This letter deals with the cruel stigmatization of sex workers and their clients being conducted in this country. I am deeply disturbed by the arrogance that prevails in the Government and among certain politicians. The law must be repealed!
Pro Freedom – Against Trafficking
I have to emphasize that I am pro freedom and against any oppression of the individual. Of course I am against all forms of coercion and human trafficking – it is not a topic I give great attention to in this letter, because it is obvious that such instances must be combated. Sex work cannot logically be parallelized with trafficking because they are simply not the same. Cases of trafficking must be taken seriously, but it will never be so that selling and buying sex is congruent with human trafficking, since many (men and women) do so of their own free will, on their own initiative. To say otherwise is arrogant, but also evil because it categorically rejects the possibility that there are individuals who like to sell sex and really want this. Thus, people claiming that this is not true exalt their own opinion as the only valid option. As long as sex is consensual – purchased or for free – it is always a private matter and should not be morally corrected by the State.
When the Act was passed, a key argument was that it would change people’s attitude to buying sex, i.e. alter the conscience and attitude of the people. “It should not be OK to buy a human being” some said. Let me put it this way: No, it’s not OK to buy a human being. This is not what clients set out do either. A client buys a consensual sexual service from a provider, a service that you cannot logically brand as intrinsically harmful. This is a service that actually fulfills a need for some people. Not everyone is in a relationship (or wants to be in one) or engage in socially accepted role plays to obtain free sex. It is disgraceful that people who wish to make use of a service are criminalized, and after all we are talking about a (health) service that is not in itself damaging.
Another, commonly applied, moralizing argument used by abolitionists is : “You wouldn’t like that your daughter or son was a sex worker, would you?” The answer to this ought to be self-evident: “Of course, I would! If this is something he or she would like – and provided the working conditions were good; then go ahead!” Who has the right to decide what business a person should choose for a living? Society, the parents or the person in question? Again, the answer is evident.
When you try to adjust an attitude through legislative changes, the whole population will be affected. Those that take this attempt to heart, and fall for the moralistic and conscience-ridden arguments used by those who introduced the law will continue spreading biased attitudes in society. An intentional play on people’s conscience may be effective, but in the long run it is very serious. The ones growing up in such a society take on the attitudes influenced by a dangerous stigma. The groups not tinted by the arguments of the Sex Purchase Law become potential offenders because some of them do not see anything wrong in making use of a service for sale. What is dangerous with such an attempt to sway people’s attitude using moralist arguments, you say? Well, it is fundamentally wrong to spread destructive moralist attitudes aimed at a segment of the population. It creates severe discordance in a society which ought to be based on the obvious: freedom of individuals, tolerance and an understanding of the different choices we make. This was more the situation in Norway before January 1 2009, when the law took effect. But not anymore.
Violation of the Norwegian Constitution
When the authorities of the State proclaim that one should not be able to buy a service that is not illegal to sell, does it not violate the Norwegian Constitution, Article 110? Quote: “It is the responsibility of the authorities of the State to create conditions enabling every person capable of work to earn a living by his work.” It is very clear that the authorities do not facilitate sex workers’ earnings; rather the State discriminates against a profession by intercepting its customers – women as well as men. One might well ask how the Sex Purchase Law provides for the legal business of sex work.
Violating Human Rights – Ignoring the UN and WHO
This type of legislation is harassing and violates 12 of the Human Rights, and research carried out in this field shows that sex workers feel more vulnerable and stigmatized than ever: How can we justify holding on to such a puritan, moralizing law?
How long will the Parliament ignore the UN’s (UNAIDS) report which urges countries to decriminalize both the buying and selling of sex? This report clearly points out that stigmatization, threats to sex workers and the spread of HIV is much higher in countries that have criminalized sex work (buying and / or selling), than in countries such as New Zealand, where sex work is decriminalized and legislation has been carried out to protect the sex worker’s general working conditions and rights. Very recently WHO published a report that reinforces the above mentioned: decriminalizing sex work is crucial in fighting the spread of HIV and stigmas, while it also underlines the importance of human rights in this matter.
The weekly newspaper Morgenbladet recently stated that Norway has been demoted to category B in the UN. This is because Norway has failed to safeguard the human rights of vulnerable groups. Exposed minority groups have no independent institution to address when violations occur. It is reprehensible that Norway does not meet the so-called Paris Principles stating that a nation must establish an independent body to promote human rights and monitor the state of the nation – independent of the authorities of the State. Offences and violations take place in this country and there is no independent institution to monitor this. The Sex Purchase Law is a clear violation of an exposed group and this violation affects everyone, whether you acknowledge it or not.
The Sex Purchase Law must be repealed!
Fortunately, there are political parties in Norway strongly opposing the law, but do we really have to wait for a change of Government for the law to be repealed? Is it not possible to admit that the law inflicts severe damage to society and reverse it now before the suffering escalates? Don’t you wish well for the sex workers? Is OK to watch the sex market being pushed underground, enabling hidden human trafficking, rather than exposing it? Don’t you wish to avoid framing the innocent? Must you fabricate criminals?
I notice that Denmark’s Government struck down the proposed Sex Purchase Law because of its dismal consequences, and that their Minister of Justice Morten Bødskov criticized the law against buying sex in the Nordic countries.
By reading through history books, you will see that it is only a matter of time before citizens will refuse succumbing to violations carried out by the State. It’s just a shame that severe humiliation will arise repeatedly in the meantime.
Is it feasible that the future will bring about a greater control of, or even make it a crime for politicians to come up with legislation that so obviously pushes hidden agendas (e.g. not liking sex work), using moralizing and religious motifs? Something is seriously wrong when a whole nation must abide by the laws that are strongly influenced by religious beliefs and moralizing arguments that aim to regulate people’s private lives. Is it not an intrinsic weakness of democracy when a fraction of the Government and a slight majority of the Parliament may adopt a law which greatly affects the population and creates misery? This law criminalizes innocent individuals who, from the outset, haven’t done anything wrong, or have a desire to hurt anyone.
Moreover, it is ethically unacceptable that the State collects revenues because innocent people, who are not involved in human trafficking, are fined for their desire to buy sex.
I wish for Norway to become a country to be proud of again; a country characterized by respect and tolerance for one’s differences, sexual orientation, background and choice of livelihood. The suffocating wave of moralism that has washed over the nation creates nothing but misery and conflict. You could have provided sex workers with safer working conditions – and accepted that not all men or women want a relationship or engage in one night stands to have sex. A regulated sex market (like in New Zealand) would have provided greater security for workers and clients – and hopefully it would, in time, erase the stigma that haunts the innocent.
As long as sex work is legitimate business, it must be treated as one.