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Criminalising 'punters': Evaluating the Swedish position on prostitution

Scoular, Jane (2004) Criminalising 'punters': Evaluating the Swedish position on prostitution. Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, 26 (2). pp. 195-210. ISSN 0964-9069

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A comprehensive review of law and policy in relation to prostitution has recently begun in the UK, marking the first major re-examination of the issue since the Wolfenden Report in the 1950s ('Sex law to get major overhaul' The Guardian, December 30th 2003). A Home Office consultation paper on the subject was due to be published in the summer of 2004. In Scotland, an expert panel has already been meeting to review the law in the light of the issues arising from MSP Margo McDonald's defeated and re-introduced private members bill intended to enable local authorities to create tolerance zones (Scottish Parliament, 27th February 2003). Not before time, the effectiveness of the current legal model will be examined and, in contrast to Wolfenden, where the focus of the Committee's work was on resolving the issue of public morality, the focus of current law reform is increasingly on the harms associated with prostitution. A number of options require to be considered, as opinion is divided across Europe on the most appropriate regulatory model; from legal regulation in Germany and the Netherlands to the recent Swedish law criminalising those who buy sexual services. This article, based on research carried out during a short study break in Sweden1, critically examines the Swedish position with the aim of providing a theoretically informed context in which comparative assessments can be made.