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Opinion piece from Ministry for Foreign Affairs

We’re taking up the fight against prostitution


Opinion piece in Svenska Dagbladet by foreign ministers Jean-Yves Le Drian and Margot Wallström. Published on 8 March 2019.

On International Women’s Day, Sweden and France are initiating a diplomatic offensive against trafficking in human beings for sexual exploitation. We have agreed to develop a strategy to combat trafficking in human beings and prostitution in Europe and globally.

Sweden conducts a feminist foreign policy; France has feminist diplomacy. Together, we want to be at the vanguard of the fight against trafficking in human beings. We hope that more countries will join this important work for human rights.

The link between prostitution and trafficking in human beings is well documented and researched. One figure is enough to illustrate the situation: in the major brothels in Western and Central Europe, an estimated 95 per cent of the women come from other regions and continents – often Eastern Europe and Africa.

Testimony from brothels in Western European countries where prostitution is legal is shocking. Statistics show that the risk of developing post-traumatic stress is higher in prostitution than in war.

There are forces arguing for the legalisation of prostitution. But regardless of whether it is legal or not, prostitution always means that vulnerable people are forced to live under inhumane conditions. That’s why France and Sweden have a clear position of rejecting any notion of prostitution as a form of work. We do not accept, and will fight the use of, the term ‘sex work’.

France and Sweden have, together with many other countries, adopted laws that make the purchase of sex, but not the sale, illegal. This legislation has been effective in reducing the demand for prostitution and makes it easier to help victims leave prostitution. In Sweden, where the legislation has been in force for 20 years, there are comparatively few prostitutes, and the prevalence of trafficking in human beings is relatively low.

The diplomatic offensive that we are initiating today will strengthen the fight against trafficking in human beings for sexual exploitation. We will encourage more countries to adopt prostitution legislation like that in France and Sweden.

This will be supported by sharing knowledge about trafficking in human beings and prostitution, stimulating debate and discussion of the role of men and gender equality, supporting women’s shelters and in other ways helping victims of trafficking in human beings to a better existence, as well as by promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights in all ways, including financially.

Our fight against trafficking in human beings will be conducted together with others. We will collaborate with civil society organisations, women’s shelters and other actors to make policy as effective as possible.

No one dreams of becoming a prostitute. Victims of trafficking in human beings live under conditions that are truly horrible – in Europe in the 21st century! We cannot allow this to continue.

Jean-Yves Le Drian

France’s Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs

Margot Wallström

Sweden’s Minister for Foreign Affairs