers. The Inquiry could find no indication that criminalisation has had a negative effect on people exploited through prostitution.”

the original version of the report can be accessed here (pdf) while the 15 pages long English summary (pages 29-44 of the original report) can be accesed here (pdf). in this entry i hope to shed some light on the report itself however I hope to achieve this by listening to and commenting on some glorious fanfares that immediately announced to the world that the law presents one great and unequivocal success against evil forces of patriarchy and male domination over women. and that’s how we stumble upon the greatest fan of snoop dogg among lesbian-feminists, julie bindel and her commentary “Legalising prostitution is not the answer”.
in the article (which by the way was published by the guardian on the same day as swedish report) our feminist diva provides her fans as well as other casual readers with her invaluable insights into the background and realities of work as a researcher in the context of prostitution and trafficking. so, we learn that:

“It is rare to have academic consensus on controversial areas of study, but currently in the UK it seems that the vast majority of academics studying prostitution and the sex industry are in agreement. It is almost impossible to find even a handful involved in this massively expanding area of study that will deviate from the opinion that the sex industry should be legalised or decriminalised, and that penalising sex buyers has a negative effect on those selling sexual services. Most academic studies produced in the past few years conclude that little harm is caused to those involved in prostitution, despite the thousands of testimonies on record of survivors of this abusive trade.”

without single qualm she then proceeds to mercilessly criticise, mock and sneer at all the pimps, traffickers, punters and at all other kinds of rapists who backed by hordes of ignorant academics dared to reject her holy principles and her sacred quest to crush the patriarchal oppression of women in prostitution. finally the readers are told:

“No one working in or on it [prostitution] is devoid of a view regarding this important topic, which is why it is somewhat frustrating that so many academics seem happy to be selective about the “evidence” supporting their claims that the Swedish model has been a disaster. Similarly, these same academics regularly accuse authors of research that reaches different conclusions from theirs of being biased.”

after cynically listing few of the numerous doubts expressed by opponents of the law she exaltedly shakes above her head 300 pages long copy of the Swedish report (even though she probably read no more than fifteen pages of its English summary) pointing at it as a solid and undeniable proof against all those of small faith and most certainly fable mind who expressed any doubts about the sexköpslagen.

“However, today’s report, a comprehensive evaluation of the Swedish law, conducted by an independent commission appointed by the government, and led by the chancellor of justice (the highest legal officer in Sweden) shows that legislation criminalising demand has been a resounding success. The evaluation concludes that, since the law came in to force in 1999, the number of women involved in street prostitution has halved, whereas neighbouring countries such as Denmark and Norway have seen a sharp rise; that there is no evidence of an increase in off-street prostitution; and that, despite a significant increase in prostitution in the neighbouring countries during the past 10 years, there is no evidence of a similar increase in Sweden.”

in her usual style she is more than happy to dump on her readers buckets of unsubstantiated rhetoric based on misguided analysis of cherry picked factual data. however in this case I have to admit that my own article on the subject would look exactly a like and that’s because dates are the only numbers that can be found in english summary of the report! it’s 15 pages are simply speaking composed of number of loaded and vague statements referring to some data which is never given up for the reader to asses and which often seem to contradict statements made in other places or data published in earlier reports or the very conclusions drawn by the authors. one might wonder whether the report was not written a decade ago together with the law impact of which it purports to evaluate. and it seems that i am not the only one brought to such a conclusion and for example Laura Agustín writes on her blog:

“An astounding absence of objective and unbiased guiding principles, a lack of solid evidence and a confusing methodical picture that could mean outright guesswork.

(…)

‘Sources’ are mentioned, but absolutely nothing is explained about methodology.

(…)

there is nothing about how interviewees were chosen, why they were relevant, what questionnaire was used or how interviews were analysed.

(…)

Sexworkers themselves are listed as sources, but they seem to have been forgotten until quite late. They are called, in a discriminatory manner, ‘exploited persons’ (p. 126-127). A total of 14 persons from two organisations filled out a questionnaire (…).”

indeed, the authors of the report noted on the page 34:

“Even though there are many reports, articles and essays that address these phenomena, knowledge on the scale of prostitution and human trafficking for sexual purposes is consequently limited. This particularly applies to knowledge of people who are active as prostitutes in arenas other than street settings and on the Internet, and knowledge of the prevalence of prostitution outside metropolitan areas.

(…)

The empirical surveys that have been carried out have, in some cases, had limited scope, and different working procedures, methods and purposes have been used. In light of these and other factors, there can at times be reason to interpret the results with caution. However, despite these reservations, we still consider that it is possible to draw conclusions based on the material to which we had access, and the results we are presenting based on this data give, in our view, as clear a picture as is currently possible to produce.”

this of course would not shake julie bindel’s belief in unequivocal character of the report and its undeniable conclusions, so she goes on:

“The commission, which took evidence from women currently in prostitution, those who had left the sex trade, police, social workers and other key stakeholders, also found that the law functioned as a barrier against the establishment of traffickers and pimps in Sweden, and had led to a reduction in organised crime.”

it is worth mentioning that in published in 2007 evaluation, authors expressed their concerns about this methodology:

‘The people involved may have had vested interests in promoting certain information based on their mission, ideological grounds, orientation, experience, need for funding, etc’

but julie bindel continues her tirade and states:

“No doubt critics of this law will soon be arguing that the research that formed the basis of this evaluation is flawed and biased. But the commission was careful to include a wide range of views, including Pye Jakobsson, who has worked in the Swedish sex industry for several years and has actively campaigned against the criminalisation of punters, and other pro-prostitution activists.”

this statement is particularly unfortunate because as Laura Agustín points out:

“The report’s claim that sexworkers are not marginalized is bafflingly arrogant, ignoring what many sexworkers say about how the law increases stigma and therefore their marginalization in society. See this video with Pye Jakobsson of Rose Alliance, as an example.”

and in a footnote:

“I asked Pye Jakobsson, president of the Swedish sexworker organisation Rose Alliance, about her contact with the inquiry. She says they were sent a questionnaire last January and put in online, but very few sex workers took an interest in filling it out, because the questions were ‘idiotic’.”

furthermore on pages 129-30 of the report we could find the real gem:

“Those individuals who are being exploited in prostitution say that criminalization has strengthened the social stigma associated with selling sex.  They describe themselves as having chosen to prostitute themselves and don’t see themselves as being involuntarily exposed to anything.  Even if it’s not forbidden to sell sex, they feel hunted by the police.  They feel as if they’ve been declared incapable of managing their own affairs in that their actions are tolerated, but their will and choices are not respected.  Further, they believe it is possible to distinguish between voluntary and forced prostitution…(These) negative effects of the ban that they describe can almost be regarded as positive when viewed from the perspective that the aim of the law is to combat prostitution (SOU 2010:49,129-30).”

(quoted after Bucken-Knapp, G. Evaluating the Swedish Ban on the Purchase of Sexual Services: The Anna Skarhed Report)

the last sentence of this quote is an invaluable display of authors intentions and the purpose of the report and the law itself. but also seem to fit neatly with convictions so often voiced by “j bizzel the gangsta lezzer” in her writings.

there is another interesting point made by the authors of the report; on the page 30 i found this curious remark:

“Our remit has been to evaluate the application of the ban on the purchase of sexual services and the effects that prohibition has had. (…) One starting point of our work has been that the purchase of sexual services is to remain criminalised.”

according to laura augustin “(…) explanation lies probably, and most importantly, in the government’s original directive to Skarhed: the objective was to evaluate whether the law has had any deterrent function, which was the original ambition behind the law, and to recommend how it could be strengthened to meet that ambition. The directive stated that the law is important and that the inquiry could not suggest, or point in any direction other than, that buying of sex should be criminalised.”

however, julie bindel talks about “an independent commission appointed by the government” and i will only add that it is a very interesting view on “independence” of this commission. is such “independence” normal in Sweden?

as for the very scarce claims made on the basis of actual data i will again quote laura augustin:

“(…) on the one hand, they haven’t a clue about how many sexworkers there are in Sweden, and, on the other, that the law has successfully reduced street prostitution by 50%. But she also said the increase of services offered on Internet sites is no different from nearby countries’, from which she concludes fuzzily that this shows that the law has not contributed to any increase in ‘hidden’ prostitution. This is clearly an attempt to head off arguments from the law’s critics. The only actual conclusion is that the decrease of street prostitution in Sweden is a real decrease resulting from the law. Causation by confusion? It is indeed remarkable what conclusions can be drawn based on not having a clue, i.e any figures, a point already noted in another government assessment of prostitution in Sweden in 2007 (Socialstyrelsen-National Board of Health and Welfare).”

in mentioned assessment from 2007, officials noted that:

‘we can discern that street prostitution is slowly returning, after swiftly disappearing in the wake of the law against purchasing sexual services. But as said, that refers to street prostitution, which is the most obvious manifestation. With regard to increases and decreases in other areas of prostitution – the “hidden prostitution” – we are even less able to make any statements.’

in terms of comparisons to other Nordic countries made by the report and their account in julie bindel article i will only say that if she would have waited with her article just one day she would have learned that at least in respect of Denmark the numbers on which the conclusions of the report were based are known to be false:

“The wrong numbers come from Reden in Copenhagen (…).
In the official statistics the number of visitors to Reden has been made equal with the number of sexworkers working on the street. But Reden has misreported how many visitors they have (…)
[which is] documented in a number of answers to Parliament from former Social Minister Karen Ellen [here and here], and this is the background for, why SFI (a national social research institution) has now been asked to start over with a completely new counting.
Reden has claimed that there are more than 1200 sexworkers in the streets of Copenhagen. Estimates from the police and Reden International suggest that the number is only around 200.”

however, could such information really undermine jb’s firm opinion about the report? i don’t think so, julie bindel is not a type of person who could reject her views even if she would be drowning in contradictory information. sometimes i wonder how more delusional can you get?

finally, we are given her musings as to the brighter future:

“This evaluation report will enable those of us in the UK who are campaigning for a blanket ban on the purchase of sexual services and the decriminalisation of those selling sex to refute the claims made by lobbyists for legalisation. It may also lead a few prospective PhD candidates to use their imagination and not follow the current academic line, and to conduct some research that does not begin with the assumption that legalising this vile industry is the answer. I live in hope.”

i would like to make two points in relation to this paragraph. first, that imagination is a good thing for writing fairy tales and not for social research reports and it seems as in her work as researcher jb uses too much of it. secondly, i hope that in the uk the officials and the public might wish turn to more reliable and comprehensive source of information about prostitution than the Swedish report. i would even prefer if they would look for valid information there:

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