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Assembly given flawed picture of the sex trade

GUNILLA Ekberg, the prominent Swedish anti-prostitution campaigner, recently gave testimony regarding the Human Trafficking Bill currently before the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Some MLAs appear to have been swayed by her claims regarding both trafficking and prostitution – opinions grounded in her staunch anti-prostitution philosophy, rather than being evidence-based.

Ekberg claims that "97%" of sex workers are victims and that only "a few individuals" sell sex voluntarily. This is an ideological claim that is not supported by the evidence.

Contrary to the simplistic picture Ekberg paints, research tells us that prostitution is highly complex. Workers' experiences range from negative to positive to mixed.

Ekberg attempts to equate prostitution solely with human trafficking. Yet the US State Department concluded in 2010 that "the majority of human trafficking in the world takes the form of forced labour" and the International Labour Organisation has reported that there are nine times more worldwide victims of labour trafficking than sex trafficking.

Surely, trafficking outside the commercial sex sector deserves far more attention from policymakers?


Professor of Sociology

George Washington University

Washington, DC, USA

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