The groups Hope Now and Reden International told Politiken that increased competition amongst street prostitutes has led them to offer their services beyond Istedgade in the Vesterbro district, which has been the most popular place for prostitutes for years.
The sex workers are now also found at the Town Hall Square and the pedestrian street Strøget, both major draws for tourists, as well as busy streets such as Gammel Kongevej, leading local politicians to appeal to the national government for help.
“When it spreads this much, there is clearly not enough being done to fight prostitution and to help these women, who are controlled by organizers in their home countries,” Sisse Marie Welling of the Socialist People’s Party, who sits on Copenhagen’s health committee.
She accused the national government of “closing its eyes to the problems that come with street prostitution”. Because prostitution laws are made at the national level, Welling said only parliament can do something about the problem.
Organizations that work with Copenhagen prostitutes said that “raw capitalism” has forced them to expand their territory in the city.
“Right now we are seeing a very saturated market where there are not enough customers for the women,” Reden International’s Kira West told Politiken.
“We can see that there are more prostitutes coming now because the women are spreading themselves [across the city] because there aren’t enough customers,” she added.
West said that most of the prostitutes working the Copenhagen streets come from either Nigeria or Eastern Europe. They are often brought to Denmark by financial backers who they then need to pay off.
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“They become desperate when they can’t earn enough money and therefore they’ll offer more for a cheaper price. The obvious example is to do it without a condom or to do things that cross their personal boundaries that they would normally say no to,” West said, adding that the women have also become more aggressive in their pursuit of potential customers.
Selling and purchasing sex is legal in Denmark and Jakob Engel-Schmidt, a spokesman for the ruling Venstre party, said the government has no current plans to change the laws, which already ban human trafficking and profiting off of sex workers.
Engel-Schmidt did say that the more the public hears about the conditions faced by prostitutes, the less likely men are to pay for their services.