Iceland trying to ban sex industry

Iceland is trying to ban online pornography and the sex industry in general. Good luck with that.

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ULTRA-LIBERAL Iceland wants to ban online pornography. It is just the latest step in its attempts to eliminate the sex industry entirely. In 2009 it introduced fines and jail terms for those who patronise prostitutes (whom it treats as victims). In 2010 it outlawed strip clubs. In February the government decided to take on the glut of smut online and floated the idea of banning violent or degrading pornography, which some Icelanders take to mean most of it. No country has yet wholly succeeded in controlling commercial sex, either through legalisation or criminalisation. But all over the world, particularly in rich democracies, policymakers are watching to see whether Iceland succeeds—and may follow in its footsteps if it does.

Iceland’s proposal is in its early stages and may lose momentum after an election on April 27th, which the government is expected to lose. But its plan puts it in some odd company. Saudi Arabia similarly bans strip clubs, prostitution and pornography. But it also stops women from driving, forbids them from travelling without a man’s permission and restricts their right to vote. In the World Economic Forum’s 2012 Global Gender Gap report, which compares progress in 135 countries towards sex equality, Saudi Arabia ranked 131st.

Iceland, however, is determinedly pro-women. Half the cabinet and 25 of the 63 members of Iceland’s parliament are female. The country is run by the world’s only openly lesbian prime minister. Iceland is also pro-sex. Its supermarkets sell condoms and mini-vibrators next to checkouts. A new sex-education film informs teenagers that sex should be something they want to do again and again, and then maybe again. Some 65% of Icelandic children are born outside marriage, more than any other country in the OECD. Same-sex marriage has been legal since 2010 and gays and lesbians can adopt children. Icelandair ran a campaign featuring the tagline, “Fancy a dirty weekend in Iceland?”

The country’s initiatives against the sex industry have been championed by a powerful feminist movement. “Tackling online porn, particularly the violent kind, is part of a broader set of policies to protect children and reduce sexual violence,” says Halla Gunnarsdottir, a political adviser to the interior minister who has proposed the law. But the more ambitious Iceland has become in its war against the sex industry, the less success it seems to enjoy.

Bizzare. They came for the strip clubs first…


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

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