Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Norwegian Crown Princess Visits Prostitutes, Ticks Off Feminists

My information comes from this article in the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten. It's interesting because the crown princess's visit ties into the unique ways in which the politics of sex work work themselves out in Norway.

According to the article, dated March 8, 2008, the Norwegian crown princess Mette-Marit visited the Pro Senter in the capital city of Oslo during the center's Open Day. The Pro Senter is a government funded organization that provides services for prostitutes, including help for men and women who want to continue as prostitutes, and help for men and women who want to leave prostitution. In addition, it does social research and provides information on prostitution to anyone who asks for it. In other words, in addition to providing help to prostitutes, it also functions as a de facto advocacy and rights group. During the visit, Mette-Marit saw woman of various nationalities preparing food, listened to music, and viewed some art installations.

This promptly ticked off the feminist group Ottar, which strongly supports banning prostitution. Norway is considering a ban on the purchase of sex, similar to Sweden's, and in fact it appears to be a done deal; it will most likely take effect in 2009. However, it is still being hotly debated. Under the Norwegian constitution, the royal family is required to remain neutral in political debates. While the article doesn't mention Mette-Marit expressing any opinions, and the visit has the general air of a royal gracing a charitable event with her earnestly well-meaning presence, Ottar demanded that the crown princess take part the following day in a yearly march in support of womens' issues; specifically, that she support the criminalization of prostitutes' customers. According to Ottar's spokeswoman, this was necessary to restore balance.

While the crown princess never expressed an opinion on the criminalization issue, she may have been involved in some subtle advocacy. When she and the crown prince met, she was a waitress. Before they met, Mette-Marit lived out of wedlock with another man who is the father of her first son. Prior to her wedding, she admitted to using drugs before meeting the prince, and there are rumors of one or more sex tapes with her and her ex-boyfriend. Since marriage, she's been behaving like the ideal royal wife, but she still seems to identify with and sympathize with people whose life styles are frowned upon. So her visit may have been intended as a tacit show of opposition to the criminalization of sex purchases. I haven't seen any articles that indicated that she met Ottar's demands and showed up for a pro-criminalization event, or otherwise tried to "restore balance".

1 comment:

Avalon said...

I've never been so proud to be Norweigan!