CATW January 1, 2009 Norway

For 30 years, the Women's Front of Norway has worked against prostitution.

The Women’s Front of Norway has worked against prostitution for 30 years. The Women’s Front meets with parliamentarians and trade unionists advocating against prostitution and demanding social services and job training for survivors of prostitution and trafficking. As a result of this pressure, a law criminalizing the purchase of a sexual act came into effect in Norway in January 2009. The law states that any person who engages in or aids and abets another person to engage in sexual activity or commit a sexual act shall be liable to fines or imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or both. The Norwegian legislation added two enhancements to the Swedish model: it changes the wording from the purchase of a “sexual service” to the purchase of a “sexual act” and it covers the purchase of a sexual act outside Norway. In 2009, 334 buyers were arrested, charged and fined. Since the laws passage, street prostitution has decreased significantly and a growth in the indoor market has not been reported.

In 2004, as part of the Norway Social Forum, Kvinnefronten and the Network Against Prostitution and Trafficking in Women sponsored a conference event on globalization and its effects on the trafficking in women and prostitution. Organizers were keen to place the sex industry squarely in the context of globalization.

Hubert Dubois, French filmmaker who has produced and directed a film entitled “The Dutch Showcase,” was invited to show his film. The film depicts the normalization of the sex industry in the Netherlands by documenting the ways in which the industry has become simply another business, interviewing sex entrepreneurs who proudly display their venues and their plans for expansion, and by juxtaposing this “normal picture” with the reality of the industry’s exploitation of women.

Janice Raymond, Co-Executive Director of CATW reminded participants that “Trafficking depends upon globalization of the sex industry. Globalization of the sex industry means that countries are under an illusion if they think they can address trafficking without addressing prostitution.”

Finally, Ragnhild Hennuam, a Norwegian Professor of Law, spoke about the role of law regarding prostitution and trafficking. She emphasized that punishment is intended not only to make citizens law abiding but that it is a pedagogical tool that can be used with the general public to prevent crime. In the context of criminalizing the client, Ragnhild explained that the theory of general prevention is based on the assumption that human behavior is rational and that the so-called client has a choice. Another panel sponsored by Kvinnefronten featured Pauline Muchina, a theologian from Kenya and Agnete Strom of Kvinnefronten.

On January 28, 2003, the Norwegian Center for Gender Equality held its Milestone Conference – a follow-up to the Norwegian Government’s Gender Equality Program. The conference was opened by Laila Davoy, Minister of Children and Family Affairs. Janice Raymond, Co-Executive Director of CATW, gave the keynote address on “The Fight Against the Trafficking in Women” followed by comments and questions raised by many of the 100 participants who attended the conference.

The afternoon’s session focused on the role of the media as a force for achieving gender equality. Particularly enlightening was the presentation of the publisher of Dagbladet, one of Oslo’s leading newspapers, who spoke about what led up to the paper’s decision to stop taking sex advertisements and the impact of this decision.

A report of the conference is available from the Ministry of Children and Family Affairs in Oslo, Norway.