Thursday, April 23, 2009

Iceland: sex purchase bill passed, strip club ban fails - for the moment

iI haven't read about it anywhere else but according to an article (English translation) in the Norwegian paper Klassekampen the bill to ban the purchase of sex was passed by the Icelandic parliament on Friday (and has come into effect immediately), the day before it broke up for the election. At the same time the proposal to remove the current exemptions allowing the operation of strip clubs in the country was rejected, which is a shame but I don't think should in any way be cause for despair. The left still only has a minority in the Icelandic parliament but things are likely to change dramatically on Saturday when the Social Democrats and Left Greens are expected to receive up to 60%+ of the votes there. As the poll I posted recently shows most Icelanders are highly supportive of a ban on stripping so I think we could easily see it happening in the not too distant future.

The article's centred around an interview with Guðrún Jónsdóttir of Stígamót, an organisation which runs women's shelters and campaigns against male violence in Iceland. Interestingly she points out that with Iceland becoming the third out of five Nordic countries to ban the purchase of sex (only Denmark and Finland have still to do so) we can now talk about a 'Nordic model' on prostitution. In Iceland itself the feminist movement had been pushing strongly for a change in the law for 10 years and is entirely united in its opposition to prostitution. A poll in 2007 found that 82% of women and 57% of men wanted to criminalise the purchase of sex while only 8% of Icelanders were completely opposed to the measure.

According to
Guðrún Jónsdóttir prostitution has always been hidden in Iceland - "we live in a micro-society where everything happens in secret" - and that it'll be another thing getting the law to be properly enforced. However it's still an extremely important symbolic victory in terms of having a law which clearly defines prostitution as a form of violence against women and places the responsibility firmly on those who use their money to perpetuate it. There's also a new action plan against human trafficking and hopefully new resources will be made available to help women leave the industry. What we need now is for them to shut down the strip clubs and on paper at least Iceland should be fully sex industry free. In the meantime let's celebrate the fact that Iceland is the second country in less than 6 months (along with Norway) to make the purchase of sex a crime. It's been a full ten years ten years since Sweden did so so let's hope the progress of the struggle against prostitution is accelerating and that it won't be long before other countries consider similar legislation.

1 comment:

Robert said...

In Sweden the sex purchase law is debated at the moment. The law has failed on all points, and prostitution has gone under ground. Working conditions for the women have become more dangerous.

The market must be decriminalized and sex workers should be given human and social rights, and their occupation should be recognizzed by society. Approximately 75 % of the population in Sweden want to get rid of this law. Many argue the state should not interfer with people´s sexual privacy, and let them do what they want with their body.

This document proves the law is a big failure and the success a lie:

Do not adopt the Swedish model!