Home » The Nordic Model

Understanding the Nordic Model


Legalisation and decriminalisation are failed policy approaches to prostitution. The legalisation of prostitution increases trafficking and expands the overall market for prostitution, fostering greater demand for the purchase of ‘sexual services’. The Nordic Model, on the other hand, is an innovative form of prostitution policy gaining traction internationally. It originated in Sweden and has been in operation since 1999. It has been highly effective in reducing the markets for prostitution and sex trafficking in Sweden. It has been endorsed by the European Parliament as best practice for preventing sexual exploitation. It is now in operation in Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Canada, France, Ireland and Northern Ireland (with variations in Finland and South Korea), and is under consideration in Italy, Israel and Luxembourg.

Key Elements of the Nordic Model

The Nordic approach directly targets the demand for prostitution by criminalising the actions of pimps and buyers, rather than the actions of prostituted persons: it is a form of asymmetric decriminalisation.

This model acknowledges that the vast majority of buyers are men and that the vast majority of prostituted persons are women and girls. This approach recognises prostitution as a form of violence against women and is incompatible with women’s equality.

It incorporates public education programs discouraging the purchase of sex, as well as comprehensive exit programs, and social and economic support to assist prostituted persons to leave the industry.

Further information

Detailed information about the introduction of the Nordic Model as well as other resources can be found on our Nordic Model Resources page. Links to the actual legislation in those countries that have adopted this model can be found on the Nordic Model Legislation page

The CATWA report Demand Change: Understanding the Nordic Model approach to prostitution(2017) is a comprehensive summary of the history behind the development of this model and its implementation in various countries.

The Swedish Sex Purchase Law: evidence of it’s impact (2016). This report, produced by the Nordic Model Information Network presents clear evidence of the success of the Swedish legislation.

Speaking of prostitution (2013) An excellent resource from the Swedish feminist organisation Kvinnofronten. It provides many arguments to counter the pro-prostitution lobby and is written in a  straight forward, non-academic style.

Buying sex should be banned in Australia. A 2013 article advocating for the Nordic model in Australia