As internationally established academics and researchers in sex work, migration and trafficking in Europe and worldwide, we are greatly concerned about the methodologically flawed research commissioned by the European Parliament on ’the differing EU Member States’ regulations on prostitution and their cross-border implications on women’s rights’, which recommends the European Union to support the criminalisation of sex work clients (the so-called ‘Swedish’ or
‘Nordic Model’) as means to reduce trafficking and violence against women. Evidence from Europe and the globe indicates that the Swedish Model effectively criminalises sex work and harshly endangers sex workers, and particularly migrant sex workers, leading to worse health outcomes, more vulnerability to violence and murder, less access to services and justice (that is to say less reporting of crimes against them), increased assault, and generally increased stigma and discrimination against them. The research authored by Andrea Di Nicola uncritically recommends criminalising sex work clients without reviewing or mentioning any of the extensively documented limitations of this model, including in the field of anti-trafficking. The author not only ignores the vast amount of counter evidence to his claim that client criminalisation would curb human trafficking and help protect women’s rights, but also builds his arguments on data from research published in 2012 and 2013 that attempted to link national prostitution policies to the incidence of trafficking in the EU. This research has already been critiqued in detail in 2015 for using data that conflate labor, sex, and other kinds of trafficking,
and for ignoring a variety of pull and push factors other than national legislation, thus drawing unreliable conclusions on the link between trafficking and national prostitution laws. A 2020 mixed study systematic review on the impact of different European prostitution policies on the rights of sex workers, including trafficking victims in Europe, came to diverging conclusions from those of Di Nicola, but was ignored in his research, as was other research by several
economists that challenged the effectiveness of the end demand approach in the UK. While he does not include any research representing the experiences of trafficked victims and sex workers under client criminalisation models or any quantitative research whose conclusions would challenge his own, the author quotes himself six times, an indication of a self-referential, biased approach.

Di Nicola’s research concludes that human trafficking for sexual exploitation is more prevalent in EU Member States where he defines prostitution to be ‘legal’. The author groups together under such definition all countries where the mere act of selling sex is not criminalised, including those where most aspects of sex work are (such as ‘living off the earnings’ or ‘soliciting’) as well as countries where sex work is regulated under licensing laws and those where it is fully unregulated. This is an inaccurate and superficial move that suggests a moral stance againstsex work, rather than a scientifically sound, victim-centred approach to anti-trafficking research. Furthermore, Di Nicola’s research seems to be based on erroneous and misleading summary statistics presented in Table 4 of the report. The table below includes our calculations of mean and median values of the Index of Trafficked Prostitution (as reported in Table 2 of the same report) for each group of countries. First, we note that the mean index in countries where prostitution is ‘legal’ (i.e. the act of selling sex is decriminalised) but unregulated is 10, and not 20.7 as reported in the original Table 4 of the report. Second, the median for the same group of countries is 3.3, while the median values for countries punishing the sex worker, punishing the
client, or punishing both are 9.7, 9.1, and 11, respectively. Our additional analyses (and a closer look at Table 2 of the report) indicate that levels of recorded human trafficking for sexual exploitation vary considerably within each group of countries, suggesting factors other than prostitution legislation may be at play (e.g. national law enforcement efforts, migration laws,
economic processes). They also make us question the conclusion that ‘on average the level of (identified) sex trafficking is much higher under a legalisation model than under a prohibition one’ (p. 36).

In addition to the methodological issues noted above, the research draws strong conclusions on the link between trafficking and national prostitution laws while relying on data that focus exclusively on registered victims and ignoring the impact that differing anti-trafficking efforts can have on official figures. Di Nicola assumes that fewer registered victims is an indicator of lesser occurrence of this crime rather than considering the extent to which adequate victim support
services and more trust in the police (as a consequence of decriminalisation) can increase the likelihood of victims reporting a crime where their work is not criminalised, and can therefore help identify cases of trafficking for sexual exploitation. Crucially, the research does not mention the legislative model of sex work decriminalisation, defining it wrongly as lack of regulation of the sex industry. Sex work decriminalisation does not mean deregulation, but the regulation of sex work under existing labour laws rather than criminal laws. Di Nicola again ignores existing evidence that describes sex work decriminalisation as the best model to protect the rights, health and lives of sex workers, and to
protect sex workers who experience trafficking and exploitation. Sex work decriminalisation is the model advocated for by public health and migration research, UNAIDS, WHO, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch as well as global and local sex worker organisations and collectives.

Evidence shows that sex work decriminalisation has improved the health, lives and rights of sex workers in New Zealand and New South Wales, Australia, without increasing the size of the sex industry in either jurisdiction. Sex work decriminalisation, as opposed to the Swedish Model, has been argued to reduce harm for sex workers and for women beyond the sex industry. Recent research on modern slavery indicated that sex work decriminalisation and improved legal
migration and work options in the sex industry led to a dramatic decrease of trafficking in the Australian sex industry. Deeply flawed research such as Di Nicola’s can lead to extremely harmful consequences if used to inform policy and law reform. We therefore strongly recommend not considering Di Nicola’s work as evidence-based and guard against adopting its recommendations.


1. Em. Prof. Dr. W.M.A. (Ine) Vanwesenbeeck, Utrecht University, the Netherlands
2. Jorge Martins Ribeiro, Ph.D in Juridical Sciences and District Court Judge, researcher at
JusGov University of Minho, Portugal
3. Professor Cecilia Benoit, University of Victoria, Canada
4. Dr P.G. Macioti, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia
5. Professor Teela Sanders, University of Leicester, UK
6. Laura Graham, Northumbria University, UK
7. Dr Giulia Berlusconi, University of Surrey, UK
8. Dr Iztok Šori, Peace Institute, Slovenia
9. Professor Alison Phipps, Newcastle University, UK
10. Dr Jane Pitcher, Independent researcher, UK
11. Dr Scarlett Redman, UK
12. Joana Lilli Hofstetter, PhD Researcher, Scuola Normale Superiore, Italy
13. Giovanna Gilges, PhD Researcher, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany
14. Dr Angelika Strohmayer, Northumbria University, UK
15. Professor Nicola Mai, University of Newcastle, Australia
16. Dr Elissa M. Redmiles, Max Planck Institute for Software Systems, Germany
17. Vaughn Hamilton, Max Planck Institute for Software Systems, Germany
18. Katie Podszus, Lancaster University, UK
19. Daisy Matthews, PhD student, Nottingham Trent University, UK
20. Dr Kiril Sharapov, Edinburgh Napier University, UK
21. Marjan Wijers, MA, LL.M, PhD researcher, University of Essex, UK
22. Doris Murphy, PhD candidate, University College Cork, Ireland
23. Adeline Berry, PhD researcher, University of Huddersfield, UK
24. Jo Krishnakumar, PhD Researcher, SOAS, University of London, UK
25. Zach Leggett, University of Sunderland, UK
26. Dr Calogero Giametta, Aix-Marseille University, France
27. Hanne Stegeman, PhD researcher, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands
28. Nélson Ramalho, PhD Researcher, Lusófona University, Portugal
29. Dr Fernanda Branco Belizário, Centre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra, Portugal
30. Dr Jay Levy, London, UK
31. Dr Tuppy Owens, Sexual Respect Tool Kit, TLC-Trust, UK
32. Dr. Sharmila Parmanand, London School of Economics and Political Science, UK
33. Dr Isabel Crowhurst, University of Essex, UK
34. Dr Crystal Jackson, John Jay College – City University of New York, USA
35. Max Appenroth, Institute of Public Health, Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany
36. Mara Clemente, Iscte – University Institute of Lisbon, Portugal
37. Dr Svati Shah, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, USA
38. Dr Lynzi Armstrong, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
39. Dr Alex J. Nelson, Appalachian State University, USA
40. Dr Marie-Louise Janssen, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands
41. Dr Agata Dziuban, Jagiellonian University, Poland
42. Professor Ronald Weitzer, George Washington University, USA
43. Professor Gillian Abel, University of Otago, New Zealand
44. Professor Gavin Brown, University of Sheffield, UK
45. Professor Pietro Saitta, University of Messina, Italy
46. Dr Laura Agustín, Independent, London, UK
47. Dr Inga Thiemann, University of Exeter, UK
48. Professor Alexandra Oliveira, University of Porto, Portugal
49. Dafna Rachok, PhD Candidate, Indiana University, USA
50. Dr Kimberly Walters, California State University, Long Beach, USA
51. Dr Kathryn McGarry, Maynooth University, Ireland
52. Assoc. Prof. Niamh Stephenson, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
53. Dr Rita Alcaire, Centre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra, Portugal
54. Professor Joel Quirk, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
55. Professor Maggie O’Neill, University College Cork, Ireland
56. Sonja Dolinsek, MA, Universität Paderborn, Germany
57. Professor Francesco Parisi, University of Palermo, Italy
58. Dr Bryan Teixeira, Independent Researcher, France
59. Victoria Holt, Doctoral Researcher, University of Roehampton, UK
60. Dr Tiziana Mancinelli, University of Venice Ca’ Foscari, Italy
61. Dr Chiara Bertone, University of Eastern Piedmont, Italy
62. Dr Giulia Selmi, University of Verona, Italy
63. Dr Max Morris, Oxford Brookes University, UK
64. Claire Weinhold, PhD candidate, University of Otago, New Zealand
65. Eurydice Aroney, Independent Researcher, Sydney, Australia
66. Dr Anna Di Ronco, University of Essex, UK
67. Prof. Dr. Birgit Sauer, University of Vienna, Austria
68. Professor Phil Hubbard, King’s College London, UK
69. Professor Tamar Pitch, National Bioethical Committee, Italy
70. Dr Giorgia Serughetti, University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy
71. Dr Laura Connelly, University of Sheffield, UK
72. Dipl. Soz. Wiss. Susanne Bleier Wilp, Independent Researcher, Berlin, Germany
73. Prof Magaly Rodríguez, KU Leuven, Belgium
74. Dr. Licia Brussa, Independent Researcher, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
75. Professor Prabha Kotiswaran, King’s College London, UK
76. Dr Will Nutland, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK
77. Dr Helga Amesberger, Institute of Conflict Research, Vienna, Austria
78. Dr. Niina Vuolajärvi, The New School of Social Research, USA
79. Dr. Barbara Bonomi Romagnoli, Independent Researcher, Italy
80. Dr. Letizia Palumbo, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Italy
81. Dr. Mariella Popolla, University of Genova, Italy
82. Prof. Mark McCormack, University of Roehampton, UK
83. Prof. Hendrik Wagenaar, Institute for Advanced Studies, Vienna, Austria / University of
Canberra, Australia
84. Prof. Francesca Bettio, University of Siena, Italy
85. Dr. Domitilla Olivieri, Utrecht University, the Netherlands
86. Dr Carol Harrington, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
87. Ilia Savelev, LL.M., Independent Researcher, Russia
88. Dr Ann Deslandes, Independent Researcher, Australia/Mexico/Brazil
89. Michela Semprebon, Researcher of the University of Parma & Coordinator of the
INSigHT Research Team of the University Iuav of Venice, Italy
90. Isabelle Johansson, Researcher of the INSigHT Research Team, Sweden
91. Oluwafemi Moses Abe, Researcher of the INSigHT Research Team, Nigeria
92. Serena Scarabello, Researcher of the INSigHT Research Team, Italy
93. Serena Caroselli, Researcher of the INSigHT Research Team, Italy
94. Prof. Cirus Rinaldi, University of Palermo, Italy
95. Dr. Sarah-Marie Maffesoli, Paris, France
96. Jessica Van Meir, M.Phil, PhD student, Harvard Kennedy School of Government, USA
97. Dr Larissa Sandy, University of Nottingham, UK
98. Dr. Frances M. Shaver, Professor Emeritus, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada
99. Dr Joep Rottier, independent. Amsterdam. The Netherlands
100. Dr. Mojca Pajnik, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana and The


101. Dr. Chloë Gott, Independent Researcher, United Kingdom
102. Dr Anastacia Ryan, University of Glasgow, UK
103. Petra Östergren, PhD Cand. Lund University, Sweden
104. Jordan Phillips, PhD researcher, University of Stirling, UK
105. Emily Kenway, PhD Researcher, University of Edinburgh, UK
106. Carlotta Rigotti, PhD Researcher, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium
107. Dr. Raven Bowen, CEO, National Ugly Mugs (NUM), UK
108. Assoc. Prof. Paul J. Maginn, University of Western Australia, Australia
109. Prof. Laura Murray, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
110. Prof Jane Scoular, Law School, University of Strathclyde, UK.
111. Prof. Claudia Aradau, King’s College London, UK
112. Amanda De Lisio, PhD, Assistant Professor, York University, Canada
113. Dr Gillian Wylie, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
114. Prof. Jennifer Musto, Wellesley College, USA
115. Assoc. Prof. Anne Mulhall, University College Dublin, Ireland
116. Mag.a Katharina Beclin, University of Vienna, Austria
117. Dr Tanya Serisier, Birkbeck College, UK
118. Dr Sarah Lamble, Birkbeck, University of London, UK
119. Flavio Lenz, Independent Researcher, Brazil/Germany
120. Dr Adam Bourne, Associate Professor, La Trobe University, Australia
121. Prof. Soraya Silveira Simões, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
122. Dr. Shira Goldeberg, Assistant Professor, San Diego State University and Director of
Research Education, Centre for Gender and Sexual Health Equity, Vancouver, Canada
123. Athena Michalakea, PhD Researcher, Birkbeck College, University of London, UK
124. Samantha Majic, PhD, Associate Professor, John Jay College-City University of New
York, New York City, NY USA
125. Dr. Andrea Krüsi, Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, University of British
Columbia, Canada
126. Elene Lam, PhD Candidate, School of Social Work, McMaster University, Ontario,
127. Dr Calum Bennachie, independent researcher, New Zealand
128. Dr Pippa Grenfell, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, UK
129. Marta Lidia Dubel, PhD Candidate, Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology,
University of Vienna, Austria
130. Dr Irena Ferčíková Konečná, independent researcher and consultant, Czechia
131. Dr Rachel Stuart, Brunel University,UK
132. Professor Bridget Anderson, University of Bristol, UK
133. Dr Kate Hardy, University of Leeds, UK
134. Dr Camille Barbagallo, War on Want, UK
135. Anna Ratecka, Jagiellonian University of Krakow, Poland
136. Dr. Marie-Louise Janssen, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands
137. Dr Nicholas Beuret, University of Essex
138. Carolyn D’Cruz, La Trobe University, Australia
139. Dr. Caroline West, NUI Galway, Ireland
140. Dr. Justyna Struzik, Jagiellonian University of Krakow, Poland
141. Professor Lucy Platt, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK.
142. Dr Egle Cesnulyte, University of Bristol, UK.
143. Dr Calum Dvaey, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK.
144. Elaine Bortolanza, Independent Researcher, São Paulo, Brazil
145. Dr Rafał Majka, Andrzej Frycz Modrzewski Krakow University, Poland
146. Carolina Bonomi, Doctoral Student in PAGU/ UNICAMP, São Paulo/ Brazil
147. Dr, Lorraine Nencel, Department of Sociology, VU Amsterdam, the Netherlands
148. Dr Jocelyn Elmes, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK
149. Dr Mikael Jansson, University of Victoria, BC, Canada
150. Prof Stacey Vanderhurst, University of Kansas, USA
151. Amanda Calabria, Doctoral Student in Labhoi/UFF, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
152. Dr. Gowri Vijayakumar, Brandeis University, USA
153. Professor Basil Donovan, Kirby Institute, UNSW, Sydney, Australia
154. Julie Bates AO, independent researcher, Sydney, Australia
155. Dr. Sine Plambech, Senior Researcher, DIIS-Danish Institute for International
Studies. Copenhagen.
156. Dr Laura Jarvis-King, Research Associate, University of Manchester, UK
157. Valentini Sampethai, Doctoral Student in Panteion University, Athens, Greece
158. Chibundo Egwuatu, doctoral student at the University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign, USA
159. Carolien van den Honert, MSc in Sociology: gender and sexuality, the Netherlands
160. Evelin Nikolova, PhD candidate at Lancaster University, UK
161. Christos Sagredos, PhD candidate at King’s College London, UK
162. Associate Professor Linda Selvey, School of Public Health, The University of
Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
163. Rachael Brennan, PhD candidate at School of Public Health, The University of
Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
164. Dr Giulia Garofalo Geymonat, Ca’Foscari University, Venice, Italy
165. Dr Jonathan Hallett, School of Population Health, Curtin University, Perth, Australia
166. Adjunct Assistant Prof. Adeelia Goffe, Public Health & Primary Care, Trinity College
Dublin, Ireland
167. Dr. Thaddeus Gregory Blanchette, PPGCiaC, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro;
Coletiva Da Vida Prostitutes’ Rights Collective, Brazil
168. Dr. Ana Paula da Silva, Rural Sociology Department and Affirmative Action Officer,
Federal Fluminense University, Brazil
169. Dr Julian Grace, BHSc/BAppSc, Health researcher and primary healthcare clinician,
Melbourne, Australia
170. Dr Todd Sekuler, Institut für Europäische Ethnologie, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin,
171. Carmen Grimm, Institut für Europäische Ethnologie, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin,
172. Juulia Kela, University of Helsinki, Finland
173. Jean-Philippe Imbert, Assistant Professor, EROSS, Dublin City University, Dublin,
174. Klara Nagel, Institut für Europäische Ethnologie, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin,
175. Dr Agata Chełstowska, Jagiellonian University, Poland
176. Marcos Moura – PhD candidate, University of Lisbon/ GAT, Portugal