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Ask performs public retreat on prostitution

TT/Peter Vinthagen Simpson · 24 Mar 2010, 11:07

Published: 24 Mar 2010 11:07 GMT+01:00

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"I regret that I expressed myself so clumsily," the minister told news agency TT on Wednesday.

Ask made her controversial statements at a parliament seminar on prostitution and trafficking last Thursday, saying that a suspected sex-buyer's family and friends should be informed.

"I could imagine having envelopes in a very garish colour and sending them home to people suspected of this offence," she said.

Ask argued that naming and shaming sex buyers would be an effective deterrent.

"I think the worst thing that can happen to many of them who are out there buying sex is that someone in their circles finds out about it."

But Ask has now conceded that it is important to respect the principle of innocent until proven guilty and that offenders and suspects of all crimes should be treated equally.

"I do not propose that the justice system should send envelopes of a certain colour home to either suspects or the convicted and the government does not plan to introduce any such measure," Ask said.

The minister expressed regret that her comments have buried the important issue of crime prevention and the protection of young people.

"We have to give some thought to how young people can be protected on the internet and in other arenas where they are at risk of being abused," she said.

Ask had received the backing of prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt on Tuesday who dismissed calls from Thomas Bodström, Ask's Social Democrat predecessor, for the minister to publicly retract her comments or resign.

Reinfeldt argued that calls for ministers to resign are made far too "hastily" and drew a parallel with the escape of police killer Tony Olsson from Hall prison which occurred under Bodström's tenure as justice minister.

"Tony Olsson had stepped out from Hall and that is I think more in line with a minister's responsibilities. He (Bodström) has now clearly lowered his threshhold for what he considers worthy of calling for a resignation," Reinfeldt told TT.

Bodström rejected Reinfeldt's comparison.

"Prisoners escape during all mandate periods. It is worse to have a justice minister that can not distinguish between innocent and guilty," he told TT.

Criticism against Ask has not been reserved to opposition representatives as voices across the political spectrum joined a mounting chorus of criticism, calling on the minister to "make a humble public apology or resign".

In a leader article in the right-leaning daily Svenska Dagbladet, journalist Sanna Rayman argued on Tuesday that Ask's comments and handling of the controversy have left the playing field open for Thomas Bodström to take the Moderate minister to task in debates leading up to the election.

"She doesn't come across as a credible centre-right justice minster," Rayman wrote adding that Bodström had not in fact demanded Ask's resignation, but had presented it as an alternative to performing a u-turn.

Johan Pehrson of Alliance coalition partner the Liberal Party (Folkpartiet) underlined that the penalty for a particular offence should be reserved to sentencing and not in the way the sentence is communicated.

"I think that the letter should be sent home in the same type of envelope as any other offence," Pehrson told the Aftonbladet tabloid.

In expressing her view to the seminar which was convened to discuss a book entitled "14 years for sale" (14 år till salu) by Caroline Engvall which relates the story of a schoolgirl's slide into prostitution and substance abuse, Ask referred to the middle ages' practice of public humiliation.

"It is a little like being shamed on the town square," the government minister said.

Speaking to Aftonbladet on Friday, Ask conceded that the garish envelope idea was perhaps not the best idea in practice, but defended the idea in principle.

"In practice maybe we can't have coloured envelopes, but we have to show who they are and let those around them know," she said to the newspaper.

Story continues below…

Ask conceded that she is known for being a bit "wild" amongst her colleagues and that the issue would require discussion.

Fredrik Reinfeldt clarified on Tuesday that discussions had taken place with his justice minister.

"Yes, we are in agreement that we are not going to present such a proposal," he told TT.

But in making her public u-turn on Wednesday, Ask underlined that public attitudes to buying sex and abusing young people are significant.

"We have a responsibility as adults to see that young people who are not doing so well do not end up in prostitution," Beatrice Ask said.

Since 1999 it has been illegal in Sweden to buy sex. The crime carries a penalty of a fine or up to six months imprisonment.

In adopting the law, which was updated in 2005, the government explained that the purpose is to fight prostitution which is considered to pose serious damage to both the individual and for society and was often conducted in connection with other serious criminal offences.

TT/Peter Vinthagen Simpson (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

11:34 March 24, 2010 by RoyceD
If you dont want people to buy sex dont give them money. Pointless trying to make it illegal. Legalize prostitution so that proper support systems could be put in place for all parties involved rather than trying to ignore the oldest profession.
12:26 March 24, 2010 by eZee.se
I can understand Beatrice Ask's views towards prostitution, after all (like I've said before) she has been the music and movies whore for so long - instrumental in getting IPRED into Sweden.

"But Ask has now conceded that it is important to respect the principle of innocent until proven guilty"

Too bad her friends/employers in the music and movie business dont think the same, they want to cut off peoples internet connections on three **ACCUSATION** of copyright infringement and have gotten their way in places like France, Korea, New Zealand and next probably: Britain.

Sweden would have been on the list as well, but with over 3 million citizens filesharing (by the IFPI's own study) they knew the publish backlash for suggesting such a thing would kill any hope of a longer political career... especially after they saw the demonstrations with IPRED and FRA.
13:20 March 24, 2010 by Puffin
Looks like the government is trying to muzzle their favourite attack dog

Ask has reduced the credibility of her position by failing to understand the concept of innocent until proven guilty - perhaps she should go back to University and study Law......
13:55 March 24, 2010 by bocale1
Ask has failed in several points in this case:

ignorance about the concept of innocent until proven guilty,

total ignorance about the importance of people privacy,

confusion between children sex crimes and prostitution (what the following "We have to give some thought to how young people can be protected on the internet and in other arenas where they are at risk of being abused" has to do with prostitution???),

lack of the prudence that should be expected from a minister (that should always think about what is said being a representative of the government institution).

This woman is going to be an embarrassing matter for Reinfeldt to handle in the coming months.
14:45 March 24, 2010 by eZee.se

I think this is because of too much contact with her friends in the entertainment industries who want to ignore the fact/concept of "innocent until proven guilty " but would rather have it as guilty until you prove you are innocent (link: techdirt.com/articles/20100323/0158248666.shtml)

"total ignorance about the importance of people privacy"

Its not really ignorance, but more that their agenda trumps your right to privacy (no need for a link here, just have a look at the FRA and IPRED laws)

and what better way to push that agenda but with a "think of the children" statement?

and to top off the above might as well start grouping it with child abuse/pedos, after all, if you disagree that automatically puts you in the pedos camp... and no one wants to be grouped with those scumbags, so lets all admire the emperors new clothes.
15:40 March 24, 2010 by Graeme.H
You can not stop the sale of sex, full stop.

You can however make it safer for those involved. Provide selected brothels and medical certificates regular health testing, security etc. And the best bit for the government, is the income is taxed!

Then pass a law to make prositution solicited on the street illegal. Not that it will stop it, but given the choice of the russian roulette game played by all involved in solicitation, would be a much better solution to see a safe regulated industry compared with that of a game of chance.

The photo thing is also a deterant, I know it has been tried elsewhere, where speed like cameras were employed and if a car cruised an area a certain number of times a letter was sent to the registered owner informing them that the car had been observed in the following areas known for illegal behavior.

Pretty sure the company cars stopped getting "over used" damn quickly on that on

Just a few thoughts
17:36 March 24, 2010 by procrustes
The only thing "clumsy" about her comment was revealing her true feelings. What she is advocating is tyranny.

Sweden, these people will destroy your society. If you really understood what has happened because of like-minded people in the USA, you would be terrified. They believe they know the best formula for how people should live their lives--freedom and privacy don't enter into their equation because if everyone lives the way they say, there is no need for privacy. Privacy allows people having radically different philosophies to live side by side. As soon as the privacy is broached, civil unrest elevates.

Her philosophy is dangerous. She revealed a medieval mindset that goes hand in hand with intolerance. Her stated policies cast her ideas as the flip side of the ideas of a radical Ayatollah. Political cartoonists should get to work on this.
17:59 March 24, 2010 by eZee.se

you got a point there, after all, what do the Islamic terrorists want?

Just for us to change and think like them, be like them, follow their views and their thinking as well as their philosophies.

I guess it breaks down to the terrorists using guns and violence to get their way, while Ask uses her position and the law.
20:13 March 24, 2010 by GLO
Where do these leaders come from??????? Add one more to the NUT Barrel......
22:02 March 24, 2010 by Kevin Harris
"But Ask has now conceded that it is important to respect the principle of innocent until proven guilty and that offenders and suspects of all crimes should be treated equally."

Beatrice iAsk s unfit to be a justice minister; she doesn't know anything about justice. It's a bit scary really. What's she going to do next? I think the real lawyers in her department should follow her about with a bag. Every time she looks as if she is about to make another gaff, they should quickly pull it over her head. That should keep the silly woman out of trouble.
00:15 March 25, 2010 by Lukestar1991
@Graeme.H why are you so convinced that prostitution could never be stopped? how is it possible for any normal human being to say that so easily? what if someone you knew or cared about was involved, how would you feel then?

It is against human nature to allow it to go on, its based on greed and exploitation, it never has been acceptable health wise and socially, and never should be. Saying it will go on so easily is as bad as condoning it; if you knew the extent of the problem and why it is still within society then i doubt you would say that so easily.

It is wrong, and always will be, FULL STOP.
00:54 March 25, 2010 by stoffer
@Lukestar1991 - yeah, go on. You should also prohibit young and attractive women from marrying old and rich men. If the only love involved is love for money it is a kind of prostitution.

Let the witch-hunt begin! Unleash the feminists, imams, conservatives and neolbitards! (actually all of them have a lot in common).
02:21 March 25, 2010 by DavidtheNorseman
Lukestar1991 is right.

Destroy the pimps.

Hunt down the traffickers in human flesh and slay them all.

Ask shouldn't be apologizing. They should be posting the John's pictures and names on TV.
05:25 March 25, 2010 by RoyceD
Actually while Lukestar1991 has the typical conservative point of view the simple fact of the matter is that you can't police prostitution. Like stoffer points out some people see relationships that involve rich men and attractive women in the same basket as prostitution. Clearly some of these women are only in the relationship for money and access to resources that provides them with status. This is a mutual arrangement as men like attractive women thanks to evolution. Whether it is under the roof of a church to last a lifetime, or in a cheap motel to last the afternoon it boils down essentially to the same basic principle.

Man with resources will get sex from a woman who wants said resources. It has always been part of our societies globally and the "pains" associated with prostitution are mostly to blame with the stigma that conservatives who dont really understand society place on the prostitutes and the johns.

And I can see the argument that the conservatives have. I mean who wouldn't be angry, when you are trying to establish and maintain a lifelong relationship and someone is "undercutting" you, with-holding sexual relations as part of a bargaining piece in an argument is not nearly as powerful if your partner can o down to the shop for a quicky instead.
07:35 March 25, 2010 by procrustes

The above link will illustrate how crazy things are in the USA. The dynamic that brought about America's social insanity was a concerted program begun by the religious right in the 1970s. There is a website operated by professors at Cornell University detailing how it happened. http://www.theocracywatch.org/

The method is to instill fear and loathing and then pass laws ostensibly to ameliorate the "threat" when in fact what happens is more power to the police to control your life. Prostitution can be controlled, and by controlling it its evil side can be defanged, but all of recorded history says it can never be eradicated.

Let's pass a law against gravity and stop all of the horrific airline disasters!

The more restrictive society becomes the more lawless it becomes. Wise leaders understand there is a delicate balance between the degree of permissiveness and social order. We need wise people in government, not reactionary zealots. Ms Ask surely sounds like a reactionary.
08:32 March 25, 2010 by Authentica
This woman would make a lot more sense if she had asked to pass a law that would "name and shame" rapists and pedofiles.
09:01 March 25, 2010 by procrustes
"Naming and Shaming" have no place in 21st century society. It is medieval. The process of arrest, trial and conviction is the way to go. Naming and Shaming damages innocent people and removes all hope for the violator to rehabilitate him/herself.

Labels are forever. Adding hopelessness to an offender's future virtually guarantees recidivism. Societies that act out the fears and loathing of its population become fearful and loathsome societies. Authentica, is this what you want? Look and the USA...we are now a fearful and loathsome society who always has money for war but never money for its poor. Maybe President Obama can change that...if he survives.

Demanding perfection in a legal system is to assure its failure.
09:15 March 25, 2010 by StuartM
Prostitution can't be controlled, it has to be eliminated. In Germany, the Netherlands, Hungary and other countries which have taken a legalise and regulate approach the sex industry has spiralled out of control and there's been a huge rise in trafficking and sex related organised crime. I think naming and shaming people who pay for sex (at least to their family members) is perfectly reasonable provided their guilt has been proven beforehand. We should always put the rights of women not to be exploited and abused in prostitution before the rights of these selfish, scumbag criminals who clearly don't give a damn about anyone but themselves.
09:19 March 25, 2010 by procrustes
One other thing: one of seventy-four adult American men are either in or have been in the criminal justice system. One out of every seventy-four! And it is skewed toward minorities. Youth gangs are a direct result of hopelessness. In America minorities have long suffered hopelessness as a fact of life. Most deal with it and manage to carve out a living space, but the number of those unable to find their place is far too great and imposes an enormous moral, spiritual and monetary cost on American society. Actually, we Americans do not live in a society--we live in a marketplace. Keep it up Sweden and you will become just like us. Hate and loathing is the ticket to get you there.
09:22 March 25, 2010 by StuartM
Or at least it can't be controlled through regulation. The idea that you can reduce the prevalence of something harmful by legalising it doesn't make any sense. We know that a significant percentage of women in prostitution are victims of terrible exploitation and abuse. This is the same in countries where it is legal as in countries where it isn't. Legalising prostitution would likely mean a 10 to 100 fold increase in the number of prostitutes as well as Sweden becoming a much more attractive destination for human traffickers.
14:08 March 25, 2010 by RoyceD

I think your moral point of view is in the right place, however I think you have the wrong idea of what prostitution has been in the past and how it could be today. I come from a city that was known for its prostitutes. It was illegal to sell sex and to buy it, but everyone knew that on one of the busy streets in town the women there were waiting for people to be johns.

Everybody knew, the police, adults and probably a few children. And yea the gangs had control of sertain parts of the streets and the motels in the area. There were higher rates of Sexually transmitted diseases, abuse, drugs, etc. Things were pretty damn awful.

Then in the late 90's maybe early 2000 the city council passed laws which gave rights to prostitutes as legal workers. From there a union was established that finally gave the prostitutes themselves a platform to voice their OWN opinion on. Now there is a couple of treatment centers where they can go for both physical and mental check ups. Get cheap access to condoms and other forms of contraception and most importantly there is a register. This holds alot of important statistical information that we as a knowledgeable society can look at and see the TRUE picture of the sex industry.

Now the prostitution has been brought in off the streets into brothels where there is protection for the women and in my own opinion it is far better to face the realities of things so we can move forward as a society, rather than continue to bury our heads in the sand.
12:43 March 26, 2010 by Taxalien
Why are you all so surprised. Beatrice has no University degree. She has never trained in law. She knows nothing of it. She is the first or at least one of the first Justiceministers in Sweden that have never read law until she became its prime advocat.

Why do you think they put her there?

16:03 April 27, 2010 by Lukestar1991
Anyone who states that this should be 'legal' should be ashamed , everyone should do everything they can to stop this evil expolitation.

17:25 December 24, 2010 by green329
Actually, I completely agree with Beatrice Ask in the requirement of an agreement of the two partners who wants to have sex with each other. Therefore I would like to come up with a proposal on how to handle such case. When two partners become warmed up after a nice dinner or what ever takes place before, they must proceed as following:


1. Cool down, sit in your care, drive to the next police station and hand over a written statement that affirms the contract.

2. Drive back, warm up again, and have what is too ugly to describe.

3. Cool down again, drive to the same police station and confirm your first statement.

4. You are done!

P.S. The second visit of the police station is necessary because you or your partner might disagree in-between and then you are in great danger to get a pink envelope.

BN, Switzerland
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