Swedish prostitution law achieves mixed results

A 1999 law forbidding the purchase of sexual services in Sweden has led to a reduction in the number of street prostitutes. In Gothenburg however the numbers have begun to rise again and nobody is quite certain of the extent to which prostitution continues behind closed doors.

The 1999 law, which made paying for sex a criminal offence, has radically altered the state of street prostitution in Sweden.

In Malmö, for example, the number of street prostitutes has decreased from almost 200 in 1999 to just 67 last year.

“Only 23 of those were new faces to us. There are usually more,” social worker Lotta Lundberg told news agency TT.

Street prostitution in Gothenburg also underwent a major downsizing in the years immediately after the ban, but social workers in Sweden’s second largest city have noticed a slight increase in numbers in recent times.

In Stockholm a third of all prostitutes are thought to have disappeared from the streets since 1999.

But nobody can say for sure whether fewer people have paid for sex since the change in legislation. It is thought that internet advertising and illegal prostitution in bars and clubs may represent growth industries.

And customers in Malmö can always drive over the bridge to Copenhagen to find an alternative market.