The most important things first…

After reading Frettabladid today I feel like an outsider in a society that I don’t understand. 

Everywhere you look people are losing jobs, losing their homes, becoming bankrupt, losing their savings and pension, considering leaving the country and there are even reports of suicides because of the economic crisis.

It has now been six months of relative inaction by two governments lead by three political parties and supported by one more. Taxpayers wait on a nervous edge to see what the damage from the Icelandic banks and businessmen is going to cost them.  The only job-creation has been in the flatline industry of whaling. The only solutions offered to people who are in financial ruin (Petur Blondal, Independent Party MP said it was “only” 30% of the citizens) are extending deadly loans beyond the grave. Pretty much all politicians have now turned to the important matter of getting re-elected in the April election. 

But according to Frettabladid today, there seems to be a consensus amongst many in parliament that it is of the highest importance to pass strict laws push through a cohesive action plan that relates to the sex-industry. 

Not to belittle the seriousness of actual enslavement of sex-workers worldwide but this issue reeks of ideological opportunitism. It seems that the feminist base of the Left Greens and Samfylkingin, along with the support of female Progressive Party MP”s is not going to miss the opportunity while in government to pass laws that are probably well-meaning, but hardly the most serious matter the country is dealing with. 

The aim of the law action plan is to: Validate international agreements against organized crime, sex-trafficking and protection of children from sexual abuse. Forming of special teams that work on sex-traffic issues and help the victims. That the victims get a temporary visa and assistance while they decide on their future. That victims will be ensured a safe return to their home country. The police’ will receive an added support and specialist teams in sex trafficking will be formed. Witness protection and anonymity guaranteed. Educational campaign against the purchase of prostitutes, porn and other sex-services. And finally that the purchase of representatives of the Icelandic state will not be tolerated. 

The minister of social affairs wants to make sure sex-purchase will be illegal before the election and the same goes for strip-dance. 

Here is my problem with all this. Sex trafficking and prostitution has long been an ideological talking point of these politicians that now see it fit to push the laws through. While it is absolutely correct that these two issues are serious, it would be interesting for the citizens of Iceland to see some actual numbers and facts related to them. 

How many cases of sex trafficking come up annually in Iceland? 
How concentrated are they? Are they limited to the 2-3 softcore stripclubs that are run in Iceland?
If so why aren’t the clubs’ owners prosecuted?
From which countries do these cases originate? Who is running the trafficking?
How do these people market their service?   
If this is not constricted within the groups related to the strip-clubs, is it a case of a madam in every neigborhood luring men into her basement?  Or an Eastern European brothel run in warehouses in every town? 
How difficult is it to investigate this in a small country like Iceland?

We’ve heard the same people talk about these issues for years now but it seems like raw data is hardly available.

If you compare Iceland to Western European countries and the US then it can safely be said that the business of sex is comparatively underground here. There are no red-light districts, just two or three sleazy stripclubs scattered around and although sex is undoubtedly for sale somewhere then it seems like the prospective buyers have to do some extensive research just to find it.

So the question is, is the seriousness of these issues related to national interest grossly overestimated? If not, can we please see the data and examples of how great this problem is in our society?  

This whole matter stinks of the same impotence that Althingi has shown on matters relating to the economic crisis. The huge gap in reality between the ideological zealots (whether laissez faire economics believers or hardline-feminists) that occupy  the seats of parliament has never been greater and keeps getting wider. Lack of data and lack of transparency makes it really hard to trust these people and what they are up to. 

Meanwhile, more and more people are looking towards the 1st of April with dread. Not because they might get fooled, but because they look certain to be crushed by the economic disaster that the members of parliament seems to want to put on hold until after elections. 

Is it too much to ask what are the real problems facing real people in Icelandic reality and how Althingi is going to deal with those problems?


4 Responses to “The most important things first…”

  1. 1 Ninna March 19, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    I think there is some misunderstanding here. The minister has put forward an action plan that the Government has agreed upon. In your writing you state various aims of a particular legislation – this is however the aim of the action plan but not those of the legislation.

    The two bills NOT PASSED yet by Parliament were put forward before the action plan was agreed upon by the government. The action plan however includes the aim of banning strip clubs totally and making the purchase of prostition punishable, i.e. which is also the main objective with the two bills no waiting in the Parliament.

    I also want to stress that at times like now, when the Icelandic population faces dramatic economical times it is just as important to put forward an action plan that protects the most vulnerable groups of society. Reasearch has namely shown that at times like these prostitution, sexual violence, human trafficking etc. is more likely to increase. The Minister of welfare matters’s role is to do exactly that – protect and safeguard human rights and dignity.

  2. 2 drafnsson March 19, 2009 at 8:41 pm

    Thanks Ninna, I have changed the wording above to reflect the situation better.

    On the other hand, while we can all agree on that we need to protect the most vulnerable groups of society, I still want to ask the questions of how big the problem is in Icelandic reality?

    The question remains, what is the government doing regarding the most serious economic crisis in Icelandic history? And where are its priorities? I repeat the accusation that this is an awfully strange issue to prioritize right now.

  3. 3 Vilhjalm A. March 19, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    I’m sorry but I have to agree with Dadi – the sex-crime issue is just a diversion, to make the Althingi look like they are doing something important, when in fact they have done nothing and should be working on the BIG IMPORTANT issues.
    For instance (as D. has written about before):
    – Debt relief, who gets it and how much? Individuals and companies? What kind of plan?
    – Indexing
    – Criminal prosecution
    – Unemployment payments
    – Bankruptcy reform
    – Financial support for the near-insolvent
    – Budget cuts (yes, they are coming): how much and where?
    – Economic stimulus, job creation, retraining

    Instead, the government passes laws on sex workers and cutting per diem expenses of Icelandic officials abroad.
    I understand that no one can do much before elections, but Althingi should at least be discussing all the options. Ireland is in a similar crisis, at least they are working on the problem. In Iceland, nothing happens.

  1. 1 Suicides- Bankrupts’- Pensions’ loss- Job Losses- Icelands’ MPs Concentrate on Next Election and Sex.. « Centurean2’s Weblog Trackback on March 19, 2009 at 12:19 pm

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