Sex buyer law causes human trafficking: study

The 2009 law criminalizing the purchase of sexual services in Norway has led to prostitutes being more dependent on pimps and encourages human trafficking, according to a new research study.

Sex buyer law causes human trafficking: study
Photo: Scanpix
Prior to the 2009 Sex Purchase Act, Norway had one of Europe's smallest and least organized markets for prostitution. Women came voluntarily, rented apartments and sold sex from there – without the interference from any pimp.
The introduction of the law has made this process more complicated, according to a report in the Stavanger Aftenblad daily.
"The women are very vulnerable towards the police and to a greater extent on the network and support that pimps can offer," said Guri Tyldum, a researcher at trades union backed Fafo to Aftenbladet.
Tyldum furthermore believes that the criminalization of prostitution has made it more attractive to traffickers.
"The criminalization intended to demonstrate that prostitution is not wanted in Norway. The risk is that the most dangerous and serious form of prostitution that remains," she said.
The Albertine Center in Stavanger has reported a steady increase in the number of prostitutes. The Pro Center in Oslo meanwhile reported significant variations.
The number of active prostitutes at times outnumbers the peak year of 2008, but sometimes there are fewer depending on how active the police are in attempting to tackle the problem. The number of active prostitutes tends to decline following a police operation.
Norway's Ministry of Justice has announced an evaluation of the sex purchase act.

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Human trafficking in Norway is ‘risk free’

Organized crime groups involved in illegally bringing sex workers to Norway are so seldom caught or prosecuted that they view the activity as a risk-free business, according to the sex-worker support charity Rosa.

Human trafficking in Norway is 'risk free'
Prostitutes are a common site on Karl Johans Gate at night. Photo: Claudia Regina/Flickr
"They look at Norway as a risk-free and profitable market, because there is a lot of money in circulation, high demand from men who want to buy sex and no risk of getting caught.” Mildrid Mikkelsen, the head of ROSA, told Norwegian broadcaster NRK
Only 36 cases of human trafficking for prostitution were reported in Norway last year, and of those cases, only two led to a trial. 
”They [the police] have been working with such limited resources that it has been virtually risk-free for organized crime in Norway," she added. "We know of specific cases with evidence that have been dropped. It is simply an untenable situation.”
Harald Bøhler, head of the organized crime unit within Oslo's police, defended the police's record, arguing that cases of human trafficking and prostitution were notoriously difficult to bring to prosecution.
”The crime is often reported some time after the offence has occurred," he told NRK. "Witnesses and others involved don’t stay here in the country, making investigations difficult." 
According to Rosa, victims of human trafficking often view reporting the crime to the police as futile, given the proportion of reported cases which make it to court. 
Often those who report cases risk being deported, while only those whose cases make it to court receive any police protection. 
Frequently, human trafficking victims are returned to Italy under the Dublin Agreement, because that is where they are first registered as asylum seekers by the Nigerian-run human trafficking organizations based in the country. 
“When the women return, they are punished by the traffickers for reporting them to the police," Esohe Aghatise, an Italian expert on human trafficking told NRK. "They are forced to make money through prostitution to make up for lost income.”