Europe: Council of Europe Endorses Nordic Model to Punish Buyers of Sex and Combat Sex Trafficking
Monday, April 14, 2014 2:50 PM

On April 8, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe approved a resolution calling on member states to consider following the "Nordic" model of prostitution to reduce demand for commercial sex and protect prostituted women and girls. The resolution was based on a report prepared by the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination and authored by rapporteur José Mendes Bota of Portugal. The report, "Prostitution, Trafficking and Modern Slavery in Europe," found that between 70,000 and 140,000 people were victims of trafficking in Europe, and approximately 84 percent of these victims were trafficked for sex. The report also concluded that the concept of voluntary sex work is largely a myth and that women engaged in this industry experience significant trauma and violence. 
Following the recommendations of the report, the Council of Europe resolution includes multiple suggestions for states to address Europe’s growing sex trafficking industry, including coordinated action plans to combat human trafficking, increased research and education, improved data collection, and adoption of prostitution laws and policies based on the Nordic model pioneered by Sweden, Norway and Iceland. The Nordic model addresses demand for sex by criminalizing the purchase of sexual acts and decriminalizing the selling of sexual acts, with the goal of decreasing the demand for sex work and assisting women in leaving the industry. 
The Parliamentary Assembly approved the findings of Mr. Bota's report by a vote of 82 to 17. This vote aligns with a recent European Parliament resolution that called on members of the European Union to repeal harsh penalities for selling sex, and represents increased state awareness of the many links between prostitution and the trafficking of women and girls.
Compiled from: Laws and policies on prostitution are indispensable anti-trafficking tools, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (April 8, 2014);  Council of Europe Backs Nordic Model to Reduce Demand for Prostitution, Trafficking, and Modern Slavery, Care (April 8, 2014);  Prostitution, Trafficking, and Modern Slavery in Europe, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination, Rapporteur: José Mendes Bota (March 20, 2014).