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Few initiatives specifically targeting young people who have sex for compensation in the Nordic countries


Young people who have sex for compensation are a vulnerable, particularly preyed-on group, but in the Nordic countries few specifically targeted social initiatives are offered to this group. This is shown in a new report entitled Young People, Vulnerabilities and Prostitution/Sex for Compensation in the Nordic Countries. Other main findings are that more young men than women report experience of sex for compensation and that the proportion of young LGBTI people who report experiencing it is higher than the proportion of young people who do not identify as LGBTI who report such experiences.

The Young People, Vulnerabilities and Prostitution/Sex for Compensation in the Nordic Countries report focuses specifically on young people’s experiences of sex for compensation and aimed to collect, analyse and problematize knowledge about this group in the Nordic countries. The study had three aims. The first was to present existing knowledge about young people’s experiences of sex for compensation and to critically discuss the methods applied in the production of this knowledge. In addition, the study aimed to describe and analyse social initiatives in relation to young people who have sex for compensation, and analyse the application of the legislation relevant to this group.

It is the first time that knowledge about young people who have sex for compensation has been compiled and spotlighted in all the Nordic countries. The study’s findings and the overall picture that the report gives are an important source of knowledge for many different actors in the Nordic countries, according to Charlotta Holmström, sociologist and lead researcher for the study.

“It is vital knowledge for all actors who encounter young people in their work – social work, healthcare, police force, the legal system and schools – but also for actors who work with policy in these areas.”

More knowledge needed
in order to offer adequate support

NIKK, Nordic Information on Gender, tasked by the Nordic Council of Ministers, has compiled the report. The study presents national reports from the five Nordic countries, written by researchers in the field in each country. The reports are based on various types of material – some primarily based on previous research and reports, and others on empirical material collected in interviews with professionals working in the field.

The findings show overall that research into young people who have sex for compensation in the Nordic countries is relatively limited. Few social initiatives are offered specifically to young people who have sex for compensation. The reports also show that young people’s experiences of sex for compensation differ from those of older people, which is a strong motivation for targeted initiatives. Generally speaking, there is a need for more knowledge about young people in the Nordic countries who have sex for compensation in order to be able to deal with the problem and give young people in this situation adequate help and support.

Principal findings of the Young People, Vulnerabilities and Prostitution/Sex for Compensation in the Nordic Countries report

Young men and LGBTI people are more often affected
The review of previous research in the report shows that more young men than young women report having experienced sex for compensation. The proportion of young LGBTI people who report experiencing sex for compensation is higher than the proportion of young people who do not identify as LGBTI who report such experiences. Professionals in the field also report that they often encounter young adult migrants. This group is not represented in the literature at all.

Few social initiatives specifically targeting young people who have sex for compensation

Few social initiatives are offered specifically to young people who have sex for compensation. At the same time, previous research shows that young people who have sex for compensation state more frequently that they have experience of drug use and alcohol consumption, various kinds of abuse, self-harm behaviours and mental illness.

The importance of terminology

In all the national reports, social workers and other professionals in the field stressed the importance of the terminology used to describe young people’s experiences of sex for compensation in relation to how successful professionals were in reaching young people in need of help and being able to offer adequate support. Many of the social support professionals interviewed stated that the term ‘prostitution’ makes it more difficult to establish a relationship of trust with individuals who need support and that it can lead to increased stigmatization.

No analysis of structural factors

An individual perspective has largely been applied in previous research and other studies. The individual perspective increases the risk that the individual professional will be moralising in their communications with young people. Structural factors are described and analysed to a much smaller degree. It may therefore be concluded that there are no in-depth analyses of the significance of structural factors.

The state of knowledge – limited knowledge about young people who have sex for compensation

A review of previous research and other literature revealed that knowledge about young people in the Nordic countries who have sex for compensation is limited and that the scope and type of knowledge about young people who have sex for compensation varies in the different Nordic countries.

Varying legislation in the Nordic countries

The legislation on the sale and purchase of sexual services in the Nordic countries varies quite a lot. However, buying sexual services from minors is a criminal offence in all the Nordic countries. Other law also affects young people who have sex for compensation. However, the Acts that apply and the way in which they are implemented depend largely on whether the person who has sex for compensation is over 18 or under 18.

Susanna Young Håkansson

For more information and press inquiries, please contact:
Jenny Pentler
Project Coordinator, NIKK