Prostitution and human sexual trafficking

Prostitution is one of several forms of violence against girls and women. Prostitution can involve a girl or woman who sells sex being forced to satisfy the man in various ways, such as vaginal or anal penetration, sucking on the man’s penis, or performing masturbation. A person selling sex may be forced to perform these acts multiple times a day, or on multiple men at the same time. Girls and women involved in prostitution are largely subjected to other types of violence, such as torture and abuse. Unwanted pregnancies and injuries to the genitals and anus are common results of the rape. The psychological consequences for the girls and women are huge. Studies show similarities between the injuries suffered by girls and women involved in prostitution and those suffered by victims of torture and war injuries.

The average age a girl’s first experience of prostitution is estimated as 14, both globally and nationally. Studies also show that a large percentage of girls who become involved in prostitution have previously been the victim of other sexual violence and have a history of mental illness. Becoming involved in prostitution can often be a self-harm behaviour to relieve anxiety caused by past assaults and ill health. Studies also show that young people who have sold or currently sell sex have a lower self-esteem and several psychiatric symptoms.

In relation to young people who have been paid for sex at some point of their life, studies show that in Sweden a larger number of young men have sold sex than young women, approximately 2% and 1% respectively. A study of men who have sex with men showed that 11% of the 15–25 year olds had been paid for sex at some point during the past year. However, the figures do not indicate how many times the young people had sold sex. There are also a number of

differences between male teen and female teen prostitution. Sex trafficking of girls and women is significantly larger and more organised, and it is mainly girls and women who are subjected to trafficking and are sold by pimps. The reason for starting to sell sex may also differ between individuals as well as between genders. The buyer is usually male, regardless of whether the sex is being sold by a male or a female.

To read more information and order educational materials, please visit the website of the National Board of Health and Welfare.

A study by the Public Health Agency of Sweden (formerly the Swedish Public Health Institute) in which men between the ages of 18 and 60 were asked if they had ever purchased sex, 16% (or one out of every six men) had purchase sex at some point. Another research report that the National Board of Health and Welfare ordered from Linköping University shows that one out of ten Swedish men had purchase sex at some point, of which 85% did this abroad. Paying for sexual services is illegal in Sweden.

The global sex trade is a growing problem, with an estimated 4 million children and women becoming the victim of the sex slave trade. The International Organization for Migration estimates that at least 500,000 women are transported to and sold in Europe each year. The sex slave trade is a manifestation of both sexism and racism, since it is usually girls and women from an ethnic minority who are forced into prostitution and the trade goes from poor to richer countries worldwide. A common denominator for girls and women forced into prostitution around the world is that they are victimised in different ways, such as through poverty, marginalisation, assaults and violence, resulting in poor health. A common factor of sex buyers is that they are predominantly men.

If you have experience in receiving payment for sexual services, you are entitled to receive support and help. In Gothenburg, you can contact the organisation Mikamottagningen. They offer counselling, support and practical assistance, regardless of age, gender and sexual identity. You can contact them anonymously. You can also contact Mikamottagningen if you are worried about a family member, partner or friend.

The organisation Rosenlundsstödet is also located in Gothenburg. They provide support to women forced into street prostitution.