The Malta Independent 9 December 2018, Sunday

Prostitution debate: Should Malta opt for Nordic model rather than go for full legalisation?

Helena Grech Tuesday, 2 January 2018, 13:58 Last update: about 11 months ago

While the government continues to contemplate reform to laws surrounding prostitution, and has even hinted at creating a framework to regularise the industry, more and more groups are calling for government to adopt the Nordic model.

The Nordic model decriminalises all those who are prostituted, provides support services to help them get out of prostitution and makes buying people for sex a criminal offence in order to reduce the demand that drives sex trafficking. It also makes it clear that buying people for sex is wrong and it has sanctions that discourage people from doing it.


The Council of Europe has also urged countries to opt for the Nordic model, rather than legalisation.

In the course of an interview with Dr Anna Borg and Marie-Therese Gatt from the Association for Equality about the role of sex workers and persons with disability, the topic of conversation veered into the issue of prostitution in general.

Borg and Gatt both fear that the government could potentially allow the use of prostitutes for persons with disability in order to pave the way to fully regularise the prostitution industry “through the back-door”.

In addition to the topic we were supposed to be discussing, the duo was also armed to the teeth with studies and information on the Nordic model compared with other countries who have legalised prostitution such as the Netherlands.

It must be made clear that prostitution as such is not illegal in Malta, however pimping and soliciting are.

A study presented by the European Women’s Lobby compared and contrasted the situation for women in the prostitution industry in The Netherlands, where it is legal, and Sweden, which uses the Nordic Model.

The Netherlands lifted the ban on brothels in 2000 while Sweden adopted the Nordic Model in 1999.

Both countries carried out studies through their respective Ministries of Justice. In the case of the Netherlands, it was found that:

“There has been no significant improvement of the situation of persons in prostitution. The prostitutes’ emotional well0being is now lower than in 2001 on all measured aspects. The use of sedatives has increased. Requests for leaving the industry were in high demand, while only 6% of municipalities offer such assistance. 50% to 90% of the women in licensed prostitution work involuntarily”.

In comparison, when reviewing the situation in Sweden, it was found:

“By tackling the demand, the prohibition to purchase sex, functions as a barrier against the establishment of organised crime, traffickers and pimps in Sweden. According to the National Police, the law contributed to the fight against international networks of procurers. By tackling the demand and therefore reducing their possibilities to gain from the exploitation of prostitution, Sweden has discouraged criminal networks to invest on its territory.

“The number of persons exploited in street prostitution halved since 1999, while it tripled in Denmark and Norway for the same period.  There is no evidence of more Swedish men going abroad to buy sex. The number of individuars that are sold via internet web pages/ads is much larger in neighbouring countries such as Denmark and Norway.

“Mentalities have completely changes as there is more than 70 per cent of public support to the law, even though the majority of the Swedish population was opposed to the prohibition of the purchase of sex before the adoption of the law”.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has been reported as saying that he cannot turn a blind-eye to the black market prostitution trade and seeks to use the law to improve the situation.

What this exactly means is anybody’s guess, however a growing number of groups – especially female ones – are calling on the government to adopt the Nordic model.

The argument, as relayed by Borg and Gatt and by many other groups, is that by regulating prostitution one is essentially treating women as a commodity and continues to damage the lives of already-troubled women.


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