CATW January 1, 2009 Iceland

Iceland is the third Nordic country to pastt legislation against the buying of sexual activities.

In 2009, Iceland became the third Nordic country to pass legislation against the buying of sexual activities. Those caught paying for prostituted sex could face a fine or up to one year in prison. If the victim is under the age of 18, the buyer risks up to two years in prison.

Almost one year after, Skotturnar (an umbrella organization of 15 Icelandic women’s organizations with over 10,000 members) organized an international conference on male violence against women called “Women Strike Back.” The conference was followed by a “Women’s Strike” to demand economic justice.

Among the distinguished speakers at the conference was the Minister of Justice in Norway who is also a member of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s Network of 14 Men Leaders to Combat Violence Against Women. Minister Knut Storberget, spoke directly and incisively about male violence against women and about the Norwegian law penalizing the demand for sexual activities that came into force in 2009. CATW board members who spoke at the conference were Esohe Aghatise, Ruchira Gupta and Janice Raymond. CATW board member, Agnete Strom, was also in attendance.

The next day after the international conference, thousands of women took to the streets of Reykjavik during the “Women’s Strike.” Women’s strikes have a long history in Iceland when in 1975, 25,000 women (out of a female population of about 157,000) paralyzed the society by leaving their homes and workplaces to demand equality. Thirty years later in 2005, almost 50,000 women repeated the strike to protest earning 63.5% of what men earn. The women left work at precisely 2:14 pm to signify that they had completed 63.5% of the workday for which they were being paid.