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Supporting Women in Prostitution Through Nordic-Baltic Cooperation

Sex should not be for sale. This is the basic premise of exit prostitution programmes. A new Nordic-Baltic project wants to open the door out of the sex industry.


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‘Women in prostitution who want help need somebody to contact,’ says Tanja Auvinen from the Finnish organisation Exit Prostitution.
Internationally, many organisations support women in prostitution through so-called exit programmes. In the Nordic-Baltic region, these programmes can only be found in Norway and Denmark.
‘We want to start an exit programme in Finland, but first we need to learn more about it,’ says Auvinen.
How do the exit programmes work?
‘If a person is motivated to leave the sex industry, we need to be available to help out. The work can take many forms. It’s a type of social work where the personal encounter is important. Women who want to enter a programme get to meet somebody who can offer support and guidance. The programmes are based on the notion that sex work is harmful to both the individual and society.’
How is the sex industry harmful, in your opinion?
‘There is strong evidence that many women in the sex industry have been exposed to sexual violence. We also know that commercial sex has psychological consequences for the seller. At a societal level, approval of prostitution signals that it is ok to buy women’s bodies.’

Whether or not commercial sex should be permitted is a controversial issue. How do you feel about the debate?

Tanja Auvinen. Photo: private
 Tanja Auvinen. Photo: private

‘It’s true that this issue is subject to intense debate, but you don’t see the same polarisation in the practical work. There are organisations that work to improve the conditions for women in the sex industry without taking a stance for or against the existence of the industry. We don’t think their approach is wrong, but the aim of the exit programmes is clear: this industry must be eliminated.’

What’s going on in the project at the moment?
‘We just came back from a workshop in London where we learned a lot from other organisations involved in exit programmes. Next year we’ll arrange a seminar in Helsinki to gather and disseminate knowledge.’

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This is an article about one of the projects granted funding through the Nordic Gender Equality Fund.

Latest updated 2 October 2020