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11 Mar, 2009 04:45

Norway – virgin territory or paradise for pimps?

Norwegian lawmakers have recently adopted legislation punishing those buying sex. They say the move will help eliminate streetwalkers, though some doubt its efficiency.

Once a haven for sex workers, Norwegian cities suddenly became virgin territory in January when a law punishing the purchasing of sexual services came into force. Anyone caught buying sex can be fined or sent to prison for up to six months.

According to Astri Aas-Hansen, State Secretary, Ministry of Justice and Police in Oslo, about 30 men have been arrested by police and most of the prostitutes have disappeared from the streets.

Out of sight but not out of mind. What Norwegian officials hail as a great success, for Janne Schulerud – who has been in business since 1958 and claims to be the oldest prostitute in Norway – is a sign of a bigger problem.

She says girls haven't stop selling sex – they've just moved underground and are relying on pimps for clients.

“Everybody knows – all things forbidden cost money – now pimps will make more money,” she said.

In Norway, where prostitutes are considered victims rather than criminals, selling sex is not illegal. And since Norwegian men have a reputation as being kind and generous clients, in recent years a large number of foreign prostitutes have been attracted to Norway. But with working the street no longer available, many of them are thinking of moving on.

Norwegian officials say their main goal is to help sex workers start a new life. In the future, the government promises funding for professional training and simplified access to the labor market. But for many sex workers, it’s “money first.”

Meanwhile in Switzerland, a prostitute who spent her life protecting the rights of sex industry workers has been reburied at Geneva Royal Cemetery. Her remains were laid to rest close to tombs of well-known historic figures, however, the move has caused protests from local feminists who say it promotes prostitution.