The foundation of SALLI

On November 17, 2002, a group of nine persons working in sex industry here in Finland founded an organisation for sex workers, private escorts, erotic performers, stippers, pro doms, porn models and for all who work in erotic labour.

This is something new: previously there were no sex worker organisations in Finland. One basic reason for this has been the lack of a common big problem that would have united us and motivated us to organise. Selling and buying sex services is not against the law; only pimping has been criminalized. Therefore sex workers have been able to work rather freely. The biggest problem has been the social stigma.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union things have been changing a lot. An increasing number of women are coming as tourists from Russia and the Baltic countries to work here as prostitutes. Usually they work here for a short period of time and then go back home. In 1999 we got a new Alien Act, which says that if a foreigner is suspected of selling sex services in Finland he or she can be deported from the country. After that, foreign prostitutes have not been able to work here independently: they are forced to work under the control of criminal pimping organisations.

Many women organisations have bee lobbying for a change in our laws on prostitution. They would like to implement the so-called Swedish model: to criminalize the buying of sex services, but not the selling. As the problems caused by foreign prostitutes and the criminal pimping organisations have been widely reported in our media and as we will have an election in March 2003, there is now a common panic among the Members of Parliament: according to a Gallup poll, 137 parlamentarians out of the 200 are willing to criminalize the buying of sex services. And of course there are people who would like to have our business completely criminalized.

The heavy anti sex business debate and the fear of having our work criminalized was the decisive impulse for founding our organization just now, although there had been plans to do that earlier. And since the debate has been very intensive, our new organisation has already got a lot of publicity in the media. But there is still a lot of work to be done.


Written by Johanna Sirkiä, the president of Salli, in January 2003

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This page was updated on 30 Nov 2005
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