Prostitution and trafficking in human beings

Prostitution and human trafficking for sexual purposes receive particular attention in the Swedish government’s ten-year national strategy for the elimination of men’s violence against women. The Swedish Gender Equality Agency plays a major role in coordinating the national work against prostitution and trafficking in human beings.

Man tittar på datorskärm. Ett barnrum syns i bakgrunden

In Sweden, preventing and combating prostitution and trafficking in human beings form part of the national strategy to prevent and combat men’s violence against women (2017-2026). It is also regulated by the National Action Plan against Prostitution and Trafficking in Human Beings.

Human trafficking for sexual purposes is considered one of the worst forms of men’s violence against women. Human trafficking occurs in many forms, and girls, women, boys and men fall victim to this type of crime in several different ways in Sweden.

To prevent and combat trafficking in human beings, including the demand of purchase of sexual services, is a prioritised issue for the Swedish government. This work involves increasing the detection of cases and offering protection and support to those exposed.

Sexual exploitation of children, prostitution, and trafficking for all purposes, exist because of the demand of the services. The work within the field, must include prevention, focusing on decreasing the demand. 


According to the Swedish Criminal Code, prostitution is when a person is buying or selling sexual services for compensation. The compensation can be money, but also goods or services, like alcohol, housing, gifts och travel.

To buy sexual services is forbidden in Sweden, since 1999, when the sex purchase act was introduced. Sweden was the first country in the world, to criminalise buying of sexual services.

Sexual exploitation of children

A child can never agree to prostitution. For minors, under 18 years, it is always considered sexual abuse.

If any form of comensation has been given, it is considered sexual exploitation. It can imply raping a child or abusing a child through the purchase of a sexual act. It can also imply sexual abuse that is being broadcasted or transmitted digitally.

Sexual exploitation can take place online and offline. Exposed children can be in Sweden or abroad. According to the convention on the rights of the child, all children have the right to be protected against all forms of violence, sexual abuse, and trafficking in human beings. Sexual exploitation constitutes a serious crime of the rights of the child.

Trafficking in human beings for all purposes

Trafficking in human beings means that offenders, through false promises or direct threats, recruit and move people to use them. When children are involved, false promises or threats are not required, to be considered as trafficking.

Trafficking in human beings often takes parts crossing borders, but it can also take place within a country.

 It is one of the most serious forms of organised crime. It constitutes a cynical explotation of human beings, and a serious offense of the Human Rights. According to the UN, trafficking in human beings for all purposes constitutes the third biggest criminal activity on a global level, following trade in narcotics and arms.

Trafficking in human beings abuses the right of the victim, the right to decide over his/her life and body. Millions of persons in the world are exposed to traffickingevery year, and a third are children. 7 out of 10 exposed are girls and women. The majority of them are being exploited sexually.

Besides prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation, many victims of trafficking are victims of forced labour, military services, begging, criminal activities, trafficking in organ, or other forms of exploitation.

National Coordination Against Prostitution and Trafficking in Human Beings

The Swedish Gender Equality Agency is assigned to coordinate the activites against trafficking in human beings at a national level. The task involves developing cooperation between authorities and other actors, as well as with international actors, and assisting authorities with methodological support and capacity development. 

The Agency has the authority and responsibility to act against trafficking for all purposes, including:

  • sexual purposes
  • removal of body organs
  • military service
  • forced labour
  • forced begging
  • criminal activity.

National support structure

Part of the national coordination at the Swedish Gender Equality Agency is the National Task Force against Prostitution and Human Trafficking. The National Task Force consists of government agencies that work against prostitution and trafficking in human beings, and serves as a strategic and operative resource for the development of the coordination of government agencies and NGO:s.

The goal is to prevent prostitution and trafficking for all purposes in Sweden. An important part of the work is to improve the protection of victims and increase the prosecution of perpetrators. 

A special support structure designed to assist the government agencies has been developed within this governemnt agency framework. The support structure includes a telephone helpline +46(0)20-390 000, a return programme and a number of regional coordinators against prostitution and trafficking:

  • Voluntary Return and Integration Programme
    The Swedish Gender Equality Agency coordinates and develops actions to ensure that persons exposed to trafficking and exploitation can return home in a safe way. The Voluntary Return and Integration Programme is managed by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in Helsinki and is funded by the Swedish Gender Equality Agency. The regional coordinators are the focal point in Sweden, for applications to the Voluntary Return and Integration Programme.

  • Regional coordinators
    The regional coordinators are employed by the social services and form part of the national coordination against prostitution and trafficking in human beings. They offer practical consultation and guidance both to indviduals who seek help and to professionals.
    Contact information to regional coordinators

Before you go

Construction workers on scaffolding.

Before you go is a campaign that informs labour migrants and displaced persons on the risks of trafficking in human beings and labour exploitation, and where they can turn to for support. The information is available in Bulgarian, English, Polish, Romanian and Ukrainian.

Before you go

To you fleeing Ukraine

In times of war and conflicts there may be people who wants to take advantage of vulnerable people. This information addresses refugees from Ukraine, in Ukrainian, Russian and English, about the risks of trafficking in human beings.

To you fleeing Ukraine

Prostitution and human trafficking

Publication date: 9 June 2021

Last updated: 21 November 2022