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Nadia shivers in the cold night air while waiting for punters on the streets of Oslo. Until recently, the centre of the Norwegian capital was the country's main red-light district, with sex workers standing at every corner waiting for clients.
But tonight the streets are almost deserted. Nadia, a year-old heroin addict, is one of only three prostitutes out working. There are few customers because, since 1 January, it has been illegal to buy sex in Norway. Approximately 35 men have been fined so far - many caught in the act, as was one of Nadia's clients. I told the guy he should say I was feeling unwell and that he was driving me home. I stuck to the story, but he spilled the beans immediately. Norway is the latest in a small, but growing, number of European nations that have criminalised paying for sex.
Sweden has had a ban on buying sex since , while in Finland it has been illegal since to buy sex from a woman who is trafficked or pimped. England, Wales and Northern Ireland are now considering following Finland's example. The policing and crime bill that has just gone through the House of Commons will make it an offence to pay for sex with someone "subjected to force by psychological means and the exploitation of vulnerability".
Although the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, was accused last week by women's groups of backtracking on tougher proposals to criminalise men who pay for sex with anyone "controlled for gain", if the bill becomes law, its immediate impact is likely to be the near-disappearance of street prostitution, as in Norway. But this could make life tougher for prostitutes. Before we would go down to the harbour and be done in 15 minutes.
Nadia, who has been a sex worker since she was 14, says: Now you have to work all night and you earn only about 1,, kroner. The ban on buying sex, however, may also make it more difficult to conduct human trafficking. They can no longer send the women on the streets, which was the easiest way to find clients. Now they have to find flats for the women, they must advertise on the internet, and clients are afraid of getting caught.