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GOTHENBURG PIMPING TRIAL

PROSTITUTION

‘I wasn’t allowed to cry on the street’: prostitute

A 24-year-old woman from Romania gave evidence on Tuesday as the case against the Gothenburg prostitution ring unfolded, explaining the horrors that she faced under the iron grip of her pimps.

'I wasn't allowed to cry on the street': prostitute

“I was down, but was forced to pretend that I was happy and glad. I wasn’t allowed to cry on the streets,” she said.

The woman has faced brutal treatment like being raped in front of her daughter, sold to different men, and constantly living “in debt” to her pimps, according to Göteborgs Posten newspaper (GP).

She gave her testimonial via a live video stream, fearing her life would be in danger from the six men in the prostitution ring, apprehended by police in February. The woman is currently under police protection in Sweden.

On top of this, the woman never received her share of the earnings and was forced to stay out until she had earned her quota for the night.

The woman was asked what made her go into prostitution in the first place, in Holland.

“Poverty,” the woman answered, according to GP.

After several months in Holland, the woman was sold to a man for 1,500 Euros, but managed to escape and with the help of police, and ended up in Romania, pregnant.

There, she gave birth to a daughter, and in the fight to provide for her, took up prostitution in Bucharest again, often serving several men a night.

She was later sold to a man thought to be the head of the Gothenburg prostitution ring. After the man paid for her having an abortion, she was told that she was in his debt, a curse that has been over her since her arrival in Sweden.

“They said that if I want to have my freedom back then I must pay for it with the sum that I was bought for,” the woman told the court, according to the paper.

However, as the woman never received her cut of the income, she was never able to make back the “debt”.

The woman is said to have lived in an apartment with two other women, who taught her how to buy condoms, where to take customers, and how much to charge the buyers.

Although having sold sex before, the woman had never worked on the streets prior to coming to Sweden, and she told the court that shefell into a depression.

There was no lack of buyers either, and it is reported that on her first night on the streets of Gothenburg, the woman had seven to eight customers.

Even though she was still bleeding from the abortion two days earlier, she was forced by her pimp to work the streets. She was forced to use paper napkins to control the bleeding.

“If I earned between 3,000 to 4,000 kronor ($444 to $592) I was allowed to go home with 1,000. Otherwise I had to stay until 5am,” she told the court.

The prosecutor, Thomas Eliasson, told GP that he thought his witness was doing well under the tough conditions.

“I think it’s gone well so far. There is no new information she’s giving, and she is sticking to her story,” he said.

The case is continuing throughout the week, and more of the women from the prostitution ring will give evidence.

The six charged men have allegedly sent over a million kronor ($152,600) to their relatives in Romania, money which was generated through the eleven women’s sex sales on the streets of Gothenburg over the course of one year.

The ring was busted by police in February, and is considered to be the largest of its kind in Sweden.

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SWEDISH HISTORY

Why is Gothenburg known as Sweden’s ‘Little London’?

With ties to Britain dating back more than 200 years, the city of Gothenburg has long been known as Sweden’s Little London.

Why is Gothenburg known as Sweden’s 'Little London'?

Grey skies, rainy days, a wide-mouthed river, and a love for English pubs. At first glance, it’s no wonder that Gothenburg has long held the nickname of Sweden’s own “Little London”, or Lilla London

But what are the origins of this British title?

“The nickname ‘Little London’ was first used in a newspaper in 1766,” explains Håkan Strömberg, educational officer at the Museum of Gothenburg.

“The Brits were the largest immigration group during the 1700s and early 1800s, mainly because Sweden was a country close by, it was economically underdeveloped compared to England and Scotland and had a lot of raw materials. To put it simply, could make some money here.”

The city’s reputation as a British enclave dates back to the 1700s when trade brought many foreign influences to the Västra Götaland region.

As merchants and shipbuilders like Charles Chapman, David Carnegie, and James Dickson moved to the area, local residents began to notice a growing list of similarities between the Swedish port city and the British capital.

Indeed, even one of Sweden’s most renowned scientists, Carl Von Linné, is said to have commented on the similarities between the two cities when he visited Gothenburg in the 1700s.

 “Being a group of upper-class immigrants, the British merchants made sure they had access to all the good things from their home country. But the feeling of Gothenburg as a Little London was most likely something the Swedish citizens had, rather than the Brits,” adds Strömberg. 

The historical roots that connect the UK and Gothenburg are still evident today, with many spots in the city still alluding to British names, like Chalmers University – founded by the son of a wealthy Scottish industrialist, or Chapmans Torgnamed after a family of sailors and shipbuilders once well-established in the area. 

Catriona Chaplin, a British expat turned Gothenburger, only began to see the similarities and know of the nickname after relocating to the region for work. Growing up in Leicestershire, central England, she’d never heard of London’s Swedish sibling city.

“We came to Gothenburg 17 years ago. We’d never heard about [the nickname] until we moved here, but there is a bar on Avenyn called Lilla London, so that’s when we started to know about it,” she says.

Today, as the membership secretary of the British Club of Gothenburg, she brings a taste of the British Isles to life in Gothenburg.

The Club, which organises social events like concerts, quiz nights, and theatre performances, has a membership base of nearly 200 families. And although less than 0.5 percent of Gothenburg’s population today was born in the UK, the club welcomes members from a range of nationalities.

In fact, the only membership requirement is having some kind of interest in the UK, be it from a cultural standpoint, a past tourist experience, or a love of the language. 

“People come to the British Club just to socialise in their native language. It’s also about the culture, like the banter, the jokes and playing on words,” she says. 

Although the city’s British roots run deep, questions remain about modern-day Gothenburg’s status as “Little London”.

To some, the west-coast maritime hub’s industrial legacy, strong working-class culture, and amiable nature are reminiscent of a different English city. “They ought to call it ‘Little Liverpool’!” says Chaplin, with a smile. 

Lasting Landmarks

Evidence of Gothenburg’s British connections can be found in many of its landmarks, shops, and of course, pubs. Some of the historical hotspots still apparent today include:

Haga – The British ‘hood 

The area of Haga, just outside the old city, was once considered a slum, but changed character thanks to British philanthropist Robert Dickson (1782-1858), who built public baths, a library, and other landmarks with the typical red bricks found in Britain at the time.

St Andrew’s Church 

A key part of the British community is the Anglican church of Saint Andrew’s, also in Haga. Dedicated to the patron saint of Scotland, it was built and to date funded by ‘The British Factory’, a British society founded in the 1700s to help expats in Gothenburg that remains active even today.

The Victorian gothic style of the church is in line with the architectural trend in Britain at the time. 

John Scott – a legend among Gothenburgers

One of Gothenburg’s most well-loved establishments is John Scott’s, a local pub chain named after Pastor John Henry Scott, an Englishman and prominent landowner in 18th century Gothenburg. 

The “English quarter”

The square of buildings delineated by Teatergatan, Storgatan, Kungsportsavenyn and Vasagatan was once known as the city’s English Quarter. The buildings in this neighbourhood are influenced by British design, and the original landowners were in fact English pastor John Henry Scott and his wife, Jacobina.

By Alexander Maxia, Lisa Ostrowski and Sanna Sailer

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