Prostitution is the practice, business, or occupation of engaging in sexual activity with someone in exchange for payment. There are an estimated 42 million prostitutes around the world.
Prostitution occurs in a variety of forms, and its legality varies from country to country. Its legality reflects different opinions on exploitation, gender roles, ethics and morality, freedom of choice, and social norms.
There are different types of legality when it comes to prostitution. Prohibitionism means that prostitution is illegal. Neo-abolitionism considers prostitution to be violence against women, and so the clients and pimps are prosecuted, not the prostitute. Abolitionism considers prostitution legal; however, public solicitation, operating brothels, and pimping are prohibited. The legalization of prostitution allows prostitution and employment of prostitutes to be legal but is regulated. Decriminalization of prostitution treats prostitution like any other labor and is subject to minimal or no special regulations. Some countries have different local laws regarding prostitution.
Prostitution is seen as a major issue for religious groups and causes controversy within feminist activism. Some feminists believe that prostitution harms women and reinforces stereotypical views about women as sex objects. Other feminists believe that prostitution is a valid choice for women who wish to engage in it.
Prostitution in Canada is legal with strict regulations. Sex work cannot be operated on-premises (such as a brothel), and cannot be solicited in public. However, working as independent sex workers and soliciting services in private is legal.
In Thailand, prostitution is illegal; however, laws are ambiguous and unenforced. Sex work in Thailand is a significant economic incentive for rural, unskilled women with financial obligations such as dependents or debts.
In Germany, prostitution is legal and taxed. Germany also allows brothels, advertisements, and job offers through HR companies. Germany passed the Prostitutes Protection Act in 2016, which was intended to protect prostitutes by requiring a permit for all prostitution trades and a prostitute registration certificate.
The legality of prostitution in Australia varies considerably between states and territories, which each have their own laws. In Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria, sex work is legal and regulated. In Western Australia, Northern Territory, South Australia, and Tasmania, independent sex work is legal and not regulated, but brothels are illegal.
Prostitution is legal under federal law in Mexico. The country’s 32 states enact their own prostitution policies. Thirteen states allow and regulate prostitution. Some cities have “tolerance zones,” acting as red-light districts, which would enable regulated prostitution. Pimping is illegal in most parts of Mexico.
Where is prostitution legal in the United States? Prostitution is illegal in every state except for some counties in Nevada. Prostitution is illegal in the following counties: Clark, Douglas, Eureka, Lincoln, Pershing, and Washoe. Las Vegas and Reno are within these counties, meaning prostitution is illegal in both cities; however, most prostitution in Nevada occurs illegally in Reno and Las Vegas. Brothels are permitted in counties where prostitution is legal, and both brothels and prostitutes are subject to federal income taxes.
Below is a table of 100 countries around the world and each of their legal stances on prostitution. Prostitution is legal in 53 of these countries, limited legal in 12, and illegal in 35.