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'Having sex with scantily-clad women in make-up is not a crime'

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'Having sex with scantily-clad women in make-up is not a crime'
12:58 CET+01:00
The conviction of Magnus Hedman on charges of buying sexual services elevates absurd prejudices with racist overtones to legal precedent and shows that laws criminialising the purchase of sex need to be reformed, argues liberal commentator and author Jan Söderqvist.

The court of appeal has now announced its ruling in the highly publicized pimping and sex buying case in which football goalkeeper Magnus Hedman is one of the defendants.

The court of appeal reversed the district court's acquittal of Hedman and he has now been convicted for the purchase of sexual services, despite his denials. The court's reasoning in this case is fundamentally interesting and not a little alarming.

Here is a brief summary of what happened that night in February last year: Magnus Hedman partied with a friend, eventually becoming extremely intoxicated. Several other people joined the party, including some Romanian women. Hedman's friend took a couple of the Romanians home with him for an after party; Hedman came by himself in a taxi a short time later. Hedman capped off the after party by having sex with one of these women.

And so the question is whether a crime has been committed, as prosecutor Karin Sigstedt puts it. Did Hedman buy sex or let someone else pay? He denies that he paid anything to any of the women or to anyone else in the group; nor has anyone claimed that he did so. The intercourse in question was therefore free of charge.

But should Hedman, despite his high degree of intoxication, have nevertheless understood that some form of monetary transaction took place, or that there was a risk of such a transaction?

And is this proof beyond reasonable doubt?

The district court found that the prosecutor failed to show any evidence to support claims that Hedman knowingly had sexual intercourse with a woman he knew had been paid, or who had obviously been paid by a partying buddy. Its ruling, therefore, was an acquittal.

But the appeals court is of a different opinion.

Indeed the investigation did not show, and with this the court agreed, that Hedman had paid any of the plaintiffs. And indeed the prosecutor was unable to demonstrate that Hedman must have realized early in the evening that prostitution was taking place. That someone in the group said "the girls will be here soon" was simply not enough.

But - and this is what led the court of appeal to a different conclusion and a conviction - Hedman has himself admitted that there was some "running" between the different hotel rooms during the party. Hedman later enjoyed a jacuzzi and drank champagne with the girls during the after party at his friend's apartment. And the girls were wearing thick make-up and provocatively dressed. In addition, they spoke English with a thick accent.

Therefore "it must have been clear to Magnus Hedman or at least have seemed possible that they were paid escort girls", the appeals court wrote in its judgment.

The "must" in the above sentence leaves me very troubled. Dressed-up women with lots of make-up who speak with accents "must" be seen as whores by law-abiding citizens, sober or not.

This is now settled law according the court of appeal.

Consequently, it is not just that we now live in a country where the state assumes the right to interfere in, and have opinions about, our reasons for having sex with each other. It is not only so that our parliament passes and then threatens to tighten a law that is completely rejected by the group that the law in question is intended to protect, namely: sex workers.

No, now it turns out that the application of this paternalistic moral law elevates absurd prejudices with slightly racist overtones to legal precedent.

According to this view, a city like Stockholm, at least when it's a little warmer, is simply crawling with whores – made-up and scantily clad women who speak with an accent. And at most parties in hotels that I've been to, there has been a certain amount of "running" between the rooms. And the relationship between champagne and prostitution could also be questioned, one might think. Perhaps the court's argument is not quite watertight.

We may assume that the poor lawyers are doing the best they can with the laws our MPs have made. And we can probably also assume that they are about as biased as everybody else. Maybe one shouldn't be so surprised then that this sort of legislation leads to it being applied in these ways.

It will be interesting to see if the case ends up in the Supreme Court and what will happen if it does. Is it really possible that in a constitutional state someone can be convicted for having sex with a scantily clad woman who speaks with an accent?

Is it really true that she must be a whore? And if so, is it totally impossible to imagine that she engages in a little free sex when her workday is over?

But the fundamental question here is of course this: What do we, or the government, or anyone else, really have to do with any of this? By what right does someone else determine what other consenting adults exercising their free will do with their bodies? And do we really accept that the legal system allocates huge amounts of its scarce resources in this irresponsible way?

And what was is the consequence? Magnus Hedman is sentenced to 2,500 kronor ($360) in fines.

These follies will continue until the day that Sweden's laws outlawing the purchase of sexual services undergo a necessary, liberal reform. And there don't appear to be any signs suggesting that such a day is coming anytime soon.

The centre-right Alliance parties have all changed their tune to sing along with this moralistic song. For all intents and purposes, the issue is politically dead.

And Sweden appears increasingly, from a legal perspective, like a developing country.

Jan Söderqvist, is an author, columnist, and liberal-leaning social commentator. He has written three books with his co-writer Alexander Bard, incluing "The Netocrats" (2000), "The Global Empire" (2003) and "The Body-Machines" (2009).

This article was first published in Swedish on January 12th, 2010 on the Newsmill.se opinion website. Translation to English by The Local.

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