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Rip up prostitution law, says top Oslo politician

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Photo: Heiko Junge/Scanpix (File)
11:28 CEST+02:00
Norway should rip up a law that criminalizes sex buyers, Oslo’s social affairs chief believes, as a new report shows a marked rise in violence against prostitutes working in the city.

Anniken Hauglie (Conservative Party) called for the law to be scrapped after the city’s official help centre for prostitutes, Pro Sentret, released a report on Friday detailing deteriorating conditions for sex workers in the capital.

”The reality is that the law has made it more difficult for women in prostitution,” Hauglie said.

”It’s our political responsibility to take this feedback seriously. In my view, the sex buyer ban should be repealed, and I think the parliament should at least evaluate the effects of the law.”

The 2009 prostitution law prohibits the purchase but not the sale of sexual services, with legislators seeking to stymie the trade by targeting demand.

But the Pro Sentret report indicates that the law has in fact made prostitutes much more susceptible to violence at the hands of their clients as the sex trade moves further underground.

What’s more, prostitutes have become less inclined to seek help since the law came into force, with many now perceiving that they too are viewed as criminals, the report says.

Many of the women also said the new law had scared off many of their more reliable customers, while troublesome and violent clients were relatively undeterred.

According to the study, titled Farlige Forbindelser (Dangerous Liaisons), 59 percent of prostitutes in Oslo have fallen victim to some form of violence in the last three years.

”Violence against women in prostitution is brutal and frequent,” said Ulla Bjørndahl at Pro Sentret.

”Often the violence is extreme. Eleven people have faced death threats, many have been threatened with weapons, or have been exposed to robbery, rape, or were threatened into participating in non-consensual sex,” Bjørndahl told newspaper Dagbladet.

Anniken Hauglie said she was appalled by the report’s findings.

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”It’s heartbreaking to see the violence they are subjected too, only to then learn that many of them don’t report (the crimes). That means the aggressors walk away and are free to endanger others.”

The report is based on interviews carried out from January to March this year with 123 prostitutes working on the streets, out of apartments, and in massage parlours offering sexual services.   

In a similar study from 2008, 52 percent of prostitutes said they had been the victims of violence.

The prostitutes who participated in this year’s study came from 16 different countries. Fifty were from Thailand, 24 from Nigeria, and 21 from Norway.

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