5 arguments against the “Nordic Model” on prostitution, based on a feminist approach

  1. The criminalisation of buyers of sexual services, which is an essential component of the “nordic model”, backed by one wing of the European feminism, identifies as a priority the punishment of clients, whilst public policies should focus on the empowerment of women and all sex workers including LGBTQI, not as victims but as rights holders, including the right to sexual self-determination. Furthermore, the criminalisation of buyers exacerbates the widespread stigmatising and repressive approach to prostitution which inevitably affects not only clients but also persons prostituting themselves.
  2. In order to respect the rights and improve the situation of women and persons prostituting themselves, it is necessary to decriminalise all acts qualified by the law and jurisprudence as favouring prostitution, which in fact are very often cooperative behaviours of sex workers reciprocally supporting themselves. It is also necessary to adopt appropriate measures to accompany women and all persons prostituting themselves, to access healthcare and social services, or to receive training and help to find a gainful job for those deciding to undertake other activities.
  3. As a matter of fact, many women are not free when they decide to sell sexual services. For instance, the vast majority of migrant women are subjected to abuse of their social and economic vulnerabilities, and often to various forms of extortion, threats and violence. It is necessary to take measures aimed at making them more powerful, and able to undertake social inclusion pathways. On the contrary, the criminalisation of buyers inevitably implies that the whole prostitution universe falls into a situation of illegality. As a consequence, women are more subject to violations of their rights, and empowerment processes become more difficult.
  4. Criminalising clients has the negative consequence of orienting law enforcement activities towards the easiest target, while very probably they will neglect more sophisticated and demanding investigative activities aimed at identifying criminal networks organising women’s trafficking and exploitation.
  5. The underlying idea of the “nordic model” is that prostitution per se is a form of male violence against women. However, by ideologising violence and representing it as a pervasive reality, women are reduced ontologically to the condition of victims. Simultaneously, by inflating the notion of violence, the “nordic model” runs the risk of banalising sexual violence, violence in intimate relationships, trafficking in women and every kind of gender-based violence.