Prostitution laws around the world

Above: Lawyers and defendants in the Supreme Court of Canada case on prostitution laws call it a historic day for women’s rights and sex workers rights.

TORONTO – Canada’s prostitution laws have been struck down in their entirety by the country’s highest court.

The Supreme Court of Canada has struck down three prostitution-related prohibitions — against keeping a brothel, living on the avails of prostitution, and street soliciting – in a unanimous 9-0 ruling.

The court said the three prohibitions were violations of the constitutional guarantee to life, liberty and security of the person.

READ MORE: Supreme Court strikes down Canada’s anti-prostitution laws

It’s a win for sex workers who’ve been seeking safer working conditions, arguing the ban on brothels forced them out onto the streets and exposed them to more danger.

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The Supreme Court decision gives Parliament a one-year reprieve to come up with new legislation.

Here’s a look at how prostitution laws related to one of the world’s oldest professions differ considerably around the world.


Buying or selling sex services is illegal in the United States, with the exception of Nevada where brothels are licensed in some parts of the state. In most jurisdictions, prostitution, solicitation, or agreeing to engage in an act of prostitution are classified as punishable offences.

Most U.S. jurisdictions punish pandering, procuring, and the promoting of prostitution with heavy fines and prison sentences.

Trafficking –recruiting and moving people by force, fraud or coercion-is illegal in the U.S., as is accepting the earnings of a prostitute and harbouring or patronizing prostitutes.


Similar to Canadian law, prostitution itself is not illegal in the United Kingdom, though acts related to prostitution are against the law.

Working as an escort or a private prostitute is not an offence though causing, motivating or controlling prostitution for personal gain is illegal.

Human trafficking, pimping, running a brothel, “kerb crawling” and soliciting sex on the street are criminal offences.

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The Dutch legalized prostitution in the mid-1800s but it wasn’t until the 1980s that sex work was recognized as a legal profession.

Bans on brothels and pimping were lifted in October 2000 and the industry is now regulated by labour law. Prostitutes are registered workers. Municipalities are responsible for issuing licences and conducting inspections to ensure quality standard working conditions.

Though it’s legal to employ prostitutes over the age of consent, all forms of exploitation in the prostitution industry, including trafficking and forced prostitution, are criminal under the Dutch Penal Code.


Prostitution is legal and regulated in Germany. Brothels are registered businesses requiring appropriate liquor and food licensing, if served, though a brothel licence isn’t necessary.

Prostitutes pay income taxes and must charge a value added tax (VAT) for their services.


While prostitution is decriminalized in Mexico, most Mexican states regulate the industry, requiring sex workers to be registered and at least 18-years-old.

Many towns require their sex workers to obtain regular health checks and carry a health card to prove their good health. Though pimping and brothel ownership is illegal, sex trafficking and underage prostitution is prevalent across the country.

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The exchange of sex acts for money is legal in Argentina, but the country criminalizes organized efforts like brothels and pimping.

Home to one of the world’s largest sex worker organizations, the Association of Women Prostitutes of Argentina (AMMAR), Argentine law permits provinces to arrest prostitutes for offensive or scandalous public behaviour.

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