UK Prostitution Legislation and the Implementation of the Nordic Model


  • Lois Nield



Prostitution, UK, Nordic model, Patriarchy


The law of prostitution in the United Kingdom (UK) fails in many instances. By focusing primarily on the nuisance of prostitution, UK law does not offer any indication that a prostitute is a vulnerable party in the transaction. Although progress has been made through s.53A Sexual Offences Act 2003, this article argues that UK law requires reform to implement policies that recognise that prostitutes are victims of gender inequality. Originally implemented in Sweden in 1999, the Nordic model is the first to criminalise the purchase but not the sale of sex, reflecting the radical feminist idea that prostitutes are victims of the patriarchal belief that men have a right to on-demand sex. However, while the model reduces on-street prostitution, this does not outweigh the increased risks of violence prostitutes face. Additionally, prostitution as a whole has not reduced, with buyers and sellers using other means to organise the transaction. Although ultimately concluding that the model has far too many negative effects, the article acknowledges the near impossibility of producing a perfect prostitution policy. However, in order to sufficiently protect prostitutes from harm, the law needs to do more than send a message of disapproval. Instead, more social interventions should be implemented to support sex sellers in all aspects of their lives. Prostitution exists and will continue to exist because patriarchy allows it to do so. To eliminate prostitution, patriarchy and the patriarchal belief that men have an intrinsic right to women's bodies must first be dismantled.