Prostitution in Sweden

2.3.1 History

1734 is the year when the first law against prostitution was founded, which meant that sexual relations with someone but your husband or wife became illegal. It was founded in religious purposes, but also to prevent the spreading of sexual transmitted diseases. This law has been changed, and prostitution became legal again in the 19th century. Brothels were built, but they were under influence of the government, through rules and restrictions. The government wanted to have control over prostitution to prevent the negative consequences of it. In the late 19th century, European countries, including Sweden began to take action to eliminate prostitution. The prostitutes themselves were now seen as the victim, and that is why laws were founded against the pimps and the responsible for the prostitution. In that way, prostitutes did not do anything wrong, but their director did.[1]


The 1st of January 1999, was the day when you were considered a criminal if you bought sex in Sweden. The reason is to protect the people, mainly women and children, who risk being involved with prostitution or any kind of sexual mistreatment.[2] The current Swedish policy concerning prostitution has a vision, namely a society free from prostitution.[3]


2.3.2 Legal Situation

If you pay for a sexual relation or use a temporary sexual relation that someone else pays for, you are doing an illegal action in Sweden. The punishment can be fine or prison for maximum six months. The meaning was to discourage the purchasers of sex, so that the quantity would decrease and so the number of prostitutes. The law was also meant to decrease the criminality that was often in connection to prostitution, such as physical abuse and drug traffic.[4] To forbid the selling of sexual services has been suggested in the Parliement. They justify the suggestion with that the law would be ineffective if only the buying is illegal.[5]


2.3.3 Politics - now & then

Ever since the late 1970, measures to prevent prostitution have been taken up in the parliament. The reason to this was a proposal for a change in a law. It said that the legislation of sexual assault would be liberalized, and this made women organizations to protest. They were tired of the view on women as sex objects, since that made men commit violent crimes on them. Therefore, women demanded new and harder laws for sexual crimes, including prostitution. 1977, the member of Moderaterna[6] and the parliament, Inger Lindqvist, together with sociologists, social workers and polices, began an investigation about prostitution. Disputes began between Inger Lindqvist and her workers after a while, because of her liberal sights on the human. She thought prostitution should be accepted if the prostitutes say that they have chosen it themselves. The others did not agree, so they quit and wrote their own report. It said that the state’s measures should start from that prostitution not is accepted. When the report was done, even Inger Lindqvist supported it. The result of this was a forbid against official porn shows and the question of prostitution was brought to life. 1993, an investigation of the consequences of making prostitution a crime was begun. Women organizations argued to outlaw the buying of a prostitute, since the prostitute is vulnerable. These arguments were supported from the parties The Social Democrats, the Liberal Party and the Centre Party and the prostitutes were now regarded as victims.


In February 1998, The Social Democratic government affiliated to the advocates of a criminalization of only the buyer of a prostitute. 1998, the Swedish parliament voted for the Social Democrats new law against the buying of sex. It was accepted, with help from the Left Party, the Centre Party and the Green Party. The Christian Democrats wanted to outlaw both the buyers and sellers of sexual services. Moderaterna and the Liberal Party were against all kind of criminalization of prostitution. The reason of this law was to show that prostitution not was accepted in Sweden, since it does not fit in with people’s and women’s dignity. The advocate of the law said that they, as politicians and legislators, are responsible for the people’s moral rules. They expected the population to form its attitude after the new law, so that prostitution was seen as wrong among the people.[7]

[1]Passagen, Historia prostitution,, 11-11-2009

[2]Regeringskansliet, Prostitution och människohandel,, 11-11-2009

[3]Södertörns högskola,, (download file FULLTEXT01). Kulturkrock prostitution – prostitutiondebatter i Sverige och Tyskland mellan 1990 och 2002 och deras bakgrund. Susanne Dodillet, sid 82, 17-11-2009

[4]Regeringskansliet, Sexköpslagen,, 11-11-2009

[5]Wikipedia, Prostitution, Förbud i Sverige,, 13-11-2009

[6]Moderaterna is the leading political party in Sweden at the moment. They are called the Worker’s party.

[7]Södertörns högskola,, (download file FULLTEXT01). Kulturkrock prostitution – prostitutiondebatter i Sverige och Tyskland mellan 1990 och 2002 och deras bakgrund, Susanne Dodillet, sid 83-87, 15-11-2009