Immediately after the law began to be enforced, police noted a drop in the numbers of street prostitutes (again, we are not talking about massive numbers to begin with – in 1999, reports indicate that there were less than 800 prostitutes in the entire country). This may have something to do with the fact that policemen, who had been allotted 7 million Swedish kronor (US$650,000) to enforce the new law, immediately began making their presence on the streets where sex workers worked very visible. Armed with video cameras, which they ostentatiously pointed at any car that slowed down near a sex worker, they effectively frightened away clients, thus driving the sex workers off the streets. By the middle of 1999, however, it seems that many of the sex workers who initially left the streets were back again. In August of 2002, social workers in Malmö, Sweden’s third largest city, estimated that there were about 200 street prostitutes there, which is the same number that was estimated before the passage of the law in 1999 (Kvällsposten, 02–08–09). Since the law came into effect, three government reports have been commissioned to evaluate it and to recommend how it might be enforced (BRå, 2000: 4; Nord and Rosenberg, 2001; SoS, 2000: 5) None of these reports has concluded that the law has resulted in a significant drop in prostitution in Sweden.
While street prostitution was initially (and, it seems, temporarily) affected (see note 9), researchers report that the passage of the law corresponded to an increase of the number of sex advertisements on the Internet. The number of bordellos – which in practice seems to mean apartments on the periphery of large cities, in which Baltic women work, often, it seems, under oppressive conditions – appears to have increased since the law was passed. Prostitutes interviewed in the mass media report that women with drug problems have been driven to desperation and even suicide by the new law, since they have been unable to put advertisements on the Internet and make up for the clients they lost as a result of the law. Social workers agree that the law has made it more difficult for them to reach prostitutes. Police report that their efforts to prosecute pimps and traffickers has been made more difficult, because clients, who before the passage of the law were sometimes willing to serve as witnesses, are now disinclined to cooperate, since they themselves are guilty of a crime (Nord and Rosenberg, 2001: 4). Social workers and street prostitutes say that the quality of clients has declined, and a recent report commissioned by the National Board of Police has concluded that women are now forced to accept not only more clients (since prices have dropped), but also more unstable and dangerous clients than they would have accepted before the law, when there were more clients and, hence, more choice (e.g. GT/Expressen, 00–04–22; DN, 98–08–02; DN, 99–01–18; Nord and Rosenberg, 2001: 27).
Don KULICK, “Sex in the New Europe, The Criminalization of Clients and Swedish Fear of Penetration, Anthropological Theory 2003 3: 199