Norway to ban ‘purchase of sexual favours’


Oslo : A new law that criminalizes the purchase of sexual favours in Norway is expected to result in a decline in the number of prostitutes on the streets of Oslo and other cities when it comes into force Jan 1.

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The law will apply inside the Scandinavian country and to Norwegian residents when they are outside Norway. It is partly based on similar legislation adopted in neighbouring Sweden in 1999.

Prostitutes, who offer their services, will not be prosecuted under the new law.

“People are not goods for sale. With this law, we wish to make it more difficult for human traffickers to ply their trade in Norway,” Justice Minister Knut Storberget said recently.

Offenders risk a fine or a six-month jail term, or both. In cases, involving minors or aggravating circumstances for instance, the punishment could be even tougher.

Police will be allowed to conduct wiretaps to gather evidence.

The number of street prostitutes appears to have declined recently in central Oslo. Police have for several months been informing prostitutes of the pending legislation.

The Oslo-based Pro Centre, a public-funded social service centre that works with male and female prostitutes, estimates that there are some 700 prostitutes in the Norwegian capital.

Some critics claim the new law will force prostitutes to go underground, seeking customers in bars and other nightspots or working from flats and hotels, at increased risk.

The hospitality and leisure sector has, however, welcomed the move, Hilde Solheim of the Federation of Norwegian Commercial and Service Enterprises told the online edition of the Aftenposten newspaper.

Solheim added that there were challenges for nightspots that had to strike a balance between preventing prostitution and also not discriminating against innocent people.

During 2008 around 3,000 people were estimated to be engaged in prostitution in Norway, a third of them working the streets, the independent research institute FAFO said.

The institute underlined the difficulty in establishing exact numbers. The study suggested a sizeable portion of prostitutes came to Norway to work for a limited period of time, many from eastern Europe and Nigeria.