11 Unbelievable Countries Where Prostitution is Legal

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Written By Chinyere Akalugwu

 

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For years, people have ignored and despised the word “prostitution.” The hard reality is that because of extreme poverty and the unpredictable circumstances some individuals face, prostitution has always found a home in many countries, regardless of its legal status. 

Prostitution is the practice of engaging in any sexual activity with the intention of receiving payment. Although prostitution is more common among females, about 20% of global prostitutes are male.  

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Prostitution has many different forms, and each country has its own laws governing it, which can even differ among states within the same country. This contradiction highlights the diversity in country viewpoints on prostitution-related topics, such as exploitation, gender roles, ethics and morality, freedom of choice, and societal norms.

Some nations prefer to outright forbid it, while others tend to offer social security benefits and treat sex workers equally to other jobs.

This article will reveal some of the countries where prostitution is legal. These countries have given prostitutes equal rights and have recognized prostitution as a profession.

countries where prostitution is legal
Map showing countries according to their stance on prostitution sourced from the world population review.

Stances on prostitution

Various countries have different lenses through which they look at prostitution. While some countries have accepted prostitution as a profession, some have outrightly banned it, while some fall in between. Here are some of the stances that various countries take when it comes to prostitution.

1. Legalization

Legalization means that prostitution in most forms within the law is considered legal. This exempts child prostitution, violence, trafficking, and all forms of forced prostitution. Legalized prostitution usually allows the buying, selling, and organization of prostitution, which are most times regulated by the government.  

2. Prohibitionism

With prohibitionism, prostitution is considered illegal and criminalized across all areas. This includes criminalization of the buying, selling, and organizing of anything that causes the exchange of money for sex. This is common in countries with highly religious settings.

3. Decriminalization

This is more like the unwritten legalization of prostitution. Countries that have decriminalized prostitution do not regulate prostitution; however, there is no law that criminalizes the act or industry. 

4. Abolitionism

Abolitionism allows for the buying and selling of sex but prohibits all forms of organizing such as pimping and forced prostitution, as a way of preventing the exploitation of sex workers. For this reason, countries that practice this allow individual prostitution but prohibit the operation of brothels or public solicitation.  

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5. Neo-abolitionism

This stance absolves prostitutes of blame and considers it criminal to buy sex. Hence, clients of prostitutes and pimps are considered to have committed an offense when caught with a prostitute. This kind of stance limits the demand for prostitutes. 

Also read 13 European Countries You Can Take Your Hustle To

11 countries where prostitution is legal

1. Australia

In Australia, the legality of prostitution differs from state to state. In some parts of Australia like Queensland, prostitution is legal and regulated, whereas, in the western part of Australia, independent prostitution is legal but not regulated. Brothels and pimping are however considered illegal. 

In states like Victoria and New South Wales, prostitution has been completely decriminalized. In 2023, the state of Victoria hopes to remove the registration of sex work businesses and allow for the sale of alcoholic beverages in hotels under the sex work decriminalization bill of 2021. This will make prostitution a legally free trade in the state.

Australia

2. Germany

In 2016, Germany passed the Prostitutes Protection Act. This law was enacted to help protect the rights of prostitutes by ensuring that all prostitutes have a registration certificate and individuals in the sex work trade obtain a permit. 

Since then, prostitution in Germany has remained legal and organized. Prostitution jobs can now be advertised on HR companies, and brothels are now allowed to function in Germany even with advert placements. 

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Germany is also one of the few countries where prostitution is taxed and has become a reliable source of revenue generation.

3. Hungary

Prostitutes in Hungary operate under strict conditions and are usually confined to operating in specific regions away from schools or churches. This doesn’t mean that the profession is illegal. In fact, prostitution has been legal and regulated by the Hungarian government since 1999. 

In Hungary, prostitutes are required to pay taxes and keep legal documents that are open to scrutiny by law enforcement agents. 

To be a prostitute in Hungary, you must be up to 18 years of age, have an entrepreneur’s permit, and take mandatory STI and HIV tests at least four times a year.

Although prostitution is considered legal in Hungary, it is a crime to make money from other people’s prostitution; hence, running brothels are considered illegal. 

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Hungary is one of the countries where prostitution is legal.

4. Eritrea

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In the 19th century, when Italy colonized Eritrea, prostitution was encouraged due to the creation of Italian racial laws in the country that prohibited mixed marriages. This saw a rise in the recruitment of local women who were forcibly enrolled in brothels to work as prostitutes. Many of these prostitutes were underaged girls.

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With the rise in HIV cases during the 1990s, the government stepped in and began regulating the industry. The government’s involvement ensured that prostitutes had monthly health checks; however, prostitution around schools, churches, and hospitals is prohibited.

5. Mozambique

Driven by the general poverty level in the country, prostitution in Mozambique has remained a thriving business for many. Even though prostitution is legal and regulated by the government, illegal forms still thrive. These forms are child prostitution and sex trafficking.

The problems of illegal prostitution came to international discourse in the mid-1990s when UN peacekeepers were accused of patronizing underaged prostitutes.  

6. Greece

Located in southeastern Europe, this country allows prostitution as an employment opportunity for women who are 18 years and older. To successfully be a sex worker in Greece, you must be registered and are subject to occasional medical checks. Asides from being of age, you must be unmarried, certified mentally fit and have a clean criminal record. 

Brothels, where prostitution activities are carried out, must also be licensed by the state and are a revenue source for the government. Pimping, solicitation, child trafficking, and street prostitution are considered illegal in Greece. 

Though prostitution is legal and regulated by the state, illegal forms of prostitution still thrive in some parts of Greece.   

7. The Netherlands

A visit to the Red light district of the country’s capital (Amsterdam) will instantly reveal where the country stands on prostitution. The Netherlands became one of the first countries to legalize prostitution in 1999 by lifting the ban on brothels, recognizing prostitutes, and regulating the sex industry.  

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While prostitution in the Netherlands is legal and regulated, forced prostitution and underaged prostitution are considered abuse and thus illegal in the Netherlands. To ensure the safety of sex workers in the industry, the Dutch government has drafted a sex work regulation bill. This bill seeks to ensure that prostitutes and other sex workers in the industry have a permit and are up to or more than 21 years of age. Sex workers who fail to meet these criteria will be considered offenders.   

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Red light district in the Netherlands

8. Colombia

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Colombia is one of the South American countries that has legalized prostitution. The government of Colombia regulates the industry and brothels are limited to specific areas called “tolerance zones.”

Unfortunately, illegal aspects of prostitution in this country have continued to thrive. These are human trafficking, sex slavery, and child prostitution. Organized crime networks have hijacked the industry and trade vulnerable individuals, especially women, both internally and internationally, exposing their victims to violence and diseases.

In recent times, the government of Colombia has put in efforts to limit sex crimes by cooperating with foreign governments to investigate trafficking cases and repatriate trafficked victims.       

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Colombia is one of the South American countries that has legalized prostitution. The government of Colombia regulates the industry, and brothels are limited too.   

9. Peru

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It is legal to be a male or female prostitute in Peru provided you are up to 18 years of age. The government regulates prostitution in Peru and prostitutes are required to register with the municipal and have a health certificate which they should carry with them while on duty.

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Brothels are legal but must be licensed however, many prostitutes in Peru work informally where there is little or no government interference and brothels are unlicensed. This puts most of the prostitutes in this sector at risk for violence and health hazards. 

Child prostitution and sex trafficking are considered illegal with a prison sentence of up to 8 years for sex offenders. Despite the punishment involved, illegal prostitution still thrives in Peru. 

10. Bangladesh

Becoming a prostitute in Bangladesh involves the signing of an affidavit stating that the intended prostitute has not been forced to enter into the profession. It is also required that the prostitute states that they could not find any other work. After swearing this affidavit, the intended prostitute is registered under the state. 

Although prostitution is legal in Bangladesh, the country forbids sex trafficking, child prostitution, and unlicensed brothels.

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Prostitutes in Bangladesh are socially degraded due to cultural and religious reasons. This puts them at risk for violence from the public and even law enforcement agencies. 

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11. Panama

Due to the legality of prostitution in Panama, it is not uncommon to see prostitutes in more upscale areas of the city, including the streets and in brothels. They frequently work at massage parlors and hotel lobby bars throughout the city.

In addition to other rules, government authorities require all prostitutes to undergo a weekly health checkup, but AIDS cases and other sexually transmitted diseases are rapidly rising in Panama.

Foreigners are also permitted to practice prostitution in Panama. To do this, they need a special visa called the ‘alternadora’ visa. This visa allows foreigners to practice prostitution freely in the country.

Conclusion

Prostitution is one of the oldest professions that has continued to thrive against all odds and chances are that its end may never come.

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Whether it should be recognized globally as a profession deserving of legalization will certainly remain a topic of debate for a very long time however, there is a need to ensure that prostitutes are protected and able to enjoy equal human rights and benefits as other citizens in other professions.

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