Abolitionist Europe? The EWL, the Nordic Model and the Shaping of Norms Regarding Prostitution

  • Abstract:

    On 14 February of this year , Ireland joined the ranks of other European countries – including Sweden, Norway, Northern Ireland, Iceland, France, Finland and the United Kingdom – that have adopted the Nordic Model of prostitution which makes it illegal to purchase sexual services, but decriminalizes the activity of prostitution itself. The Nordic Model was pioneered by the Sex Purchase Act enacted in Sweden, a country known for its feminist politics and social welfare state model, in 1999. The aim of this legal device is twofold: firstly, to abolish prostitution – seen as sexual violence deeply rooted in the patriarchy and incompatible with a gender equal society – and secondly to combat sex trafficking – seen as a direct consequence of the former. These objectives lay at the heart of a transnational movement known as abolitionism (or neo-abolitionism) and for which the Nordic Model has become the cornerstone. Like all public policy, the Nordic Model is a normative device; however, its primarily pedagogic aims is based on a very exacting worldview. Thus by advocating for the Nordic Model on the European level, where prostitution has been left to the discretion of Member States, the European Women’s Lobby is cultivating a set of new collective European values. This paper aims to provide further insight into this process by looking at the development of the abolitionist lobby in Europe through the lens of emotions. More specifically, we will look at how EWL advocacy for the Nordic Model has shaped emotional norms regarding prostitution in Europe.