Blog post co-authored by Mari Wiklander & Julia Wiklander
Today, thousands of feminists, activists, politicians, researchers, authors and others are convening in Malmo, Sweden for Nordiskt Forum 2014, to discuss new action on women’s rights.
When it comes to gender equality, many look up to the nordic countries – where a Nordic Model has been enforced, including through legislation against the purchase of sexual services. In terms of prostitution, several of the nordic countries (except for Denmark) have laws that aim to protect victims of the sex trade, while penalizing those who buy women and children.
Yet, the world judges and criticizes women who have been subjected to prostitution. Many women experience stigmatization and see prostitution itself as shameful. Women fear that talking about their experiences and the stigma that prostitution implies, will lead to rejection. Although the purchaser of sexual services in Sweden is breaking the law, he (as in the vast majority of cases the purchaser is a man) is not stigmatized. In general, men’s purchase of sexual services is “merely” an expression sexual frustration.
Put the responsibility where it belongs – with men!
During a plenary session at Nordiskt Forum, Jackson Katz, educator, author and activist, spoke about putting the responsibility where it belongs.
Annelie Siring, a doctoral student at the institution of social work at University of Gothenburg, informs in her study Prostitution i Norden (“Prostitution in the Nordics”) that one reason that men buy sex is that they have lost their power due to greater equality between the sexes.
Seriously, we have a major issue here! Violence against women is often an expression of male-dominance and power over women, and prostitution fits into that category, as women are bought as commodities, where men believe to have the right to do what they want with their bodies. This culture is reinforced throughout society, in popular culture, media and especially the porn-industry. The porn-industry and the sex-trade are enormous, global, capitalist industries that have a huge effect on social norms.
In order to create change, we must turn our attention to men, and the underlying culture that glorifies women as sexual objects and essentially normalizes violence against women.
Let’s show solidarity and provide the right support!
It is time to pay attention to the stigmatization that women in prostitution face and take action against violence. Government, politicians, NGOs and civil society need to provide better support and services to ensure that existing legislation will actually help the vulnerable people as it aims to. Although the nordic societies have taken a step forward in comparison to other countries, we stop here. The purpose of the law is to protect the women and decrease the demand, yet women in prostitution do experience violence in their everyday lives.
We believe that change is possible, and will only be possible as we continue to talk, but also start to act.
Here are a few things you can do to prevent violence against women:
- Highlight these issues at your school or workplace – ask your school to host a course in feminism and gender equality
- Are you a man? Find good role models and be one yourself. Get engaged through organizations like: Män för Jämställdhet, MenCare, MenEngage, Promundo, and Sonke Gender Justice Network
- Start a discussion with friends and family, and dare to question gender stereotypes
- Join a movement in your country!