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Anger over the Lack of Punishment for Soldiers Buying Sex Abroad

Published torsdag 11 februari 2010 kl 11.54

Recent details about Swedish soldiers paying for sex in Germany has become a hot discussion topic in this Nordic nation, creating a debate that pits a healthy dose of Swedish morality against declarations about individuals' rights.

Paying for sex is illegal in Sweden, while selling sex is not. That is to say, the prostitute is not a criminal, but the person buying his or her services is. Sweden enacted this unique law in 1999, and it still enjoys broad support. Proponents of the law link prostitution to human trafficking and male violence against women, and reject the classic argument that prostitution has and always will exist.

But in Germany, prostitution is legal, and so are brothels. When 18 Swedish soldiers bought sex in the country after finishing a joint training operation with a German parachute division, they were not breaking any laws. In fact, they were on leave when it happened, and weren't even wearing anything that identified them as Swedish soldiers. According to German law, they didn't do anything wrong.

Nevertheless, what they did is in direct conflict with Swedish law, even if it happened to be legal where the soldiers were. Their commander, Anders Löfberg, told Swedish Radio News that "we assumed that all Swedes know that this isn't OK."

"Basic principles or values are something that must exist in everyone. These soldiers should in fact be able to handle much harder things than saying yes or no to buying sex," Löfberg said.

But turning to the law, the soldiers cannot be charged with buying sex because it is perfectly legal in Germany, where they were. Because they couldn't be identified as Swedish soldiers, military rules say that they weren't "in service." This means that they can't be fired or even disciplined, which Swedish Armed Forces lawyer Gunnar Jonason is disappointed about.

He told Swedish Radio News that they "thought it felt very wrong that they couldn't do anything" because "we have very clear values in the Armed Forces."

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