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Maine: The First State in the US to Adopt the Nordic Model

Le Maine, 1er état américain à adopter le modèle d'égalité : décriminalisation des personnes prostituées et pénalisation des clients et des proxénètes

On July 11th, 2023, Maine became the first U.S. state to adopt the Nordic Model[1] with the passage of two key laws, one aimed at reducing commercial sexual exploitation and the other at providing aid to its survivors. As a reminder, a vast majority of states in the U.S. still adhere to starkly prohibitionist policies that punish all individuals involved in the system, including those subjected to prostitution. These new laws mark a major step forward; they remove penalties for those subjected to prostitution, thus abolishing it as a crime. This does not mean, however, that the entire system has been decriminalised. While prostitution is no longer penalised, sex buyers—also ‘clients’—and other exploiters, such as pimps, remain subject to severe penalties for the violence they perpetuate.


Not only do these measures remove previously leveraged penalties for prostitution; they also put in place essential support services to survivors of the prostitution system, guaranteeing them certain fundamental rights and thus enabling them to exit prostitution without fear of discrimination in terms of housing or employment.


This legislative breakthrough builds on the equality model, first pioneered in Sweden in 1999, which has proven to successfully target the ‘clients’—of whom the overwhelming majority are men—who are the driving force of demand in the global sex trade. It is also the result of the enduring commitment of survivors and the organisations such as Just Love Worldwide that support them. The efforts of Congresswoman Lois Galgay Reckitt along with those of partners such as the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), Rights4Girls, World Without Exploitation and the National Centre on Sexual Exploitation were also instrumental in effectuating these changes.


In passing these laws, the state government of Maine is aligning itself with universal human rights principles, adhering to international law and U.S. federal policy that advocate for the total abolition of the buying and selling of human beings, including for the purpose of sexual acts. This victory is a significant step towards equality for women and girls; it places Maine’s government alongside those of Sweden, Iceland, Norway, Canada, Northern Ireland, France, the Republic of Ireland, and Israel, all of which are committed to fighting demand to prevent sexual exploitation and putting an end to the prostitution system.


This bold new approach marks a decisive transition towards a more egalitarian society, prioritising the rights and dignity of those subjected to prostitution while holding accountable those who perpetuate this criminal exploitation. The Fondation Scelles welcomes this major step forward and calls for continued global efforts to abolish prostitution and promote the Nordic Model to achieve collective emancipation.

[1] The Swedish model, later referred to as the Nordic model as it largely followed beyond Sweden, implements the decriminalisation and support of persons involved in prostitution, the criminalisation of the purchase of sex acts, the criminalisation of sex buyers and procurers, public awareness, and prevention (Fondation Scelles, Sexual Exploitation: New Challenges, New Answers, 2019, pg. 145).  




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