The law and its impact on prostituted women in Denmark
Prostitution is legal in Denmark. When Sweden in 1999 decided to criminalize the punters, Denmark did almost the opposite. They made prostitution legal, also as a main source of income, but not as a legitimate business. But prostitutes had to pay taxes, although they weren’t entitled to employment rights or unemployment benefits. They are not able to be in a union, get economic support if they get sick or if a prostituted woman is on maternity leave, as everyone else with union rights does.
It’s also legal to buy a prostitute, as long as she is 18 and above, but it’s not legal to earn money on other people’s prostitution whether as a pimp or as a brothel owner, although this does occur. The police in Denmark have a special department, like sex crimes unit. Their job is to detect and prevent pimping, trafficking, blackmail, drug crimes, threats, abuse, violence and tax evasion.
A survey from 2011 showed that there are about 3.200 prostitutes in Denmark, 1.600 working in brothels and 600 working on the streets – mainly foreign women, and about 900 working as escorts. And then we have about a 100 prostitutes working in strip-clubs around Denmark. According to a study from the police, there are around 466 brothels in Denmark, most of them in Copenhagen, but also scattered in cities all over Denmark. Since 2011 prostitution has been glorified in the media by telling stories about prostitution as a free choice and neglecting the link between sex trafficking and prostitution. In addition, the number of sex trafficked women and children has increased dramatically in Europe, why the figures can be misleading, and may be a lot higher than the estimated number from 2011.
It’s important to mention that the population in Denmark is around 5.5 million people.
A survey from 2013 showed that every 6th man (around 280.000) in Denmark has been with a prostitute, and the survey also showed that every 7th of them, which means around 40.000 men, didn’t care if the woman they had bought was trafficked or not. Actually they didn’t care if the prostituted woman was allowed to keep the money, or if she had to give the money to a pimp.
In 2009 the Centre against trafficking registered 54 people who had been victims of trafficking in Denmark, forced into prostitution. Most of them came from Africa. The service board in Denmark does report, that the number of trafficked people can be much higher, but that it is very difficult to identify them, because of the attitude towards prostitution not being harmful, and because it’s difficult to prove that the women are trafficked. In addition, it is difficult to get the women to admit if they are being trafficked because they fear for their lives and because some of them have been aware that they were going into prostitution, why they haven’t considered them selves as trafficked.
Over the next 4 years, the government in Denmark has put aside 48 million D.kr. – that means 6,4 million euro or 8,1 million Dollars. This is for a project called “Exit prostitution”, to help people who wants to leave prostitution. It began back in 2012 and is running until 2014. This project seeks to examine which therapeutic tools work best, but it doesn’t mean, that the project will be continued after 2014 – and until now it has only managed to help 50 people out of prostitution. The project is being criticized, because it never asked the women, who actually got out of prostitution, what helped had helped them.