Advocacy Toolkit: The Real Impact of the Swedish Model on Sex Workers

2014, 2015

This Advocacy Toolkit is a collection of eight evidence-based fact sheets and advocacy tools on the harmful Swedish model. It can be used to challenge the widespread promotion of this detrimental legal and political approach to the regulation of sex work. A Community Guide is also available.

The first four papers document the impact of the Swedish model on the lives of sex workers in Sweden. The final four papers highlight how criminalisation violates sex workers’ human rights.

Paper #1 Sweden’s Abolitionist Understanding, and Modes of Silencing Opposition

  • How is sex work understood in Sweden?
  • Does everybody agree with this mainstream Swedish understanding?
  • Have these voices undermined Sweden’s consensus on sex work?

The first paper discusses the generalising views about sex workers and sex work that are used to justify the Swedish model. The paper also explores how the voices of sex workers are excluded from the debate in Sweden and internationally: tools that are referred to as ‘modes of silencing’.

Paper #2 Impacts of the Sex Purchase Law: Street-Based Sex Work and Levels of Sex Work

  • Have there been negative impacts of the sex purchase criminalisation?
  • Have levels of sex work in Sweden decreased?

The second paper discusses the direct outcomes of the law. It explains that the law does not decrease levels of sex work, and has had negative impacts on the safety, health and wellbeing of sex workers.

Paper #3 Impacts of the Swedish Model’s Justifying Discourses on Service Provision

  • What is harm reduction and why is it needed?
  • If harm reduction is imperative, is there opposition to harm reduction?

The third paper focuses on the indirect outcomes of the law. The views that justify the law have affected the perspectives of service providers (particularly social workers). These perspectives have impacted service provision and harm reduction for sex workers.

Paper #4 Impacts of Other Legislation and Policy – The Danger of Seeing the Swedish Model in a Vacuum

  • Does the Swedish model protect sex workers from state-sponsored harassment?
  • Laws and policies other than the sex purchase law

The fourth paper concentrates on laws and policies other than the Swedish model itself. It describes how these are used by the Swedish state and the police to directly destabilise the lives of sex workers in Sweden.

Paper #5 Right to Work and Other Work-Related Human Rights

  • International standards
  • National legal regimes and sex workers’ work-related rights

The fifth paper focuses on the work-related human rights protections that all people have. It discusses how criminalisation and other factors undermine sex workers’ ability to benefit from these protections. Some recommendations towards better practice are also included.

Paper #6 Sex Work and the Right to Health

  • International standards related to the right to health
  • The reality of heath rights for sex workers
  • Sex worker-led services as best practice

The sixth paper describes the human right to health that all people have. It analyses the challenges sex workers face in realising their right to health, and makes recommendations for enhancing sex workers’ right to health.

Paper #7 Sex Work and Arbitrary Interference with Families

  • International human rights law and standards

The seventh paper describes human rights law related to parental rights. It highlights standards relevant to the rights of sex workers as parents. Secondly, it explains ways in which these rights are violated. Some remedies for these violations are also suggested

Paper #8 Sex Work and Violence: Obligations of the State

  • Sex workers face many forms of violence and vilification
  • International standards on the protection of women from violence
  • Redress in courts and other state response

The murder of Petite Jasmine in Sweden, a terrible outcome of the stigma and related abuse caused by the Swedish model, prompted the production of this series of papers on sex work and human rights, including the right of sex workers to be protected from violence. This paper highlights that where there is criminalisation of sex work – including criminalisation of third parties such as clients – violence against sex workers will, and does, flourish. This paper explains that violence and related abuse against sex workers are a violation of fundamental human rights and suggests some ways to use human rights norms to address this widespread abuse.

You can download this resource as a 75 page PDF above or download the individual articles. This resource is available in English, Chinese, French, Russian, and Spanish.