The Legal Status Of Prostitution in All The Continents


Prostitution is one of those subjects that causes heated debate in many circles and will probably still cause it for some time into the future. Some view it as exploitation and degradation of the human being, others see it as embracing and accepting the natural and unstoppable sexual urges of every man or woman.

Volumes have been written on the subject and there are great reference works all over the internet. But it may be interesting and quite useful to sketch an outlook of the attitude that the governments of the world have towards it.

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The “old continent” is one of the most accepting toward the “oldest profession”. Prostitution is widely accepted by society, with the best known example being The Netherlands, where it is legal and regulated, but its legal status differs from country to country. In some countries, in an attempt to protect women from human trafficking and sexual slavery, prostitution itself is legal while associated activities such as brothels and pimping are not.

In Sweden, Norway and Iceland only people who try to purchase sexual favours are prosecuted, not the prostitutes themselves. In most of the Eastern European countries prostitution is still illegal which causes a lot of girls to go and search for work in the Western part.



The Americas

The Americas are pretty open-minded when it comes to prostitution with only three countries opposing it. It may come as a surprise that one of these countries is none other than the “land of the free”, the USA. Only one of the 50 states, Nevada, legalizes prostitution, but only in some of its counties. Prostitutes have known happier times though, as the practice was widely legal before 1915. The same rule applies as in Europe that although it is legal, prostitution is regulated only in some countries.

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There are a few Asian countries that legalized prostitution. The most tolerant to the subject is Turkey which, in spite of it being a Muslim country, not only legalised, but also regulated it. It is followed by Bangladesh, India and Kazakhstan. But one of the most striking caracteristics of the region is the great differeces between the official laws and the real practices.

The Muslim countries openly condemn prostitution and in some cases it is punishable by death, but many establishments and human trafficking chains operate in secret. Some of the Eastern Asian countires are famous destinations for sex-tourism and some of them also struggle with the problem of child prostitution. The social stigma is also stronger than that in Europe or America as extra marital sex altogether is considered unacceptable.




In Africa prostitution is a big problem because it is one of the main causes for the transmission of the HIV virus. As it is driven by very powerful causes like poverty, social instability and war, it is also very unlikely to be stopped. There are nonetheless some countries where it is legal and regulated like Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire.



We end our review on a more optimistic note, with a continent that shares the open attitude of the developed nations. In Australia, prostitution is legal and regulated in the east, but the west still doesn’t allow brothels and the practice is not regulated. It struggles also with the problem of human trafficking.

The current trend toward the legalisation and regulation of prostitution in the world is obvious. As human psychology is understood better and as social norms evolve, individual freedoms are granted a more important place in society. Since poverty, dictatorial governments and the ban on prostitution usually go hand in hand as we have seen from our survey, the legalisation of prostitution may be seen as an indication of social progress. Also it becomes clear that not prostitution per se, but human trafficking is the real problem.


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