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Young People, Vulnerabilities and Prostitution/Sex for Compensation in the Nordic Countries

A Study of Knowledge, Social Initiatives and Legal Measures

image of Young People, Vulnerabilities and Prostitution/Sex for Compensation in the Nordic Countries

What do we know about the extent of young people’s experiences of sex for compensation in the Nordic countries? Are such experiences addressed by social initiatives and how do legal measures affect them? This report is based on country studies focusing on knowledge about sex for compensation among young people in the Nordic countries. The five country studies show how research on the extent of, and the motivations and conditions for, young people selling sex in the Nordic countries is rather scarce and that there are few social initiatives that target young people specifically. The interviews with service providers and the literature reviewed point to individual vulnerabilities related to young people’s experiences of compensational sex. In order to develop preventive measures more knowledge on structural factors related to experiences of compensational sex is needed.

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Sweden: Young people selling sex: knowledge base, social initiatives and legal measures

For several decades, Sweden has played a central role in the international policy debate on how to best target prostitution and human trafficking for sexual purposes. (Holmström and Skilbrei 2017). As the first country in the world, Sweden criminalized the purchase of sexual services in 1999. The aim of the prohibition was to combat prostitution; in the short-term, by actively policing it and in the long run by changing attitudes towards the purchase of sexual services. The aim was also to reduce human trafficking for sexual purposes (ibid:83). Since then, several countries have followed the Swedish example, implementing different kinds of legislation targeting the purchase of sexual services.31 In Sweden, the introduction of the Chapter 6 Section 11 of Sweden’s Penal Code (colloquially known as the Sex Purchase Law) was preceded by a long and lively political debate. Gender and power were key topics in the debates leading up to the legislation, but earlier debates had also emphasised how prostitution could be understood in relation to social problems, social inequality and a commercialization of human relations (ibid). Thus, the criminalization of the purchase of sexual services is based on an understanding of prostitution as inherently harmful, considering both vulnerable persons who are involved in prostitution, and because prostitution is assumed to exacerbate and create vulnerabilities (Brunovskis and Skilbrei 2018).

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