Speaking on Woman’s Hour about growing support for the Swedish Model

Labour Party

Yesterday I appeared on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour to discuss the new laws on prostitution currently being passed in France.

It was great to be on the programme again – you can listen to the interview here:

Francois Hollande’s socialist government are moving towards adoption of the Swedish Model, and this week announced fines of as much as €3,750 for prostitute use. The aim of the bill, which is being pushed through by Moroccan-born women’s minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, is to shift emphasis away from those selling sex and onto consumers.

The full proposal, which includes provisions for a €20m fund to help those who want to leave prostitution, will be voted on in the Assemblée Nationale later this week. It will then go to the upper house of the French parliament, the Sénat, for approval.

France is a perfect example of why we need better joined up thought on this issue. Prostituted women in the country are now 90% foreign – up from 20% in 1990 – with most coming from Eastern Europe and China. Human trafficking convictions have gone up by 30% there in the last three years, and there are accounts of sex tourism too, with some French men now crossing the border to liberalised Germany to make us of new ‘mega-brothels’. The situation in France shows that prostitution is a problem which has become globalised – and which now needs more internationally focussed solutions and greater consensus.

For that reason I am delighted to be taking my own report, calling for the Swedish Model, to the Women’s Rights and Gender equality Committee today.

Last month I discussed this with Radio Nantes – you can watch this by clicking here.

The committee will vote on it in January, with the aim of taking it to the plenary stage in February. If my proposals go through then it will add to pressure on domestic governments to adopt more nuanced policies towards tackling the sex trade, so that we can move beyond the blanket ‘Prohibitive vs. Permissive’ binary.

Norway and Iceland – two countries with world-class gender equality records – both adopted the Swedish Model some time ago. It looks as though France will now follow them. As I have said before, my hope is that, if the European Parliament as a whole approves the Nordic Model when we vote on it next year, then we can build on this momentum and see an overall shift of the centre of gravity across Europe. Member States will not be bound to implement the Swedish Model if they do not want to. But as other countries adopt it – and it receives EU approval – they will be more likely to examine whether their own systems are working.

For me this illustrates what the EU does best. In spite of what the Daily Express would have people believe, we are not a clunky regulator but a means of building international consensus and learning from each other, so as to overcome global challenges.