Swedish government wants to criminalize paying for sex abroad

Twenty years ago, Sweden became the first country in the world to criminalize paying for sex, and now it wants to pave the way in making it illegal to pay for sex abroad, with a law proposal the government presented on Thursday.

Swedish government wants to criminalize paying for sex abroad
Justice Minister Morgan Johansson, who signed the proposal. Photo: Emil Langvad / TT

The proposed law would see Swedish residents punished for buying sexual services abroad, even if this was done in countries where the practice is legal.

“Buying sexual services is unacceptable, regardless of whether it's done in Sweden or abroad,” the proposal, by Justice Minister Morgan Johansson, says. It notes that studies have shown that most Swedish citizens and residents who purchase sex do so in another country.

This is already illegal under Swedish law, however Swedish courts are not able to issue punishments on paying for sex in countries where it is legal, and that's what the government wants to change.

In order for Swedish citizens to be sentenced in Sweden for crimes committed abroad, it is usually essential that the offence is illegal in both countries (dual criminality). However, there are exceptions to this, such as for crimes including forced marriage, human trafficking, and sex crimes against children.

The proposal also calls for the toughening of penalties for those who exploit children through purchasing sexual acts, so that the minimum penalty be changed from a fine to a prison sentence.

Numerous women's and human's rights organizations have supported the proposal.

“We are immensely gladdened to see that Sweden may now be about to insist that its men have no more right to pay to abuse women on foreign soil than on their own,” said Rachel Moran, founder of SPACE International, an international organization that supports survivors of prostitution, in a statement. 

The government suggested that the law come into force on July 1st, 2018, but in order for that to happen it needs approval from at least some of the other parties in Sweden’s parliament. 



Swedish Green leader: ‘Easter riots nothing to do with religion or ethnicity’

The riots that rocked Swedish cities over the Easter holidays were nothing to do with religion or ethnicity, but instead come down to class, the joint leader of Sweden's Green Party has told The Local in an interview.

Swedish Green leader: 'Easter riots nothing to do with religion or ethnicity'

Ahead of a visit to the school in Rosengård that was damaged in the rioting, Märta Stenevi said that neither the Danish extremist Rasmus Paludan, who provoked the riots by burning copies of the Koran, nor those who rioted, injuring 104 policemen, were ultimately motivated by religion. 

“His demonstration had nothing to do with religion or with Islam. It has everything to do with being a right extremist and trying to to raise a lot of conflict between groups in Sweden,” she said of Paludan’s protests. 

“On the other side, the police have now stated that there were a lot of connections to organised crime and gangs, who see this as an opportunity to raise hell within their communities.”

Riots broke out in the Swedish cities of Malmö, Stockholm, Norrköping, Linköping and Landskrona over the Easter holidays as a result of Paludan’s tour of the cities, which saw him burn multiple copies of the Koran, the holy book of Islam. 


More than 100 police officers were injured in the riots, sparking debates about hate-crime legislation and about law and order. 

According to Stenevi, the real cause of the disorder is the way inequality has increased in Sweden in recent decades. 

“If you have big chasms between the rich people and poor people in a country, you will also have a social upheaval and social disturbance. This is well-documented all across the world,” she says. 
“What we have done for the past three decades in Sweden is to create a wider and wider gap between those who have a lot and those who have nothing.” 

The worst way of reacting to the riots, she argues, is that of Sweden’s right-wing parties. 
“You cannot do it by punishment, by adding to the sense of outsider status, you have to start working on actually including people, and that happens through old-fashioned things such as education, and a proper minimum income, to lift people out of their poverty, not to keep them there.”

This, she says, is “ridiculous”, when the long-term solution lies in doing what Sweden did to end extreme inequality at the start of the 20th century, when it created the socialist folkhem, or “people’s home”. 

“It’s easy to forget that 100 to 150 years ago, Sweden was a developing country, with a huge class of poor people with no education whatsoever. And we did this huge lift of a whole nation. And we can do this again,” she says. “But it needs resources, it needs political will.”