most prostitution was illegal, but tolerated and regulated, including medical examinations and lock hospitals for venereal diseases.Brothels were also illegal, but persisted under police surveillance.Interestingly, they found that prostitution was declining and recommended that criminalisation would merely drive it underground and worsen stigmatisation.
Women were divided, some calling for abolition of the law pointing out it was gendered in practice, and others supporting the then popular social hygiene concept of sterilisation of the unfit.These discussions raised the idea that men who sought out sex workers were a danger to all women.The 1960s brought the widespread questioning of sexual mores to Sweden, and for the first time the notion of prostitution as normative, together with proposals for re-establishing state brothels.Debates in the Riksdag in 1950 saw women state that the primary cause of prostitution was male demand, echoing discourse outside of government in the 1880s and 1920s.However, under the influence of the church, sexual acts outside of marriage was criminalized for both sexes, which also affected prostitutes.
The normal punishment for illegal sexual relations was fines or, if the accused was unable to pay them, pillorying, whipping or other disciplinarian physical punishments within the Kyrkoplikt.
The law and procedure was the same in the question of actual prostitution: When the activity of Sara Simonsdotter was exposed in the capital in 1618, revealing her brothel with clients in high circles, she, her staff, and clients were sentenced to various forms of fines, pillorying, and physical punishments for fornication.
The earliest law to explicitly ban prostitution was in the Civil Code of 1734, where procuring and brothels was banned and punished with imprisonment, whipping and forced labor, and prostitution at a brothel with forced labor.
Throughout these discourses, care was taken to distinguish attitude, which required correction, from acts, which were punishable.
A parallel discourse was the concern about population, and the 1935-1938 Population Commission commented on the need to control demand.
The three commissions of the 1920s (1923, 1926, 1929) depicted prostitution as a dangerous predisposition requiring correction, as opposed to mere detention, a moral analogue to the danger of spreading disease.