Countries that have implemented the Nordic model (also known as the Equality Model) have seen reductions in sex trafficking and street prostitution, attitudinal changes, better exit services for women involved and lower numbers of men purchasing sex, amongst other successes.
Take Sweden for example. In a 2008 review of the law, carried out by the Swedish government, street prostitution had halved since the introduction of the law in 1999 and there was no evidence to suggest the situation for those in prostitution had worsened or that prostitution had ‘gone underground’. The Swedish National Crime Police confirmed that the law had acted as a deterrent to sex traffickers and reports of sex buying had decreased from 13.6% in 1996 to 7.9% in 2008.
From a gender equality standpoint, a Swedish survey revealed a marked change in attitudes to purchasing sex, coinciding with the new law. Support for the law (which the Swedish public had opposed originally) had increased to around 70-80% and public attitudes to women in prostitution had improved. Public support was strongest among youth, suggesting that the law conveyed new social values and norms in sexual interactions between men and women.
As a result, countries like Iceland, Norway, France, Ireland and Canada have followed suit and implemented the Equality Model in their own countries. There is a growing realisation globally that prostitution is incompatible with gender equality and human rights. This is due to the inherent harm of a highly gendered sex trade (in almost every case, men buying sexual access to other individuals, primarily females) and the danger of the commodification of sexual consent. There is also a high proportion of migrant, marginalised and disadvantaged communities present in the sex trade, as the system of prostitution itself is held in place by structural inequalities.
The Nordic Model was approved as the best model to address prostitution by the European Parliament in 2014 (The Honeyball Report) and by The Council of Europe in 2014 as well as a number of other bodies – see our 2018 Annual Report for more.