New legislation introduced in Norway will make it illegal to pay for sex in a bid to stamp out human trafficking and exploitation.
Anyone caught purchasing sex could face heavy fines or go to prison for up to six months. Where child prostitution is involved, the prison sentence could be extended to three years.
“We think buying sex is unacceptable because it favours human trafficking and forced prostitution,” deputy justice minister Astri Aas-Hansen was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.
Since Sweden brought in a similar system in 1998, the authorities have reported significantly reduced levels of prostitution. In Göteborg street prostitution dropped by 69 per cent in a year.
Public attitudes towards paying for sex have also altered, with most people considering the practice unacceptable. There are also reports that the change has helped reduce levels of human trafficking.
A clampdown announced by the British Government last year only penalises those caught paying for sex with someone “controlled for another person’s gain” – the proposals stop short of an outright ban.
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has also promised stricter rules on activity related to prostitution, such as kerb-crawling.