Interview with Anna Fisher of Nordic Model Now!

Anna: Many people try to make a distinction between sex trafficking and prostitution. But under the international definition of human trafficking, the distinction isn’t that great. Most pimping does, in fact, meet the definition of sex trafficking and as most women have a pimp, it follows that most prostitution is, in fact, sex trafficking as it is defined under international law – regardless whether local laws recognize this or not.

Please introduce your movement and your mission

Anna: We’re a small grassroots women’s group in the UK. We see prostitution as inherently violent and damaging to both the individual and society, and we’re campaigning for the Nordic Model, along with rigorous measures to address women’s poverty and inequality.

The Nordic Model is an approach to prostitution policy and legislation that recognises the inherent harms of prostitution and has the long-term aim of bringing about its eradication while providing a viable transition for those involved. It removes all laws targeting the selling of sex, provides support services to help those engaged in prostitution to exit, cracks down on pimping and brothel-keeping, and makes prostitution-buying a criminal offence, with the aim of changing men’s attitudes and behaviour.

Why do you believe the Nordic Model is the right choice for all countries?

Anna: Our campaign is based in the UK, but we’re part of an international movement. Obviously, each country is different, but prostitution is similar everywhere – the buyers are almost all men and those prostituted are overwhelmingly women, mostly drawn from the most deprived and marginalized communities.

We believe that the Nordic Model approach of targeting the law on the prostitution-buyers and those who profit from other people’s prostitution is sound. However to be effective, this must be combined with robust measures to address poverty and inequality, and the provision of genuine alternatives and long term rehabilitation for the (mostly) women involved.

For the Nordic Model approach to be effective, it needs to be accompanied by training for the police and prosecutors, funding and prioritisation of its policing, a public information campaign and education in schools, and the introduction of a nationwide network of high-quality services for those engaged in prostitution to include routes out, genuine alternatives, and long-term psycho-social support, along with measures to address women’s poverty and inequality generally

What shift in society is needed to get rid of the stigma around prostitution and to have a fair conversation about how to protect these women?

Anna: Prostitution is not the commodification of a woman’s labor as in other forms of work, but of her body and her self. This reduces her status (and by extension all women’s status) to that of an object that can be bought and sold. This is the root of the stigma associated with prostitution: it is intrinsic to its very nature. We believe that it is therefore not possible to eradicate stigma without eradicating prostitution itself.

We do not believe that it is possible to make prostitution safe, and so the best way to protect women is to address all the factors that lead to women and girls getting drawn into the industry and to provide genuine alternatives and routes out for those already in it.

On your website I read “prostitution is a victimless crime”, even thinking about who made this statement is outrageous. Please get deeper into this. Where does the thinking exist and what do you do to fight it?

Anna: We have a series of articles on our website that address many of the common myths about prostitution, including this one, that it’s a ‘victimless crime.’ This is a common notion put about by those who profit or benefit in other ways from the sex industry and those who’ve bought their propaganda.

For example, Amnesty International lobbies for the full decriminalization of prostitution on the basis that it is “the exchange of sexual services between consenting adults for some form of remuneration, with the terms, agreed between the seller and the buyer.” This is clearly predicated on the assumption that it is a relationship of equals in which neither is a victim. We believe that this is a fundamental misunderstanding of the reality of prostitution. The myth-busting article on our website that you mention has a quote from an old cop who says, “Anyone who thinks prostitution is a victimless crime, hasn’t seen it up close.”

One of the key things we’re committed to as a group is providing a space for women who have experienced prostitution. Quite a few of our group members have been in the sex trade themselves, and we have a page on our website where women can enter their experiences anonymously. The stories we’ve received make it clear that prostitution is deeply damaging to women, and girls and young women are seldom warned about this.

This is what one woman said:

You simply cannot forget years and years of swallowing down your consent, of swallowing down what is, at best, disgust, irritation, and boredom during sex and, at worst, anger, humiliation, and terror. After you have lived through that, it is fundamentally impossible to have anything near a happy, healthy and ‘normal’ life. By this I mean, a life where you can, at a very basic level, trust and connect to others, men in particular, and, alongside this, feel OK about your own body, humanity, and worth.”

What´s your vision for the future?

Anna: I do not believe it is possible to create a more sustainable society while inequality and violence against women and children are rampant. All the evidence points to prostitution having a key role in that inequality and violence and the attitudes that underpin them. I hope that we can collectively come to our senses and draw back from the brink of environmental, and social and political catastrophe that confronts us all. This will only happen if we’re prepared to change our ways of being. Changing our views on prostitution is fundamental to the changes we collectively need to make to create a healthier and happier society.

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Photo rights: Nordic Model Now!