The Real Impact of Partial Criminalization: The Nordic Model and Sex Work

The Real Impact of Partial Criminalization: The Nordic Model and Sex Work

by Choice - June 17, 2024
The Real Impact of Partial Criminalization: The Nordic Model and Sex Work

At Choice Technologies, we value the rights, dignity, and safety of all workers, regardless of their industry. As a tech firm offering marketplace technology to make sex work and companionship services safer, we find it crucial to discuss and explore the real-life consequences of criminalization policies on sex work. It is our belief that understanding these impacts is an essential step towards fostering more enlightened discussions and ultimately more comprehensive and effective public policies.

The so-called ‘Nordic model’, adopted initially in Sweden and later in countries like Norway and Iceland, criminalizes the purchase, but not the sale of sex work. Promoted as a tool to combat exploitation and human trafficking, it places legal responsibility on clients, rather than on sex workers. However, the consequences of the Nordic model often exacerbate the precarious conditions of sex workers rather than alleviate them.

Consequences of the Nordic Model

Scientific research sheds light on the negative impacts of the Nordic model on the safety and health of sex workers. A pivotal study by Shannon and Csete (2010) in JAMA, substantiated by a comprehensive review in the BMJ Journalby Platt et al. (2018), demonstrates a strong correlation between criminalization and an increased rate of violence and HIV infection among sex workers. These studies highlight how the criminalization of clients under the Nordic model led to rushed negotiations, a reduction in sex workers’ ability to effectively screen clients, and an increased risk of violence and sexually transmitted infections.

Paris’s Case: A Living Testimony

The documentary “Au Coeur du Bois” directed by Claus Drexel (2021) paints a grim picture of the Nordic model’s consequences in France. Following the adoption of this model in 2016, sex workers in Paris moved their activities to the Bois de Boulogne, a large public park, to avoid law enforcement. Their personal accounts underline the fear, violence, and risk these individuals now face in their daily lives, experiences that echo the patterns observed in academic research on countries applying the Nordic model.

A Safer Approach

At Choice Technologies, we believe in an alternative approach that centers on the rights and safety of sex workers. Our marketplace technology mandates clients to identify themselves using an official identity document, thereby creating a safer environment for sex workers and fostering transparency and accountability.

It is high time to reframe the discussion around sex work in a manner that prioritizes the rights, safety, and well-being of the workers. Despite its noble intentions, the Nordic model has shown to lead to severe adverse outcomes for those it seeks to protect. As advocates for safer practices in sex work, we implore policymakers to consider the wealth of evidence that exposes the harmful consequences of the Nordic model and to explore alternatives that genuinely uphold the rights and safety of sex workers.


  • Shannon, K., Csete, J., (2010). Violence, Condom Negotiation, and HIV/STI Risk Among Sex Workers. JAMA, 304(5), 573–574.
  • Platt, L., Grenfell, P., Meiksin, R., Elmes, J., Sherman, S. G., Sanders, T., Mwangi, P., & Crago, A. L. (2018). Associations between sex work laws and sex workers’ health: A systematic review and meta-analysis of quantitative and qualitative studies. PLoS Med, 15(12), e1002680.
  • Deering, K. N., Amin, A., Shoveller, J., Nesbitt, A., Garcia-Moreno, C., Duff, P., Argento, E., & Shannon, K. (2014). A Systematic Review of the Correlates of Violence Against Sex Workers. American Journal of Public Health, 104(5), e42–e54.
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