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Britain eyes Swedish law on sex workers

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Mr. Coaker is expected to meet government officials and assess whether the Swedish experience would improve the situation in Britain. The plight of British prostitutes was given added urgency a year ago when five women were murdered in short succession near Ipswich, England.

With an estimated 80,000 people involved in prostitution in Britain, many of them caught up in the wretched industry of trafficking, the government has consistently said it wants to get a grip on the trade.

Measures tackling "supply" that would use carrots and sticks to get women off the streets are currently going through Parliament, so now ministers are interested in targeting demand. A recent survey in Britain found that 4.3 percent of men have paid for sex in the past 10 years. "Looking at the demand issue is something we want to focus on," says a spokeswoman for Coaker.

Stockholm streets: one-third fewer workers

Sweden is the only nation in the European Union that has criminalized prostitution, and the only country in the world to make it illegal to buy – but not sell – sex services.

The law reflects a commonly held belief among Swedish feminist groups and government officials that prostitution victimizes women and that tackling the demand for sex is more effective that criminalizing people who sell their bodies.

To date, about 1,000 sex customers have been arrested. Of those, about 260 were formally charged and fined up to 40 days of their salary, according to the Stockholm city government's prostitution unit.

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