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Why Nordic Model policy pushed in the U.K. won’t tackle sex trafficking

  • Published on
    April 16, 2021
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  • Category:
    Law & Policy, Prevention
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This week, Labour Member of Parliament (MP) Diana Johnson sought support from her party for amendments to the U.K.’s controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that would criminalize sex workers’ clients, otherwise known as the Nordic Model.

Some proponents of the Nordic Model, including Diana Johnson who tabled a bill in December calling for the criminalization of sex workers’ clients and third parties, take the position that sex work is inherently violent towards women and girls and equate sex work to trafficking.

However, there is little evidence to suggest that criminalizing sex workers’ clients does anything to tackle sex trafficking and in fact leaves sex workers at greater risk of violence and exploitation. Why? Lydia Caradonna explained to Novara Media:

What it does is it criminalizes clients so you need to protect clients from the police in order to still be able to see them and it’s not just like you can stop seeing clients because of poverty – which is why people are in the sex industry in the first place. So, in order to see clients you have to see them in more and more isolated places like woodlands, you have to avoid taking legal names which sex workers currently use to screen clients […] and any reduction in demand shifts the power back into the hands of the clients because sex workers still need to see clients to be able to eat and pay rent.

The onset of COVID-19 has further marginalized sex workers, with parallels being drawn between the policing of lockdown rules and what a work environment would look like for sex workers under the Nordic Model.

Writing for Novara Media this week, Vee H said:

During the pandemic, it has been the peer-led advocacy and mutual aid groups that have stepped in to offer material support to keep women off the streets and less dependent on sex work. This has been necessary due to a lack of governmental assistance, including from MPs who wish to criminalise the industry.

Freedom United was the only anti-trafficking organization to sign an open letter by Decrim Now, a U.K.-based coalition organizing for sex workers’ rights, calling on MPs to reject Nordic Model policies and instead calling for the decriminalization of sex work.

We are concerned with the degree of exploitation in the industry and urge for policies around sex work that are evidence-based, build resilience to trafficking and exploitation, and are sex worker informed.

Learn more about the links between sex trafficking and sex workers’ rights here.


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avra cohen
3 years ago

The Nordic model, now better known as the Equality model, DOES decriminalize prostitution for prostituted people. Integral to the model is support for survivors of sexual exploitation that includes help with legal, medical and mental health issuess. It advocates on their behalf and embraces a harm reduction strategy that includes government support for job training and the acquisition of new skills that offer a way out of sexual subjugation.
It condemns only the purchasers of sex and pimps.

Hamdi Aydın
Hamdi Aydın
3 years ago

As long as capitalist system continues every kind of explotation shall exist in the World. System must change then the nature of humah beings can be changed through education.

Mark Taha
Mark Taha
3 years ago

Legalise prostitution. Simple!

3 years ago

Sex ‘work’ is simply too dangerous to be allowed to continue. As long as the purchasing of sex continues there will be trafficking of women and children. The Nordic Model offers a way out of the trade and should be backed on account of all victims of this unethical ‘industry’.

3 years ago

If it increases danger to the sex worker I suppose it shouldn’t be adopted. But be clear, that people who pay for sex are rapists, because the prostitute is forced to have sex, either by threat, or by circumstance, or by mental health issues. Healthy individuals do not choose this dangerous, unpleasant, and unhealthy form of living. This careless use of other humans for the gratification of the client should be seen for what it is – rape. The financial transaction does not absolve the crime!

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