By Beatrice Ask, Special for CNN
Editor's Note: Beatrice Ask is Sweden's Minister for Justice and Home Affairs.
Stockholm, Sweden – In 1999 Sweden became the first country in the world to criminalize the purchase, but not the sale, of sexual services. Over the years the interest from abroad about our legislation has grown, mainly because we can see a clear link between prostitution and human trafficking.
Sweden has had a steady stream of visitors coming to study the Swedish example and the effects we have seen from it. We have welcomed parliamentarians and other politicians, experts and scholars and representatives from interest groups. Norway and Iceland, for example, now have their own criminalization of the purchase of sexual services. I am pleased that more countries are considering following the Swedish example. FULL POST
Although Sweden and Denmark have seemingly opposite prostitution laws - the former strictly outlawing the purchase of sex and the latter legalizing the industry - these countries have one thing in common: both are destination points for victims of human trafficking forced into prostitution.
While Sweden’s prostitution laws have obtained encouraging results, greatly reducing the amount of street prostitution, young women like “Laura,” are still being sold into sexual slavery, often by the people they trust most. As documented in Atika Shubert’s reports, Laura was sold by her "boyfriend" when she was only 17 years old.
So how can you help?
Groups like World Childhood Foundation, founded by Queen Silvia of Sweden, and Hope Now of Denmark, are working to end sexual trafficking and to rehabilitate victims like Laura. You can find out more about their work, as well as ways you can help by visiting their sites.
It’s not often you get invited on a personal tour of the red light district of Copenhagen, Denmark. Michelle Mildwater, of the anti-trafficking group Hope Now, is an impassioned activist. She walks me through the most notorious corners with a smile on her face.
“How are you?” she calls out to clusters of African women standing on the street. “Do you know who I am?” She hands them her business card and often condoms. She tells them where to find doctors and other help. Most of the younger women she approaches are nervous. They glance at her quickly, then ignore her or walk the other way. FULL POST
Over the next several months, the CNN Freedom Project will shine a spotlight on the horrors of human trafficking, highlight some of the success stories and share ways that everyone can make a difference.
CNN iReport and GOOD are partnering on a series of creative challenges that you can do to raise awareness about this crisis. For the first assignment, we’ve invited people to share a photo of yourself holding a sign that says “I’m taking a stand to end slavery” or a video with the same message.
So, what are you waiting for? Will you take a stand to end slavery? Take the pledge so you can take part in future Freedom Project challenges.