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Denmark: Government Proposes Outlawing Prostitution

(Aug. 30, 2012) It was reported in July 2012 that the Danish government intends to move forward with a proposal to make purchasing sexual acts illegal. The legislation would target the customers, rather than the prostitutes themselves. According to legislator Pernille Vigsø Bagge, “[t]he current situation is not tolerable. … Denmark has become a Mecca for sex because other countries like Norway, Sweden and even Lithuania have made it illegal to buy sex.” (Government Plans to Outlaw Sex Purchases, THE COPENHAGEN POST (July 24, 2012).)

Expressing a supporting view, legislator Trine Bramsen stated that the ban has been useful in other countries because it “has sent a strong signal” to potential customers of prostitution. (Id.)

The plan is going forward despite study results from Norway that raised doubts about the effectiveness of a ban and the general lack of public support for the legislation. A report from the city of Oslo has noted that since 2009, when Norway outlawed buying sexual acts, the number of sex workers in the country has not declined and the workers' lives have not improved. Violent acts against such workers have actually increased. (Id.)

A poll done for the Jyllands-Posten newspaper revealed that only about 20% of Danes favor instituting the ban, while 67% oppose criminalization. (Danes Overwhelmingly Oppose Prostitution Ban, THE COPENHAGEN POST (Aug. 27, 2012).)

Among non-governmental commentators, opinion on the possible legislation is divided. Speaking for the Danish YWCA, which has a “safe haven” project to benefit sex workers, Birgitte Graakjær Hjort said, “[w]e are 100 percent for a prostitution ban because we see how people are damaged by it [prostitution].” (Id.) However, attorneys for the organization Gadejuristen (the Street Lawyer), who also work directly with prostitutes, have a completely different view. According to one such lawyer:

It's completely wrong if you think that you can solve serious social issues by criminalising them. Doing this will only worsen the situation. …You push the sex workers further into a grey zone. They will hide themselves and their activities and social workers will no longer be able to contact those in need of help.” (Id.)