Cases of adult men buying sex from young girls are not uncommon, the Swedish police warn, as widespread child prostitution has been uncovered on so-called sugar dating sites.
A week-long campaign alone has resulted in ten preliminary investigations into sexual offences against minors being initiated, the police reported.
“We started with the children, the victims. We were able to find ads on various sites they themselves posted”, Emil Eisersjö, the head of the intelligence section at the Police National Operational Department (NOA) explained to Swedish Radio.
In mid-June, police carried out a number of targeted efforts against child sexual abuse, as part of a larger European initiative within the framework of Europol cooperation. Six of Sweden's seven police regions participated in the work, which occurred in close cooperation with the municipal social services and was coordinated by NOA. A total of 44 police officers worked on the initiative. At present, ten new investigations on sexual offences against children, involving rape and child pornography, are underway.
The crime victims were found and identified through advertisements on so-called sugar dating sites, where people exchange change gifts and money for socialising and sex in a mutually beneficial way.
Eisersjö described these sites as a “marketplace for prostitution”.
“Even when it's not, the page is structured in this way. When you log in, it is clear that it shouldn't have occurred. Many of these young people and children shouldn't have started profiles on websites such as prostitution.se”, Eisersjö explained.
According to him, the phenomenon of sugar dating often harbours much darker secrets.
“They were not even 18 years old. Some were as young as 13. There, we also found that they had been victims of rape and other crimes for a long time”, Emil Eisersjö explained.
According to Emil Eisersjö, the majority of the victims are young girls who have previously suffered abuse, often within the family.
“We see no social-economic factors, but most often when we scrape the surface, we see some form of abuse. So it is children who feel very bad. The have ended up in the form of self-harm behaviour”, Eiersjö explained.
Eiersjö described the demand for underage prostitution as “very large” in Sweden. Swedish minors are also considered to be potential trafficking victims.
Since 1999, it has been illegal to buy sex and operate a brothel in Sweden. Selling sex, by contrast, isn't criminalised, as prostitution is seen as a heavily-gendered issue, where the woman is most often the victim. In subsequent years, the “Swedish model” has gained ground across the globe, having been adopted in Norway, Iceland, Canada, and Ireland.