Suggestions to the Government's Review of the Sex Purchase Act (Sweden)

33 Pages Posted: 30 Mar 2014 Last revised: 9 Sep 2019

See all articles by Max Waltman

Max Waltman

Stockholm University, Department of Political Science

Catharine A. MacKinnon

University of Michigan Law School; University of Chicago Law School ; University of California, Berkeley - Berkeley Center on Comparative Equality & Anti-Discrimination Law

Date Written: March 17, 2010


Submission to the Swedish government's evaluation of the Sex Purchase Law (confirmed receipt by government commissioner, March 17, 2010).

The submission argues that the government should clarify that the existing sex purchase offense (Criminal Code, Chap. 6, Sec. 11) since 1999 is a crime against the person purchased. The victim of crime therefore has, as a consequence, a right to raise damage claims against the offender, and, if the offender is unknown or lacks ability to pay damages, a right to receive crime victim compensation from the public. The compensation for the prostituted persons should primarily be borne by those who exploit their vulnerability and destitution; i.e., purchasers of sex. This principle is consistent and in line with the recognitions and conclusions of the state of research that were made in the 1998 Women’s Sanctuary Bill (Prop. 1997/98:55 Kvinnofrid). Purchase of sex should be a “crime against person” of which the prostituted person is recognized as victim. It is not an issue of primarily crime against the public order, as under current case law.

In addition, the submission asks that the government clarifies that prostituted persons have equal access to criminally and civilly protected rights under law as nonprostituted persons. Prostituted persons’ rights should not be denigrated or ignored by official entities as they presently often are. Review of case law on purchase of sex, procuring, and human trafficking reveals that prostituted persons are widely discriminated against by the judicial system, where they are regarded as a second class citizen without the same rights as non-prostituted persons, including when they have been raped or victimized by “gross” abuse. Transforming such unequal assumptions in law was a major motivation of the Sex Purchase Act. In light of failures to apply existing criminal law legislation as it was intended, the in Parliament proposed division between “gross” and “normal” risks either not being applied, or being applied in cases where more appropriate and powerful sections such as rape, sexual coercion, or unlawful deprivation of liberty, should be used. The submission (and its signatories who support it) opposes the proposals to divide the Sex Purchase Act in a range of punishments that differentiate between “gross” and “normal” purchase of sex. A better alternative is to clarify that the injured party’s protection under other offenses in the Penal Code, including rape, holds for prostituted persons equally as for other persons. Discrimination against prostituted women is a form of discrimination on the basis of sex and should be recognized as such and never accepted.

Moreover, the submission argues that in order to strengthen the prostituted persons’ protection under law, and at the same time take an initiative against human trafficking, the government's evaluation should clarify that the purchaser of sex involving a person who is pimped is engaging in an act of human trafficking by Swedish legal definition. Research and cases demonstrably show that people enter and stay in prostitution in conditions of vulnerability, which pimps exploit. The prerequisite for these conditions to last is that there are purchasers who, for payment, take over the control of a person, prostituted by a pimp with the purpose to exploit her for sexual use.

In Support of the Submission (March 17, 2010):

MELISSA FARLEY, PhD, Executive Director, Prostitution Research & Education, San Francisco
EBON KRAM, Former Chair, National Organization for Women’s and Girls’ Shelters (ROKS), Lecturer
KVINNOJOUREN: En Fristad i Ingenmansland [The Women’s: A Sanctuary in No Man’s Land] (Östersund)
KVINNOJOUREN ANNA [The Anna Women’s Shelter] (Upplandsbro) through Kerstin Åkare
EWA LARSSON, MP 1994-2002, Green Party (mp), Chairperson of Green Women
CATHARINE A. MACKINNON, Professor of Law, University of Michigan / Harvard University, Special Gender Adviser to the Prosecutor, International Criminal Court, The Hague (*)
BERNARDITA NUNEZ, Executive Director, Terrafem Women's Shelter for Immigrant Women
S-KVINNOR (Social Democrat’s Women’s Federation) through Carina Hägg, MP (s)
GUDRUN SCHYMAN, Former Leader (Left Party) and MP (v), Spokesperson for Feminist Initiative (F!)
SWEDISH ASS'N of WOMEN'S SHELTERS and YOUNG WOMEN'S EMPOWERMENT CENTERS (SKR), Lotta Sonemalm (secretary), on instruction by SKR
EVA-BRITT SVENSSON, MEP, Left Party (v), Chairperson of the Committee on Women, Member of the Left Party Executive Board
CARINA SÄLLBERG, Chairperson, Association KOBRA [Women, Children, and Rule of Law: A Community Responsibility]
MAX WALTMAN, PhD Candidate, Political Science, Stockholm University

(*) Affiliations for identification purposes only

Keywords: Prostitution, Trafficking, Civil Rights, Purchase of Sex, Demand, Sweden, Submission, NGO, Brief, Government

Suggested Citation

Waltman, Max and MacKinnon, Catharine A., Suggestions to the Government's Review of the Sex Purchase Act (Sweden) (March 17, 2010). Available at SSRN: or

Max Waltman (Contact Author)

Stockholm University, Department of Political Science ( email )

Stockholm University
Stockholm, 106 91

Catharine A. MacKinnon

University of Michigan Law School ( email )

625 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215
United States

University of Chicago Law School

1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

University of California, Berkeley - Berkeley Center on Comparative Equality & Anti-Discrimination Law

Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics