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Secret Red Light District: Swedish Massage Parlours and Prostitution

The Red Light District Behind Closed Windows: Prostitution in Swedish Massage Parlours

The Swedish capital, Stockholm, has its own unique answer to Amsterdam’s notorious Red Light District – concealed behind the locked doors of its Thai massage parlours.

Inside the Swedish Red Light Scene

The news is out in Stockholm’s newspapers, revealing the hidden underbelly of the city. The police’s targeted hit on two massage parlours disclosed a world where established men purchase sex during their lunch breaks!

According to official estimates, there are around 2000 Thai massage parlours in Sweden, with over 300 of them in Stockholm.

The Covert Operations

The police’s strike on these parlours unveils that the owners had been on the outskirts of several sex trade cases over recent years. In light of this, the officers began their surveillance. What they discovered was alarming. Prostitution was rampant behind those closed doors, with men caught in compromising positions.

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The Sting’s Repercussions

The police’s crack down on these establishments led to the arrest of two women on suspicions of severe pimping and money laundering; further marring the reputation of all other such parlours. Even royal connections didn’t go unscathed as Queen Silvia’s nephew, Patrick Sommerlath, was charged for purchasing sexual service but remained elusive for delivery.

Surveillance and Sex-Trade

During the three month-long surveillance operation, approximately 2700 incidents of sex purchase were recorded at the Östermalmsbordellen itself.

The National Operational Department (Noa) estimates that prostitution occurs in up to 80% of massage parlours in Sweden.

If this count holds true, it means that sex trade could be operating at around 240 of the 300 Thai massage parlours in Stockholm.

Human Faces of this Clandestine Trade

Many women involved in this trade either love to gamble or are battling gambling addiction. This addiction that drives them to work in these parlours, as they end up spending all they earn and even incur heavy debts.

An individual could earn between 700 and 800 SEK to be seen naked, while sexual intercourse prices were variable

A Community’s Plight

Many Thai women come to Sweden, often with Swedish men or on a tourist visa, and soon find themselves embroiled in prostitution due to their debts and social networks. If they try to quit, large debts and the high profitability compared to other available work make it difficult to quit.

“My image is that it’s hard to get out of this. It’s more lucrative than cleaning or something else,” says Cecilia Berlin, Inspector at the Anti-Human Trafficking unit in Stockholm.

Many sex buyers seem to believe they have a personal relationship with the women, stating that they miss them and want to take them out for dinner, clearly overlooking the situation these women are in.

Where Do We Go From Here?

The ongoing investigations into this lucrative, albeit illegal, business continue. As we await the verdict, these revelations serve as a stark reminder of the reality that hides behind Stockholm’s massage parlours, painting a chillingly familiar picture to Amsterdam’s Red Light district.

“It feels like the issue of a likely expanded sex trade is still largely a blind spot in the debate,” says Daniel Löfgren, Chief of human trafficking unit in Stockholm.

What remains is a distraught and stigmatized community, and a city grappling with the dimensions of this socially detrimental trade.

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