The Swedish government wants to fully criminalise the purchase of sex, mandating that buyers be slapped with prison sentences rather than simple fines.
“This is about extremely serious crimes”, Gender Equality Minister Åsa Lindhagen of the Greens told the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet. “This is about women who are sometimes subjected to abuse and rape several times a day, and we think that the punishment should reflect more the seriousness of these crimes,” she added.
Currently fines are a way out for offenders who get taken into custody and confess to having paid for sex.
“It has become a sort of a buyout, with many negative aspects to it. You pay to buy a woman's body and then add a little extra for a criminal offence and then you are free to go,” Åsa Lindhagen said.
In the case of imprisonment, the information in the load register is stored longer and becomes available to more authorities than in the case of a fine, leading to more serious repercussions.
In an opinion piece co-signed with Justice Minister Morgan Johansson of the ruling Social Democrats, Åsa Lindhagen equated the purchase of sex with the “slave trade”, suggesting it must disappear. The two ministers emphasised that Sweden had blazed the trail for all the world to see 20 years ago when it pioneered a ban on the purchase of sex services. Citing the 2018 “consent law”, which introduced the concept of negligent rape, and the recent years' legal measures against human trafficking, the ministers called for the next step, which is to punish sex buyers with jail sentences.
Citing a recent survey, in which 9 percent of Swedish men say they bought sex and 80 percent of these did it abroad, the ministers suggested punishing the procurement of sex services abroad as well.
In another opinion piece also published by the daily Aftonbladet, Police Inspector Jana De Geer at the Human Trafficking Section of Police Region Stockholm ventured that consent cannot be bought, equating sex buyers with rapists. Consequently, she suggested adjusting the laws on rape to include the procurement of sex services.
“Imagine that Sweden, which paved the way with the Sex Purchase Act, could now break new ground again. Imagine our country no longer talking about sex buyers but rapists. Not about prostitutes but about victims of rape. It would have been something to be proud of!” De Geer wrote.
Today, the penalty for buying sex is a fine or a year's imprisonment. Remarkably, in the fall of 2019, all parliamentary parties, except for the Left party, voted against removing the fines from the scale of punishment.
Today, four of them, the Social Democrats, the Greens, the Christian Democrats and the Sweden Democrats say the want to increase the punishment.
“You shouldn't be able to buy yourself free after buying another person's body, it should lead to prison and we want to see a more severe punishment,” Left MP Linda Westerlund Snecker, who previously caused a stir by calling all men rapists, told Swedish Radio.
Sweden's current laws on prostitution make it illegal to buy sex, but not to sell it. The criminalisation of the purchase, but not the selling of sex was a unique concept when first enacted in 1999. Since then the Nordic model has been adopted by several other nations, including Canada and Ireland.