'No demand, no prostitution', says Swedish expert

The Government was today urged to roll-out tough new laws banning men from buying sex to clampdown on organised crime and human trafficking.

The Government was today urged to roll-out tough new laws banning men from buying sex to clampdown on organised crime and human trafficking.

A top Swedish police officer told a Dublin conference other countries should emulate the Scandinavian laws targeting men who swap cash for sex.

Soliciting, kerb-crawling and operating brothels are illegal in Ireland but men can exchange money with a prostitute in private without breaking any laws.

Detective Inspector Jonas Trolle from the Stockholm Police Department said those using prostitutes were supporting and financing international criminal gangs.

"If you want to fight against trafficking in human beings you have to start with the demand," he said.

"A democratic society shouldn't have these kind of activities. This is a modern way of slavery.

"It is not acceptable in this modern time that we offer people for sale."

It is thought there are 1,000 women involved in prostitution in Ireland at any one time, with 800 being advertised on the internet representing more than 50 nationalities.

It is estimated that around 3% are Irish, while a massive 97% are migrant women.

Under the Swedish law, introduced in 1999, a man caught buying sex will be hit with a fine based on their income, with average penalties ranging from €1,500 to €7,000.

The prostitutes are treated as victims who have been exploited.

Mr Trolle said that before the clampdown there were around 100 prostitutes on the streets of Stockholm in the 1990s, dropping to roughly 20 now.

The Detective Inspector, who heads-up a trafficking unit in the Swedish capital, said targeting the demand for sex squeezes profits for pimps and drives operators out of the country.

"Start with the demand. No demand, no trafficking. No demand, no prostitution," he said.

The top officer said the law is widely accepted in Sweden, with around 80% of the public backing the legislation.

Norway, Iceland and Finland have adopted versions of the legislation and Mr Trolle said he hopes both Ireland and the UK will consider similar models.

The conference, focusing on ways to tackle human trafficking, included calls from anti sex trafficking groups for similar legislation in Ireland.

Grainne Healy, co-ordinator of the Dignity Project, said: "There has been a decrease in the number of women being trafficked into Sweden since the criminalisation of the purchase of sex.

"Conversely the experience in countries where the decision was made to legalise brothels in an attempt to regulate the sex industry... is that the illegal sex industry continues to flourish."

Highlighting Irish practice, Detective Superintendent Noel Clarke from the Garda National Immigration Bureau said officers raided a house in Dublin last June and rescued a child from a family who was exploiting him.

The top garda said immigration officers where also working with other sections in the gardaí, such as the Criminal Assets Bureau, to crack down on human traffickers.

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