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Swedish MPs Raise Concern Over Human Trafficking, Sex Trade

May 18, 2006

Every year, four million people are bought, sold and transported in the growing sex trafficking industry that targets vulnerable women and children around the world. In Europe alone, more than 500,000 victims fall prey to the sex-trade industry each year, of which 120,000 are women and children transported from countries of the European Union from other countries to work as sex-slaves. The estimated yearly number of women brought into Sweden is 400-600.

Every year, four million people are bought, sold and transported in the growing sex trafficking industry that targets vulnerable women and children around the world. In Europe alone, more than 500,000 victims fall prey to the sex-trade industry each year, of which 120,000 are women and children transported from countries of the European Union from other countries to work as sex-slaves. The estimated yearly number of women brought into Sweden is 400-600.

According to Johan Candelin, the Director of the Religious Liberty Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance, Christians should unite and struggle against the growing industry through prayer and action.

"Today, it is of great importance that Christians – all over the world – speak up against the trade on human beings, on sex slaves," said Candelin. "Let us stand together, pray together for this to end and for the victims – and also: take action! Speak up!"

Swedish MPs Annelie Enochson and Tuve Skånberg, both Christian Democrats and First Step Forum members agree that the industry "has to be brought to an end."

"The changes in the laws and other actions have not been enough in order to stop sextourism and the sex trade," they wrote in a recently published report by the Swedish Christian Democrates.

This week, MP Enochson gave the World Evangelical Alliance a personal interview on the issue. The following are excerpts from the interview:

1. How and when did you become interested in the issue of human trafficking?

Through my work in the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) I began seeing how broad the extent of this modern day slavery really is. I realized that I have to do everything in my power to stop this. I am also a mother and so I understand that behind every victim in this trade there is a sad and restless mother.


2. What is the trend concerning human trafficking in Sweden – is it on the rise, getting better or worse?

It is increasing. Every year, there are about 400-600 women who are brought to Sweden to work as sex slaves. This is a lot - even if Sweden is one of the few countries in the world that has criminalized the act of buying sex.

3. You have raised the question on the issue in the Swedish Parliament. What do you hope to achieve?

Despite the strong legislation we have in our country, sex is being bought more and more often – so we have to take further action. The most important thing is to diminish the demand for buying sex. This can be reached by increasing the punishment for buying sex. In our report, we suggest that the minimal penalty for buying sex would be 14 days of imprisonment – while today paying a fine is all. Also, we suggest that the penalty for human trafficking would be 4 years of imprisonment – today it is two years.

5. Is there any co-operation between the government and the NGO-sector?

To a certain extent there is co-operation. But a whole lot more could be done. Several NGOs and church communions have always contributed greatly and made big efforts in protecting and standing up for the weakest in society – and the victims of human trafficking surely are part of the weakest in our society.

6. In the last half of the 20th century, every decade is marked by a broader understanding and institutionalization of human rights principles. To what degree are those recognized in the Swedish legislation concerning the issue on human trafficking?

For me, the trafficking of humans is one of the century’s biggest wrongdoings against human rights – and an unacceptable devaluation of the human value.


8. Does the Swedish government do anything to support the victims and to prevent this from happening again? If yes – how is that done?

All victims who testify against their perpetrators have the right to stay in the country for a certain period of time. But in this area – more needs to be done so that they could obtain a permanent right to stay. In our report, we also express our desire and the idea which is that all of these human trafficking victims would get a support-person here in Sweden. This person would offer them personal assistance and stand by them. The fight against prostitution, sexslavery and sex-tourism hasn to be fought on many fronts simultaneously. It is equally important to fight organised crime as changing the view on prostitution and gender trade. The Soccer World Cup is a good opportunity for Sweden to made our voice heard within the European Union against the more and more liberal view on gender trade. We do this by advocating for stronger legislation.

9. Is it probable there will be a new legislation to attempt to curtail trafficking in Sweden, what are your thoughts on the effectiveness of the legislation and the probability of its enforcement?

The punishments need to be stronger – precisely in order to discourage people from buying sex and in order to diminish the demand for it. When it comes to international organizations cero-tolerance needs to be applied for the purchasing of sexual favors both for military personnel, for personnel working in humanitarian organizations and for personnel working in international organizations as SIDA (the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency), the UN, OSCE and the EU.

10. What is the biggest challenge that lies ahead of the Swedish government in the issue of human trafficking?

To end all kind of human slavery. It is disgraceful for a society in the 21st century that this can exist. Who would even have thought that 170 years after that William Wilberforce succeeded to get the "Slavery Abolition Act" approved, there still would exist slavery and sex trade? It is time to really - with all means - fight the new form of trade of humans, the sexual trade. Human trade is one of the greatest wrongdoings and assaults of the century against human rights. It is simply an unacceptable disgrace to human life.