Saturday, 27 December 2008

Santa and Familicide

In Britain every six weeks a man will have his power and priviledge taken away and will choose a henious way to express that - familicide. Killing his family, sometimes they are sucessful in their attempt to kill themselves, sometimes it is just their children, sometimes their wife/girlfriend too and sometimes it is the whole extended family.

In New York on Christmas Eve 2008 a man identified as Padro, aged 45 dressed up as Santa Claus and exterminated his ex-wife's extended family and their children. 8 are now dead. He shot an 8 year old girl who exitably answered the door to Santa Claus point blank in the face and made a device out of a christmas present that sprayed flammable liquid on the party goers. His wife divorced him after a year, he was not happy about the divorce and took vengeance on her and her family. He later killed himself. This is not a mental illness, this is not suicidal ideation but homicidal ideation and intent Read more here. Our thoughts should go to the family where this most monstrous of crimes happened.

Until the violence and killing stops we cannot be silent about men's violemnce towards women and their children.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Jacqui Smith - criminalising the buying of sex

I can't understand the argument that calls for prostitution to be legalised except that it would make it easier ont he prostitute - if only that was the case however there is no praxis to the argument, where prostitution is legal - the sex industry goes through the roof.

And I am sick to death being called a ant-sex feminist. why am I anti-sex because I deplore men buying women's sexual consent - what's so sexy about that. I fully support shifting the responsibility of prostitution away from women and onto men - they should think before they randomly buy sex from a woman. It is estimated that 9 out of 10 prostitutes are trafficked, pimped or have chronic substance abuse problems for me that is abuse, why do men want to have sex with an abused woman? Is it a power and control thing, seems like it to me. The majority of men are having sex with women whose consent is negotiated by an abuser - now I understand the boring old "my wife does n't understand me" but I don't understand them. Perhaps if they had a better attitude about sex as opposed to power and control their wife/partner might be able to express herself sexually rather than be put on a pedastal as his lovely wife.

I do however agree with the English Collective of Prostitutes on women's poverty. Equal Pay for women in Britain is lagging way behind, and child care is extortionate. There are many more policies needed and especially money needed to make safe routes out on prostitution fopr those that want to make those routes.

From Observer, 16th November 2008

Home Secretary plans to crack down on vice trade on the streets, while lapdancing clubs will face a stringent licensing regime

The Home Secretary has attacked the 'bizarre' practice of City firms entertaining clients in lapdancing clubs, on the eve of a government crackdown on the sex trade which is expected to criminalise most men who use prostitutes.

Jacqui Smith said she expected to see some lapdancing clubs, which have mushroomed in recent years, close and fewer new ones opened under reforms triggered by concerns over a seedy culture of sexual titillation creeping across city centres. She will outline plans this week to criminalise paying for sex with a woman 'controlled for another person's gain'. The new offence will carry a hefty fine and criminal record, which could prevent those caught from getting jobs in sensitive occupations.

The legislation will cover women who have pimps or drug addicts who work to pay off their dealers as well as the rarer cases of trafficked women. This is expected to include the majority of Britain's 80,000 sex workers. Ignorance of a woman's circumstances will not be a defence. Kerb crawlers will be 'named and shamed', while those who pay a prostitute knowing she has been forcibly trafficked could face rape charges.

The measures are highly controversial, with critics arguing that men will seek other outlets if prostitution is driven off the streets. Smith said it was 'not mine or the government's responsibility to ensure that the demand is satisfied', adding: 'Is this something about which people have a choice with respect to their demands? Yes, they do. Basically, if it means fewer people are able to go out and pay for sex I think that would be a good thing.'

The prostitution review will be published this week, followed later this month by new licensing arrangements that are expected to see lapdancing clubs, currently licensed in the same way as pubs, subjected to the same stringent regime as sex shops, allowing local residents more opportunities to object.

Smith said she believed the law had been 'left behind' by the explosion in lapdancing clubs, which were seen as acceptable entertainment for a corporate night out. 'If I were a business person and I were wanting to make the best impression on clients, who presumably are female as well as male, I do think it's a bit bizarre that you would take them to a lapdancing club,' she said.

The new regime would make it more difficult to open them. 'It's not a complete ban on lapdancing clubs, but it's saying you don't operate in a vacuum, you have an impact on the community around you. I would hope it would make it harder for them to open, certainly in residential areas, and I would suspect that some of them will be closed when the licences come up for renewal.'

The English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP), which has vigorously opposed the clampdown, says outlawing paid-for sex between consenting adults will punish women who find this more lucrative than menial jobs. Forcing the trade underground would mean that 'the risks they are forced to take will be greater', said a spokeswoman.

One anonymous lapdancer who provided a statement for the ECP said she could earn £250 in four hours of dancing. 'Nine out of 10 women turn to prostitution or lapdancing because there's not enough money to survive. Recently my mum couldn't afford a pair of school shoes for my brother and sister. When I worked a day job I couldn't help her, but now I can.

'If the government is offended by the work we do, then give us the financial means to get out.' She said that there was 'no pressure to have sex with men, only opportunities', in her job.

The ECP's argument has been fuelled by the glamorisation of sex work at the hands of bloggers such as Belle de Jour, the call girl whose memoir became a bestselling book and then a TV film: she claimed to love sex and regarded working as an escort for £300 as a better option than temping.

Smith said that she did not believe that was true of most sex workers. Under the new offence, men would not be able to claim in court that they had not known the prostitute had a pimp or a drug habit. 'It won't be enough to say, "I didn't know",' she said. 'What I hope people will say is, "I am not actually going to take the risk if there is any concern that this woman hasn't made a free choice." It would be quite difficult for a man paying for sex in the majority of cases not to fall under this particular offence.'

She had ruled out a universal ban on paid sex because some women argued they did it out of choice 'and it's not my job to criminalise the demand for that'.

Katherine Rake, director of the Fawcett Society pressure group, which has campaigned for a clampdown on lapdancing clubs, welcomed the planned curbs. 'People have suddenly woken up to the fact that our city centres have changed very dramatically and that has an impact on us all, it being part of the culture of sexualisation. It has been a silent creep, but a deadly one in terms of what it meant for social attitudes and how women feel in public spaces.'

Friday, 14 November 2008

Man jailed for bride murder bid

Muhammed Rashad, narrowly missed being one of the 120 men who kill their partners or ex-partners every year in Britain, he strangled, battered and tried to suffocate his wife Zahida, at their home in Glasgow, in October 2007, luckily she survived.

The attack happened after she had failed to answer the phone.

Report from BBC News

Muhammed Rashad
Rashad was told that he could be deported after his sentence

A man who tried to kill his new bride weeks after their wedding in Pakistan has been jailed for seven years at the High Court in Edinburgh.

Muhammed Rashad, 29, strangled, battered and tried to suffocate his cousin, Zahida, at their home in Kings Park, Glasgow, last October.

The attack happened after she had failed to answer the phone.

Rashad was convicted of attempted murder in September. He was told he could be deported after his sentence.

The court heard how Rashad attacked his wife after demanding to know where she was when he tried to phone her.

She told him she had been in the house but had not heard the phone.

Rashad called her stupid before repeatedly punching her, slapping her with his hands and hitting her with a wooden spoon until it broke.

The woman then ran to her father-in-law's room and begged for help.

You were found guilty of a prolonged, violent, dangerous and frightening attack on your young wife who was then in a particularly vulnerable position
Lord Kingarth
The court was told that he did nothing while Rashad kicked her and wrapped a mobile phone charger cord around her neck.

Rashid then tried to strangle his wife with his hands and smother her with a pillow.

Jailing him, judge Lord Kingarth, said: "You were found guilty of a prolonged, violent, dangerous and frightening attack on your young wife who was then in a particularly vulnerable position, she having only recently come from Pakistan to live in the United Kingdom.

"This is a matter which this court has to take seriously.

"In all the circumstances I am satisfied that only a substantial custodial sentence is appropriate."

Lord Kingarth said he did not think it appropriate to recommend deporting Rashad because he had lived in the UK for years, had not offended before, and was deemed to be at low-risk of re-offending.

But he said that the Secretary of State had the power to send him back to his native Pakistan after his sentence.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Nagging and Infidelty is no defence

Good on Harriet Harmon, that bourgeois feminist that she is - she's taking on the judges and telling them to get with it! No longer will "provocation" be accepted in crimes of murder where female partners and ex-partners are the victims. No longer will the excuse of she was a "nag" or she humiliated me when she left me for the local train-spotter" be a defence! And quite right too. See the article in the Observer here

There is a lot written about "Honour Based Violence" usually focused on BME communities however in indigenous Britain the defence of provocation is accepted when a husband murders his cheating or nagging wife. His honour was lost when his property left him for another man or she was sleeping with his friends - so he murdered her. It seems to be accepted but it should not be. It is in fact a murder in the context of domestic abuse - it is a domestic abuse murder. Joseph McGrail was cleared of murder in 1991 when a judge said "her nagging would test the patients of a saint". 120 women are murdered in Britain every year by their partners or ex-partners.

Activists have fought for years for provocation to be used in the cases of women like Emma Humphries, Kiranjit Ahluwalia and Sara Thorton who killed their abusers - but they were found to be murders and their abuse, their rape and torture was dismissed and these women were seen to be evil.

And further legislation will be coming into place to criminalise buying sex from a woman who is being prostituted for another's gain. I am glad this is all coming to pass. Buying sex from a woman who is pimped, trafficked or prostituted by another is not consensual sex and should be deemed as rape. The woman cannot give her free consent because her safety and life is controlled by another. The sooner the better that we see such legislation.

There is no excuse for domestic abuse!

Sunday, 2 November 2008

This isnot an invitation to rape me

Hope you have seen the fantastic campaign from Rape Crisis Scotland and the Scottish Government called "this is not an invitation to rape me"

Check out their website here

Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary are supporting the campaign - see here

Friday, 28 March 2008

Prostitution in Edinburgh

Prostitution has been rife in Edinburgh years and the Scottish Government built it's HQ very near to the old "red light district" of Coburg Street. Brothels in Edinburgh are getting busted read here

I really worry about the growth in prostitution and how women from around the world find themselves here selling their bodies and consent to Scottish men. Prostitution does not exist because it is the oldest profession in the world but because there is a demand for it. It saddens me that in the city I love so much that there is such a demand to buy sex

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Murders that demand a radical shift in attitudes

The past week we have seen three men convicted and sentenced for horrific murders of women - Levi Bellfield, Steve Wright and Mark Dixie are now where they should be behind bars. There are calls for hanging and for everyone to hand over their DNA, two of the men were caught by historic DNA however we don't all have to hand over our DNA at all - there is something that is common between these three men and that is they had a history of violence towards women and girls and they bought sex from prostitutes. we need the DNA of men who are violent to women and from those who buy sex from prostitutes. Prostituted women are 18 times more likely to be murdered than women who are not prostitutes, the majority of those that kill, batter, rape, threaten and abuse prostitutes also buy sex from prostitutes.

Joan Smith had a thoughtful article in the Independent today.The online article is here

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Bring back hanging! I've heard it many times in the last week, following the convictions of three men for the murders of eight young women. On Tuesday, Levi Bellfield was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison, the same sentence that Steve Wright was given at the end of last week. Mark Dixie will serve a minimum of 34 years after a trial in which, amazingly, he denied murder but admitted necrophilia.

In each case, the details which emerged in court were horrific, and phone-in shows resound with demands for capital punishment. Alternatively, because of the role played by DNA in identifying Dixie and Wright, there have been suggestions that the entire population should be on a DNA database.

The first impulse stems from a desire for revenge, the second from a feeling that "something must be done". Both should be resisted, and the fact that they are being made at all is evidence of a state of collective denial. Leaving aside the overwhelming moral case against the death penalty, the judicial murder of a few notorious offenders will not stop violence against women, and risks distorting public perceptions about the subject even further.

What is striking about Wright and Bellfield is that so many people were aware that they abused women but nobody felt able to do anything about it. In a society where domestic violence is commonplace and rape goes unpunished, what is someone to do when they suspect that a man is abusing girls and women?

I am not arguing that all men treat women badly. But a substantial minority do, and we refuse to read the signals or condemn their behaviour unequivocally. Bellfield had a reputation for picking up under-age girls and having sex with them in the back of his van, even offering to prostitute his 16-year-old "girlfriend" and her 14-year-old sister to an employee; a former partner recalled finding magazines in which he slashed photographs of blonde women, with whom he had a lethal obsession.

Wright had a series of violent relationships, attacking partners and abusing them as "slags" and "whores". The Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, told a drinking friend he had attacked a woman with a stone hidden in a sock, but it took five years for the man to inform the police; while he was thinking about it, 13 women were murdered and half a dozen others attacked.

There is no need to put the entire country, including women and children, on a DNA database to discover the identity of men who pose a threat to women. Despite all the calls I've had from journalists over the past few days, asking me what motivates men like Wright, Dixie and Bellfield, there is no great mystery about it.

Men do not commit such crimes out of the blue; most of them don't even bother to hide their hatred of women. There is usually a childhood history of domestic violence, which means that they grow up in an atmosphere of physical fear and contempt for women, whom they regard both as victims and the cause of their fathers' violence.

I've heard a great deal about the role of absent mothers in the psychopathology of men who kill women, but cause and effect are being confused here; a misogynist culture inevitably overlooks the father's role and blames the mother, even when her reason for leaving the family is to escape violence.

When boys from such homes become men, they provide plenty of warnings in the form of abusive behaviour to wives and girlfriends and histories of sexual violence. Dixie had a lengthy criminal record, including five convictions for sexual offences, but served only brief prison sentences. With only one in 20 rapes reported to the police ending in a conviction, most rapists get away with their crimes; the Soham murderer, Ian Huntley, was accused of rape on five occasions but none of the cases got to court, leaving him free to kill two 10-year girls.

If we're serious about preventing more horrific murders, social attitudes have to change dramatically. That means reversing the popular assumption that most rapes aren't really rapes at all because the victim had been drinking or knew her attacker. The other thing that's needed is an acknowledgement of the inextricable link between prostitution and sexual violence.

It isn't a lack of licensed brothels that makes selling sex dangerous; it's the kind of men who buy it. Women who work as prostitutes are 18 times more likely to be murdered than the rest of us, for the simple reason that their "clients" include a high proportion of men who enjoy humiliating and hurting women. That's the group whose DNA detectives need to get their hands on; if we changed the law to allow the police to arrest men who try to buy sex, they could clear up a huge number of unsolved sexual attacks

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Scottish Domestic Abuse Helpline reaches record levels.

Lets hope the helpline is reaching record levels because women are asking for help rather than men's violence against women is increasing.

The tel is 0800 027 1234, it is free, confidental and cannot be traced.

The helpline said more victims feel confident about coming forwardThe number of calls to a helpline for victims of domestic violence is at a record high.
More than 21,000 calls were made to the Scottish Domestic Abuse Helpline (SDAH) last year, an increase of 3% on 2006.
It is believed the rise is because more victims feel confident enough to come forward and ask for help.
The callers were mostly women but a significant number were men and children. Some of the youngsters wanted to get help for their mothers.
The helpline said the problem affected people from all parts of Scotland regardless of age, background and social class.
The calls are not just about physical abuse, many were in relation to psychological or emotional abuse

The Communities Minister Stewart Maxwell is now calling for more to be done to tackle domestic abuse.
He said: "While we have made progress in changing attitudes and encouraging women to report domestic abuse, there is still a lot more work to do in tackling this problem.
"The helpline is an important partner for us in tackling domestic abuse and their help has transformed the lives of many women and their children.
He said it was important that people were encouraged to seek help and report incidents to the police so the true extent of the problem could be discovered and perpetrators properly punished.
Helpline number
Liz Kelly, head of training at the SDAH, said: "We have had calls that range from people looking for immediate help to get out of a relationship because of domestic abuse, women looking for refuge accommodation, women who need urgent medical attention or who want to report incidents of domestic abuse to the police.
"The calls are not just about physical abuse, many were in relation to psychological or emotional abuse, which was highlighted by the Scottish Government's awareness campaign."
The Scottish Domestic Abuse Helpline number is 0800 027 1234 and lines are open 24 hours and calls are free, confidential and cannot be traced.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Chinese trafficked prostitutes in Stirling

The only way to stop tafficking of women for prostitution is to stop prostitution. Any man found to have had sex with these women should be charged wth rape. The men paying to have sex with these women were hardly going for conversation or because "my wife doesn't understand me".

by Tim Bugler from the Scotsman Newspaper
FOUR Chinese women trafficked into Scotland by gangs to work in the sex industry have been found during a series of raids by police.
The women, in their 20s, were found in two separate properties in Grangemouth and an up- market area of Stirling.Two Chinese men were arrested at the same time.A police source said yesterday: "This is an excellent result and once again illustrates the insidious extent of the sex trade in Scotland."This weekend is the start of Chinese New Year, and for these four girls, the Year of the Rat should be an awful lot happier than recent times that they have endured."Girls like these tend to come from very rural and very poor parts of China. They would have been forced to hand over many thousands of pounds to the snakeheads, after being promised jobs here as waitresses, dancers or nannies."They then have to endure dreadful conditions as they are trafficked through Central Asia, the Balkans and eastern Europe, before arriving in Britain without anything, apart from the hollow promise of a new life."Unfortunately, the girls who the police rescued are the tip of an iceberg, and there will always be many hundreds of others back in China more than happy to try their luck in Britain."

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Domestic abuse rises when Euro game on

This is probably connected to alcohol and men's entitlement to believe their female partners can make them feel OK and when they can't cause their team got beat well she deserves it. It was my birthday that night so I chose to stay in with my partner as i knew it wouldn't be nice to go out. Another example of men you don't know controlling you. violence soared on the night Scotland lost to Italy in the Euro 2008 championship qualifier, figures have suggested.Strathclyde Police revealed that between April and December last year there was an average of 92 domestic abuse incidents reported.However, on Saturday, 17 November, the figure went up to 126.SNP MSP for the Glasgow region, Sandra White, said the increase was largely fuelled by drink.The figures also showed that on the Saturday before the crunch football match, 89 domestic abuse incidents were reported and there were 90 on the Saturday after the qualifier.Almost two thirds - 64% - of the incidents on the day of the big game were alcohol-related.Ms White said: "This was a football match heralded and promoted as the biggest football feast of the century and one which the whole of Scotland looked forward to."Sadly, for so many, these figures clearly show that for them there was nothing to cheer about."She added: "With pubs showing alcohol sales during this period higher than Christmas and kick- off time at 5pm there is no doubt that the binge drinking culture of Scotland was evident."This cannot and should not be tolerated in any decent society and must be tackled."

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Racism and violence against women

I have just read a very distressing article in the Sunday Times here

It tells of a story of a 15 year old girl with learning disabilities being prostituted by her parents and mother in law (she has a mother in law though she can't really because she is 15). The article then goes on to discuss "honour killings" and the threat of honour killings. But is it me or does it just read like a diatribe against muslims as opposed to the horrendous organised sexual abuse of a young disabled woman. The Sunday Times when writing about prostitution never links it to the harm of women or the abuse of women and is quite happy to portray prostituted women as "happy hookers" or to re-tell the story of a high class prostitute or brainy students from Oxford "working" through college here.

However when talking about muslims they take a feminist and child protection stance yet somehow fail to talk about the perpetrators as sex offenders and prefers to talk about them as muslims. There is something wrong here and the comments part of the article are promoting racism.

Check out Southhall Black Sisters here

Saturday, 2 February 2008

1% of domestic abuse reports goes to conviction

Diversion and formal warnings are not prosecutions or convictions!!! A researcher once told me that more people have winnings on the lottery every week than people are convicted of domestic abuse offences.

Thousands of cases of domestic abuse in the North-east are going unpunished.Scottish Government figures have revealed more than 3,000 cases a year of domestic abuse have been reported to Grampian Police.But the only year with a record of how many convictions there were was 2005/06 - when only 39 people were punished by the courts for domestic abuse.According to Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill there were 3,560 cases reported to Grampian Police in 2005/06, which fell to 3,137 in 2006/07.The number of cases had peaked in 2004/05 with 4,373.North-east Labour MSP Richard Baker, who got the information in a parliamentary question, claimed that more needed to be done to stop domestic abuse.He said: "It is wrong that thousands of cases of domestic abuse are going unpunished and women in particular may be going unprotected from violent partners."I would like the Scottish Government to look at how this can be tackled."A spokeswoman for Grampian Police said: "We take domestic abuse very seriously and encourage people to report it."The conviction rate is a matter for the Crown Office rather than the police, but it should be noted that in addition to prosecution there are other forms of disposal available such diversion, and formal warnings."

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Public Trial - the rape of justice: Whose guilty?

Plans are moving ahead for the Public Trial - The rape of justice: Who's guilty? We invite you to participate on 16 February. Please help circulate the email below. Your ideas and any other offers of help (including fundraising) will be greatly appreciated . Some of our recent comments to the media can be viewed at: and on YouTube - you’ll see a clip from News 24. Keep an eye on for more news and a poster to print off.

Women Against Rape 30th anniversary

Summons to a Public Trial

The rape of justice: Who’s guilty?

16 February 2008 2-5 pm
Doors open at 1.30

Three decades ago, when it was still legal for a man to rape his wife, Women Against Rape, just formed, announced a rape trial with a difference: women were putting the government and its criminal justice system on trial for condoning and even encouraging rape.

Most people now support women’s right to say NO under any circumstance and at any point, and to get justice when that NO is ignored. Yet, the conviction rate for recorded rape is down to 5.7%. So once again we are putting the authorities on trial for persistently “letting rapists off the hook,” which denies women and girls justice and makes us all vulnerable.

Those in charge of justice still often hold women responsible for rape and sexual assault. It used to be short skirts and hitch-hiking that were to blame. Now it’s having too much to drink or having more than one partner or, as always, trusting the wrong man. The truth is that just being a woman – or a girl – in the wrong place at the wrong time is often enough to condemn us to rape.

But we have fought back. Increasingly women have reported rape and sexual assault, even when it was frightening, embarrassing and dangerous to do so, and even when the police didn’t want to know. We reported rape not only by strangers but by dates, husbands, partners, fathers, step-fathers, uncles, brothers, babysitters, employers, immigration officers, teachers, lecturers, carers, police, soldiers . . . And we have fought to defend our children even more than ourselves.

For 30 years, with little or no funding, Women Against Rape has been backing women and spearheading their demands for justice, by:

  • Speaking out against the authorities which don’t investigate, lose the evidence, misrepresent us, attack our character and conduct, accuse us of lying, put us on trial and even in prison.
  • Invading courts and private clubs where some of the most sexist judges hang out.
  • Pressing for changes in the law, the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, the courts, the compensation system, and demanding that police or prosecutors who won’t do their jobs against rapists must be sacked.
  • Winning legislation which recognises rape in marriage as a crime, and sets at least some (though not enough) limits on raising women’s sexual history in court.
  • Fighting for rape survivors not to be detained, left destitute, or have our children torn from us, and to be granted the right to asylum.
  • Winning a private prosecution against a serial rapist after the CPS refused to prosecute – a test case that exposed the CPS.
  • Forcing the police and CPS to arrest and prosecute the white attacker of a Black Muslim mother; he was found guilty – another test case that exposed police inaction.
  • Winning compensation for many rape victims after they had been turned down.


What is the point of recommendations, complaints and appeals procedures, specialist police, prosecutors and judges, inspectorates, women in government, and more laws if those in charge of implementing them refuse over and over to do their job?


Have your say on 16 February 2008. Testify about your experience of dealing with sexual, domestic and other violence, what you did to try to get protection and justice and what response you got from each of the authorities. Male survivors of sexual violence are also welcome.

We will have dark glasses, masks and screens for anyone who wants to disguise their identity.


Trinity United Reformed Church

Buck St, Camden, London NW1 8NJ

1 min Camden Tube; Accessible entrance, accessible toilet nearby;

Please book crèche in advance




Tel. 020 7482 2496 voice & minicom

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Swedish model for Prostitution coming to Britain?

Later this month the Home Office minister Vernon Coaker will travel to Sweden to examine the country's prostitution laws. The government is considering adopting the Swedish model, where it is a criminal offence to buy sex. This has shamed many men, and led to fewer women working on the streets, but concerns remain over trafficking and driving the trade underground

The white envelope that arrived at the family home would have been innocuous enough, were it not for the emblem in the top left corner. For the married father-of-two to whom it was addressed the words Polismyndigheten i Stockholms län - Stockholm County police - were the first clue that his visit to a prostitute had not been as discreet as he might have imagined.

Unknown to him, police surveillance officers investigating a suspected pimping operation were watching from an unmarked car as he arrived in his Volvo at the apartment building in the suburb of Bromma on a summer's day in 2006. They filmed him going in at 5.47pm, and leaving at 6.10pm. Eight months later they wrote to him telling him he was suspected of buying sex. He denied it, claiming he and "Lia", the 25-year-old Estonian woman whose services he found on the internet, had done nothing but talk. But after being tried as part of a case against five men accused of procurement, he was found guilty and fined 15,000 kronor (£1,200).

The 52-year-old is one of more than 500 men convicted in Sweden under legislation introduced in 1999 criminalising the purchase or attempted purchase of sex, and decriminalising its sale, with the aim of reducing levels of prostitution and trafficking in women by cutting demand. The country views prostitution as a male violence against women and children, officially acknowledging it as a form of exploitation that is a barrier to gender equality. The Swedish term for a man who buys sex is torsk, meaning cod.

Many of those apprehended have families and well-paid jobs, authorities say. Four judges are among those convicted.

Although the options include a jail term of up to six months, all the men so far have received fines, which are based on earnings and whether the buyer has offended before. The largest penalty handed out was to a company director on a yearly salary of 1,440,000 kronor, who paid 70,000 kronor (£5,600). Three months later he was caught again. Supporters and critics agree street prostitution has been reduced. Agneta Borg, who has run Stockholm's social services project working with prostitutes for 11 years, estimates street prostitution is now 55% or 60% of what it was.


Government figures estimated there were around 2,500 native Swedes or permanent residents from abroad working as prostitutes in 1998, and only 1,500 in 2003. But the sale of sex off the streets, in brothels, strip clubs, massage parlours and hotel bars, remains largely unquantifiable, and it has soared online. It is there, according to police, that many trafficked women can be found.

The number of women trafficked to Sweden has risen, with those from Estonia, Russia, Poland and Lithuania most prominent. In 2003 it was estimated at 400-600; Kajsa Wahlberg, a detective inspector who is the country's national rapporteur on human trafficking, believes it could be around 1,000 today.

But trafficking has risen everywhere, she says, and the Swedish figure is nothing compared with its Scandinavian neighbours. Wahlberg estimates the figure in Norway and Denmark is around 6,000, and between 12,000 and 15,000 in Finland. All three countries have about half the population of Sweden.

Criminalising customers makes it harder for trafficking operations to operate, she says. "They have to be very discreet. They can only run two or three women at a time, and they have to keep moving around because neighbours complain to us." She rejects claims the law puts prostitutes at greater risk of violence by driving the sex industry underground.

"The biggest part of prostitution has always taken place indoors and underground. We don't get reports saying women in prostitution are being more violated than before. There are always risks of violence in prostitution." Most of the prosecuted men are caught during surveillance on suspected brothels because their evidence can be used to convict the pimps and traffickers.

In the last two years 77 trafficked women have been taken out of sex work in the Stockholm area after police operations. In many cases the man's wife or partner gets to the police-embossed envelope before he does and opens it to find a letter telling the recipient he is wanted for questioning, or is being fined. "We get telephone calls from men and women telling us we're destroying their marriage," says Ann Martin of the interrogation team in Stockholm. "The wives are terrified, frustrated and angry. They ask what this is about. We tell them to talk to their husbands."

On Malmskillnadgatan, the single street that forms Stockholm's traditional red light district, the complaint is that the law has made conditions tough.

Wahlberg says one might have seen around 40 prostitutes there 10 years ago: now only a few congregate. During one evening just 12 bundle themselves up against the cold to ply their trade, apparently with limited success.

One is politely rebuffed by a grey-haired man who passes through innocently wearing a festive red and white bobble hat. "He doesn't want to be my Santa Claus!" she says. Having settled in Sweden after coming from Venezuela in the early 90s and worked as a cleaner and a waitress she turned to prostitution two years ago. She is now 31. "It's difficult to find a job here and I need the money. There's a lot of competition now, and the customers are afraid," she said.

"My friend who worked here before the law changed said you could make 20,000 kronor in a night; now it is much lower than that. Everyone has goals. I would like to buy my own house in Sweden and get a normal job, some education, a profession."

An older woman fumbling for a lighter says she is fed up with everyone assuming her work is "tragic and miserable. It's like anything: some days it's OK and some days it stinks."

Sven-Axel Månsson, of the University of Malmo, says that for occasional sex buyers who get caught and prosecuted the shame can put them off, but for the habitual user it is less likely to act as a deterrent. Such men use internet forums to complain bitterly about Sweden's law. Some travel to Copenhagen, to avoid the risks of using prostitutes in their home country, Månsson says.

In Malmskillnadgatan the same handful of vehicles circle the block endlessly. Other men approach the shivering women on foot: some eye the scene from a distance. Marked police cars drive through slowly a couple of times, without stopping.

By 1.30am the street is almost still. Two men approach in a car and draw to a halt. One gets out: his eyes are bloodshot, his mouth droops and he is missing some bottom teeth. He speaks in Swedish and then English: "I am looking to meet some nice girls."

Once he realises he is not talking to a prostitute, he insists his motives are innocent. But he goes on: "If I have a woman at home she has to be very strong to feed me, because I love sex. She will be tired from working and she will not be able to feed me."