Prostitution should not be confused with people trafficking: professor

Concentrating on people trafficking does not help solve the problems in prostitution and Sweden is not a good example of how to deal with the sex industry, according to a leading Dutch expert in Trouw.

‘Terms like people trafficking push the women into a victim role,’ Hendrik Wagenaar told Trouw. ‘Most prostitutes do not work under duress. And where there is pressure, they know how to avoid it.’

The professor has spent the past decade investigating prostitution policy in a number of countries.

Register

His remarks come at a time when the upper house of parliament is considering legislation which would require all prostitutes to register as sex workers, and clients to check whether the prostitute is registered or not.

In February it emerged MPs from the ruling Labour party and opposition ChristenUnie were visiting Sweden to assess prostitution policy there. It is illegal to visit a sex worker in Sweden.

Wagenaar recently looked at prostitution in the Netherlands and Austria (where it is legal), Sweden (where it is illegal) and New Zealand (where it is legal and sex workers are given influence on policy).

Focus

He concludes that policy works better where it is not constantly under a political magnifying glass.

According to Wagenaar, prostitution fares better where sex workers are able to organise themselves to improve their working conditions.

Sweden is not the example to follow, he says. ‘Even if you criminalise the clients, it does not work. You see that in Sweden, where prostitution and people trafficking have not disappeared,’ he told the paper.

Amsterdam is planning to raise the official prostitution age from 18 to 21 in an effort to protect more vulnerable young women from forced prostitution.

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