Guide to EU+ Rules on Prostitution

Libertarians believe that people should know when they are breaking the law, particularly when the law is ambiguous, vague, unclear or widely flouted. What follows is a quick guide to the varying laws on prostitution in the 27 EU member states.

Of course, the fact that something is illegal does not stop it happening, sometimes on a wide scale, so it is not really a guide to the extent of prostitution but it does help indicate the extent to which it is repressed and underground.

We have endeavoured to grade countries according to their degree of freedom: it makes interesting reading.

As with speed limits, it is Germany which emerges as an unlikely beacon of liberty, as do certain other once protestant countries. Catholic countries are often mired in authoritarianism, hypocrisy and double standards. Scandinavia, once a centre of progressive social liberalism, is increasingly the slave of authoritarian, feminist pursuit of the (male) purchaser

In setting out the situation as we understand it, we note the inconsistencies in an area where true freedom would mean no restriction. If I have an absolute right of property in my own person, then that includes the right to sell my body as I choose – and the right of others to buy without fear or challenge what I choose to sell. Of course, taxation, trading standards, health laws and the absence of 3rd party coercion should apply equally to this as any other service. But, as we know, to prohibit something or even to leave it in a legal limbo is to drive out these values and hand it to criminals.

FREE (-ish!) 
Germany
Prostitution Act 2002 legalised prostitution, brothels and their advertising and promotion and introduces workers’ rights and contract law – though interpretation of the law does vary from one provincial state (länder) to another.

Latvia
An emphasis on health checks combined with open advertising makes for a rather open and free market

Luxembourg
(WARNING: may be about to become very unfree and politically correct by banning the PURCHASE of services!) Prostitution, including street prostitution is regulated and zoned

Netherlands
No legal street prostitution but otherwise legalised and regulated with local authorities determining area policies on brothels. (Plans to criminalise the purchase of services outside the legal sector: how very Dutch!)

Switzerland
(Not in the EU) Viewed as taxed and regulated, independent professionals, there is none the less significant variation canton by canton

Greece
Restricted to unmarried women who must register, but indoor premises are permitted – although not near schools or churches (and out of alphabetical order because it on the cusp of the next category)

RESTRICTIVE
Austria
Considered ‘indecent’ but permitted and regulated with compulsory registration of providers

Belgium
Permitted in certain zoned areas but advertising is illegal

Bulgaria
Massage and escort work are legal and taxed but promotion is a criminal offence and an absence of clear regulation allows arbitrary police authority

Czech Republic
Subject to local authority control so much variation, from it being permitted in some places to outright bans in others

Cyprus
Not explicitly illegal but hiring a prostitute is a misdemeanour and running a brothel or living off profits is illegal

Denmark
Prostitution is considered a social problem and BEWARE they are looking to follow their Scandinavian neighbours and are debating criminalising clients

Estonia 
Brothels are prohibited but there is little other law – though the opportunity to raise taxation on what is a growth industry thanks to their increasingly repressive Scandinavian neighbours may take it in a more liberal direction

Hungary 
The regime is theoretically permissive and sensible but in practice it is subject to repressive regulation

Poland
The legal regime sensibly allows official recognition of escort agencies but this is modified by conservative Catholic stigma and prohibitions on taking profits

Portugal
Organised activity is prohibited but anything beyond this is not subject to any legal framework

Slovakia
Not an officially recognised profession, much depends upon the attitude of the local authority

Slovenia
Prostitution is not an offence but facilitating, promoting and supporting it are, in a society which cannot decide whether sex workers are professionals or victims.

Spain
Would prefer to it did not exist which means little explicit prohibition but no recognition

United Kingdom
Solo prostitution is not an offence but facilitating, promoting and supporting it are in a society which is increasingly obsessed with trafficking in the broader context of immigration law and cannot decide whether sex workers are professionals or victims.

UNFREE
Finland
Rigorous legislation, heavy social stigma, perception of it as a social problem and a focus on curbing demand with the objective of abolition all mean that they are simply driving it into the hands of criminals or to their neighbours (see Estonia!)

France
Once the beacon of brothel legalisation, it is now intolerant and most activity is periodically the subject of a clampdown

Lithuania
Sex work and prostitution are offences for which both providers and clients can be punished in a Catholic country which interestingly contrasts with Latvia, its northern Protestant neighbour.

Italy
The law is theoretically highly restrictive of what is often tolerated in practice: a typically Italian / Catholic approach in the country whose president Berlusconi has allegedly been publicised as indulging in what he seeks to prohibit

Norway
(Not in the EU) A Scandinavian country where political correctness and women’s right have led to illiberal authoritarian prohibitions which make PURCHASE a crime for Norwegians abroad even in countries where it is legal!

Romania
Another country where significant legal prohibitions are often ignored until the police decide to crack down, an approach which has caused many practitioners to go abroad to work

Sweden
Once a beacon of enlightened thinking on sexual freedom, they have been driven by political correctness into a harsh regime focussed on the purchaser.

This article from the author of “Unzipped”, true life scandalous sexual secrets from the corridors of power.

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