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New Sexual Revolution in Norway: Oslo May Decriminalize Brothels, Again

© AFP 2023 / VALERY HACHEA prostitute waits for clients in a street
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Norway may soon see a drastic rehash of its sex laws, as young politicians from the so-called 'Blue Bloc' have been pressurizing parliament to remove the ban on buying sex and legitimize brothels. Having secured the support of senior party members, the youth organizations have voiced their commitment to protecting sex workers from abuse.

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The laws that criminalize 'sex acquisition' have to go, preferably before election next year, youth members of the Conservatives, the Progress Party and the Liberals stated in an opinion piece advocating brothels earlier this week. Now, the youth have garnered support from their respective parties' senior members and members of parliament.

"The Norwegian law puts sex workers in danger. It is time that the liberal parties use the parliament majority they enjoy to abolish laws criminalizing the buying of sex," Bjørn Kristian Svendsrud, leader of the Progress Party Youth, told the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten. "The current debate is characterized by ethics and morality. It's okay to dislike prostitution — I don't like it either, as a matter of fact — but we must look at the real political consequences of the current law," Svendsrud said.

Tina Bru, MP and leader of the Women Conservatives, voiced her support for the cause, calling for the abolition of the ban on buying sex.

"I am against the law and do believe that it does not function as intended. The law does not make the sex workers safer, on the contrary," Bru told Aftenposten. "Sex workers have become much more vulnerable than they were before, while the environment has become much tougher," she said.

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The Head of the Parliament's Health Committee Kari Kjos of the Progress Party joined the ranks of the protesters.

"I always thought the political majority was in favor of removing the sex trade law, and do not know why it has stalled," Kjos said, stating the law has made the life of sex workers much harder.

The fact that prostitution in Norway has gone down 20-25 percent since the law was adopted is of no consolation for the opponents of the harsh sex laws. Earlier, reports indicated that the sex trade ban contributed to a shrinking demand for sex with a prostitute. Field observations showed that street prostitution in Oslo alone had fallen by 45-60 percent, Aftenposten earlier reported.

Earlier this year, Norway came under fire from human rights watchdog Amnesty International for endangering sex workers and failing to protect the human rights of people who sell sex. According to Amnesty International, Norwegian police in reality also persecute all persons who sell sex, despite the fact that it is only illegal to buy sex.

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Sweden, Norway and Iceland have all outlawed the purchase of sex, but offering sexual services is not a crime; these efforts to penalize the client but not the prostitute reflect efforts to support the victims of sex trafficking. Brothel-keeping and pimping remain forbidden. Sweden pioneered this approach in 1999, which became known as the Nordic model and was mimicked by Norway in 2009. However, its effectiveness has since been questioned by many authorities. The Swedish government was forced to admit that it failed to keep track of the number of people involved in prostitution due to a large number of unreported cases.

Prostitution was criminalized in Norway with the introduction of the new Criminal Code in 1842, but was made legal again when the Penal Code revised in 1902. In 2013, it was estimated there were 3,000 prostitutes working in Norway (population 5 million). Revenues from sex trade were estimated at 390 million NOK (63 million USD), The Nordic Gender Institute reported.

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