Sweden: No Country for Sex-Working Mothers
Sex-working mother loses custody of her child 1
Östra Göinge, Sweden. January 13, 2018.
Mother is devastated by court ruling.
The mother worked as a sex worker in a village in Östra Göinge, where she advertised her services via the internet. She started doing so after running into financial troubles when her son was only two to three months. She invited men into her apartment and had sex with them for money. Her earnings amounted to around 2,000-2,300 euros per month.
The mother and her son lived more or less isolated, except for the visits from her clients, who stopped having sex with the mother if the boy woke up in his crib next to the bed. The mother said the boy never seemed to be scared but was curious of them. When the boy would wake up, the men went home, understanding the situation since they had children of their own, according to the Administrative Court’s ruling.
Everything came into the open after a concerned person reported the mother to social services, whereupon the son was taken into care. This happened without any formal evaluation of the situation, although the mother’s actions were confirmed by her online ads.
The Administrative Court attached special importance to the fact that the mother had invited strangers buying sex into her home. According to the court, the overall situation meant that there was a significant risk that the son’s health and development would be harmed.
By her own account, the mother closed the book on sex work since her son was taken into care. However, the Administrative Court believed there was a risk that she would repeat her behaviour and has therefore decided that the son should remain in state care in accordance with the Care of Young Persons Act (LVU). In addition, the court held that the mother had shown indifference regarding the safety and protection of her son by bringing male strangers to her apartment.
Instead of sex work, the mother will now look for other work and in the meantime, she has applied for government support, although she realises that those payments won’t be as high as the 2,000-2,300 euros she earned from sex work. The woman also stated that she had resumed contact with her own mother, who had promised to help her.
According to the Administrative Court she is “devastated about the consequences for her son”. She can appeal against the court ruling at the Administrative Court of Appeals in Gothenburg within three weeks.
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Translation for SWAT by Ophelia Eglentyn from Fuckförbundet, an association founded in Sweden in the spring of 2017, by and for sex workers.
“Our two key functions are to uphold a community that offers support for all kinds of sex workers in Sweden, and to raise the awareness on sex workers rights and the negative impacts from the current set of laws. … If your feminism excludes marginalized groups of people then it’s not worthy of it’s name.”
You can follow Fuckförbundet on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
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1 The Swedish original of this article was written by Carl-Johan Liljedahl and first published as “Barn till prostituerad omhändertas” (Child of prostitute taken into care) at Kristianstadsbladet (January 13th, 2018). The terms “prostitution/prostitute” and “sex buyer” were replaced with “sex work/sex worker” and “client.” The copyright for the original article lies with Kristianstadsbladet. It is not licensed under a Creative Commons License.
The images and tweets above and below did not appear in the original article. Translations of articles do not represent endorsements of titles, images, terms used or views expressed therein, or of the authors who have written or the media outlets that published them.
Photo: 12019/10269 Images Illustration: Kurios (Pixabay); Font: Last Soundtrack
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Janice Raymond’s modus operandi
Janice Raymond’s Ouija Board (Source: Wikipedia)
In an exclusive for OpEdNews, a US-based website for political and social analysis, radical feminist Janice Raymond responded to sociologist Julie Kaye’s opinion piece in the New York Times, titled “Canada’s Flawed Sex Trade Law”, in which Kaye criticised the Canadian government for having merely replaced one flawed policy with another by passing Bill C-36.  It would be hilarious, if it wasn’t so serious an issue, that of all people, Raymond felt she was in a position to criticise Kaye for ignoring evidence. Responding to claims made by Raymond surely is not what gets me up in the morning but I decided to do so due to the sheer amount of misinformation put forward by her, including continuing to misrepresent South Korea’s Anti-Sex Trade Laws. The statements from reports and articles listed below will illustrate that ignoring evidence is in fact Raymond’s very own modus operandi.
Alleged increase of human trafficking during sport events
Raymond is indignant that someone could have the audacity to challenge “the numbers of women and girls sexually exploited during sports events”. In the report “What’s the cost of a rumour? A guide to sorting out the myths and the facts about sporting events and trafficking”, Julie Ham wrote:
“There is a very wide discrepancy between claims that are made prior to large sporting events and the actual number of trafficking cases found. There is no evidence that large sporting events cause an increase in trafficking for prostitution.”
Source: Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW)
And in a study commissioned by the European Football Association (UEFA), Martina Schuster, Almut Sülzle, Agnieszka Zimowska wrote:
“As in our previous analysis of major football events, we suggest that the topic of human trafficking should not be brought up in connection with such events, since this is detrimental to efforts to help victims. Before the 2006 World Cup in Germany, for example, various campaigns predicted an increase in human trafficking, which did not materialise. As a result, the organisations concerned were no longer taken seriously by the public because their predictions had been so inaccurate.”
Source: La Strada International (LSI) – Network against Trafficking in Human Beings
Finally, Ruth Krčmář, Coordinator of the International Organisation for Migration’s Counter Trafficking Programme in the Ukraine stated:
“NGO case data as well hotline responses show no evidence that human trafficking surged before or during the EURO 2012. The scare of increased human trafficking for sexual exploitation comes up every time there is a large sporting event on the horizon, although our experience only reinforces earlier findings in other countries. We hope that studies like ours will eventually put an end to the myth, which results in scarce counter-trafficking resources being spent on one-off campaigns rather than long-term solutions and victim assistance.”
Source: International Organization for Migration (IOM)
You say ‘Nordic’, I say ‘Swedish’, let’s call the whole thing off
With regards to Raymond’s conflation of different countries’ prostitution laws as ‘Nordic Model’, May-Len Skilbrei and Charlotta Holmström wrote:
“We found that the differences not only between, but also within, the Nordic countries are too great for there to be anything like a shared ‘Nordic’ model – and that the case for their success is far more fraught than popular support would suggest. Only Sweden, Norway and Iceland have acts unilaterally criminalising the purchase of sex. Finland has a partial ban; Denmark has opted for decriminalisation. The ‘Nordic model’, then, is in fact confined to only three countries. … The Nordic countries also police prostitution using various other laws and by-laws. Some of these regulations do, in fact, assume that the women who sell sex are to be punished and blamed for prostitution. This goes to show that one should be careful in concluding that Nordic prostitution policies are guided by progressive feminist ideals, or that they necessarily seek to protect women involved in prostitution.”
Source: The Conversation
Raymond blames Kaye for ignoring the findings of the Swedish Institute’s evaluation of the Swedish Sex Purchase Act from 2010, claiming that “there is no evidence that the decrease in street prostitution has led to an increase in prostitution elsewhere” and that “Sweden is one of two countries in Europe where prostitution and sex trafficking is not increasing”. However, the one who is doing the ignoring here is Raymond.
A 2014 report by the Stockholm County Council, titled “Extent and development of prostitution in Sweden”, states that “the methods currently available are unable to estimate the exact extent in Sweden” and that “the size of the population” engaging in prostitution is unknown. What’s more, the report also states that there is a lack of “a single definition of prostitution and human trafficking, which makes it difficult to draw comparisons between and within countries over time”.
Whereas Raymond cites the 2010 report as stating there was no evidence that prostitution had moved elsewhere (from the streets), the 2014 report states that “the number of escort ads aimed for men who buy sexual services from women has increased markedly during the past eight years from 304 to 6,965 ads”. Apparently, prostitution did move elsewhere: online. One should also note that the claim of the Sex Purchase Act having halved street-based sex work is problematic, since it is based on guesstimates from as early as 1995 – 4 years before the adoption of the law. [Source: Stockholm County Council]
A recent research report from Malmö University, commissioned by the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education (RFSU), also criticises the Sex Purchase Act, concluding that claims of the policy’s success have been greatly exaggerated. “There is no evidence that the demand has declined to the extent claimed by the state-led evaluation,” RFSU’s President Kristina Ljungros told the daily Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter. “The law has instead led to increased vulnerability for sex workers.” [Source: Global Network of Sex Work Project (NSWP)/Dagens Nyheter]
Where Raymond’s statements about Germany are concerned, I shall give her credit for correctly stating that Germany decriminalized aspects of prostitution in 2002, as opposed to legalising sex work in 2002, as is commonly and incorrectly claimed. However, the number she mentions of persons engaged in prostitution is a mere figment of her imagination. The claim that they are 400,000 sex workers in Germany actually dates back to the 1980s – before Germany’s reunification – and was only an estimate by Hydra e.V., a meeting and counselling centre for sex workers.
At a symposium titled “10 Years Prostitution Law in Germany” in 2012, researcher Elfriede Steffan stated that Hydra’s estimate was continuously being cited for over two decades although it lacked any scientific basis. According to Steffan, another estimate from the 1990s put the number of sex workers in unified Germany between 60,000 and 200,000. She added, “Objectivity also means to admit what we don’t know. There is no new data.”
A 2005 evaluation report by the German government estimated that there were 200,000 sex workers in Germany, and on its website, the responsible ministry states that where the number of sex workers in Germany is concerned, there are no reliable statistics available. Thus, Raymond’s claim that “two years after the law was passed, the number of persons in prostitution rose from about 200,000 to over 400,000” is entirely fictional.
Raymond’s Reprise: Misrepresenting the ‘South Korean Model’
Finally, as I mentioned in my introduction, Raymond continues to misrepresent the nature and alleged success of South Korea’s Anti-Sex Trade Laws, currently under review by the country’s constitutional court. Raymond states that the law prohibits “the purchase of sexual activities” but conveniently leaves out that sex workers are equally criminalised. In addition, as I have written previously, her claims about the existence of better victim protection and assistance and the alleged reduction of the sex industry in South Korea lack common sense as well as scientific evidence.
The above is by no means an exhaustive list of evidence to counter the wild claims made by Janice Raymond, and I shall leave the remaining ones to others, since there really isn’t enough time in a day to debunk articles such as Raymond’s. But at the very least, I hope that the above listed sources will suffice to illustrate that Raymond is in no position to blame others for “selecting certain examples at the expense of others” and that what Raymond laments, ignoring evidence, is in fact her very own modus operandi.
 Janice Raymond is an American radical feminist author and activist, and a professor emerita of Women’s Studies and Medical Ethics at the University of Massachusetts (UMass). Julie Kaye is the Director of Community Engaged Research and Assistant Professor of Sociology at The King’s University in Edmonton, Alberta.
 For the reason why I do not use the term ‘sex trafficking’ as Raymond does, please see Borislav Gerasimov’s article ‘Hey, mind your language’ and my own comment below.
Rest in Peace, Jasmine!
The below is a letter from Astrid Renland, a criminologist and the manager of Prostituertes interesseorganisasjon i Norge (PION), a sex workers’ rights organisation in Norway. Astrid has kindly agreed for me to publish her letter on this blog.
Rest in Peace, Jasmine!
On July 11th, 2013, the Swedish sex-worker activist Jasmine died after being stabbed to death by her ex-husband. Jasmine had finally been able to meet her two children again after a long battle against her violent ex-husband and Swedish social services over the custody of her children. Why did she have to fight for her own children? Because she was discriminated against as a sex worker.
I have had the pleasure of meeting Jasmine several times. She was among the most decent people I’ve ever met, and also one of the strongest. Jasmine used her own lived experiences in her activism for sex worker’s rights. Her ex-husband, on the other hand, used her work against her to keep her away from her children.
Social services had initially deemed her unfit as a mother and caregiver, because Jasmine worked as a sex worker. Although she was later awarded shared custody of her children, her ex-husband denied her access to her children, until eventually, she lost custody at a trial last February, as the court now found her lacking a connection with her children. During the final trial, Jasmine’s right to see her children was reinstated. But the second meeting with her son ended with death, despite supervision by a social worker.
Before she died, Jasmine posted comments on Facebook about how wonderful it was to meet her children. She had dreaded to meet them because she was afraid they would reject or not recognise her – a fear that turned into an incredibly happy reunion for both mother and the children. But the next message was from Jasmine’s mother who reported that she was stabbed to death. She was 27 years old. Two young children without a mother have now, like the rest of their family, friends, work colleagues and activists, lost someone they will continue to love and value highly.
Jasmine will end up in the statistics of domestic violence. Her death is an unimaginable tragedy, but it is also a story of Swedish authorities’ prejudices and discrimination against sex workers.
The same could have happened in Norway; to work as a sex worker is widely seen as incompatible with being a caregiver. If someone is found to sell sex during ‘raids and rescuing’ activities, they will automatically be reported to the local child care offices by the police. There are cases where there are no signs of child neglect or other issues that may affect children’s wellbeing, but nevertheless they end up as child care case, often justified by nothing more than social stigma and prejudice against women who work as sex workers.
Prostitution research shows that many sex workers experience more violence in their private lives than they do as sex workers. This is mainly a result of their partner’s knowledge that the threshold to report violence is higher because of the women’s type of work. Many sex workers report that their work is used against them in cases of divorce and battle for child custody. As a result, the majority of sex workers in Norway use a lot of energy to keep the work hidden from family, friends and public authorities.
Rest in Peace Jasmine; may your story result in reflection, regret, anger and solidarity.
– Astrid Renland
Oslo, 15th of July 2013