Criminalizing the Sex Buying in the Name of Gender Equality

Sex Work, Migration and the Feminist Politics of Care

  • Thu 23 Mar 23

    16:00 - 17:15

  • Colchester Campus


  • Event speaker

    Dr Niina Vuolajärvi

  • Event type

    Lectures, talks and seminars

  • Event organiser

    Sociology, Department of

  • Contact details

    Anna Di-Ronco

Join the Centre for Criminology for an insightful seminar with Dr Niina Vuolajärvi



Dr Niina Vuolajärvi is an Assistant Professor in International Migration at the European Institute at theLSE. Her interdisciplinary research is situated in the fields of migration, feminist and socio-legal studies. Niina received her Ph.D. in Sociology from Rutgers University in 2021. Prior to joining the LSE, she was a postdoctoral fellow at the New School Zolberg Institute of Migration and Mobility. Niina's projects have investigated migrant sex work, prostitution and migration policies, post-deportation experiences, and race and colonial legacies in Europe. Currently, she is working on her first book “Sex Work, Migration and the ‘Nordic Model’” which examines a feminist-inspired prostitution and anti-trafficking policy approach and its intersections with immigration controls from the perspective of sex workers. This work is based on a vast three-country ethnographic research in the Nordic region (Sweden, Norway, Finland) where the policy approach originates. Niina's scholarship has been supported by the Mellon / American Council of Learned Societies and the Fulbright Foundation and recognized by the Law and Society Association and the American Sociological Association.

In recent years, the “Swedish” or “Nordic” model has risen to the centre of anti-trafficking and prostitution policy debates. It claims to revolutionise the policy field by criminalising the buying instead of the selling of sex. Sweden implemented this policy in 1999, relying on radical feminist arguments of commercial sex as a form of violence against women and a hindrance to gender equality. Since then, this policy approach has been adopted in several countries across Europe and America. The rise of this policy approach has coincided with the entrance of migrants into the sex industry, and they nowadays make up the majority in many places in Europe and beyond. But how does this policy affect the people it claims to protect, sex workers and people in the sex trade? What does it mean that commercial sex is increasingly governed by feminist arguments of care and gender equality? Who is most affected by this approach, and with what consequences?

Drawing on a three-country ethnography including 210 interviews in the Nordic region (Sweden, Norway, Finland) where the approach originated, this paper examines the effects of criminalisation of sex buying on sex workers and people in the sex trade, especially on their vulnerability to violence and exploitation.

This seminar is part of an online open seminar series, hosted by the Centre for Criminology.

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  • SC199 Career Development and Making a Difference

Essex students within the department can attend this event as part of eligibility criteria for module SC199. Once attended, you can complete a short reflection on what you learned by attending the event. This can be downloaded here (via Moodle) and then uploaded to FASER. 

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