#Borgen: Dramatic lessons on prostitution for Northern Ireland’s lawmakers?

Theatre and democracy had grown up together and were inextricably linked in the Athenian mind.

Dr Michael Scott, The Greatest Show on Earth

So human trafficking, and making prostitution illegal.  Such are the maximalist ambitions behind Lord Morrow’s private members bill.  The French lower house has just passed such a law up to the Senate.

But it was also part of a fictional treatment on the Danish political drama last weekend.

The Swedish research that’s been cited in the Northern Ireland takes a hammering in the programme (along with some less than quaint Swedish moralising), for pushing prostitutes not out of ‘the game’, but onto the streets and into the hands of the criminal classes.

It’s worth picking up from about 17 mins in when Katrine, a main character who’s acting as a party researcher and media handler at this point, interviews a fictional representative, Helene, from a sex workers union in Denmark.

Katrine: What do you think of a ban?

Helene: “It turns us into victims by criminalising our clients. And it’s patronising.

Katrine: I have trouble with the idea of a happy prostitute.

Helene: It’s weird to associate happiness with a trade. We don’t talk about the happy nurse or the happy policeman, do we?

Katrine: You have 200 members out of perhaps 3,200 prostitutes in Denmark. A mere fraction…

Helene: We’d have far more if there were not so much stigma about going public.

Katrine: Do all these women who work in secret share your views on a ban?

Helene: The buyer and seller both get something out of the transaction. No drugs are sold, no violence is committed. Where’s the crime?

Katrine: But regarding the Vesterbro girls*…

Helene: Yes they must be given help, but a ban won’t help them. A ban expresses a moral view held by certain members of society.

If you are short of time, clip  to 11 mins, 22.54 mins (for ref to failures of the Swedish project), 32 mins 41.20 and 53.30 for more ‘debate’. It’s great depiction of the dilemmas all politicians face between doing to the right thing and the popular thing.

But it also questions whether it is in every case to view law as an exact equation with personal morality. It also asks there a necessary trade off between that private personal morality and the wider public good.

*The episode begins with the busting of a sex trafficking operation and the freeing of thirty girls from the Vesterbro area of Copenhagen..

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty