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The Legal Status of Prostitution by Country

The Legal Status of Prostitution by Country
Country nameProstitutionNote
AfghanistanIllegalMarried women who had sex outside marriage were stoned to death. Although prostitution is illegal in Afghanistan. Many considered 'temporary marriages' a form of prostitution. Temporary marriages lasted from one day to a few months, in exchange for a dowry.
AlbaniaIllegalThe law prohibits prostitution; however, it remained a problem
AngolaIllegalProstitution is illegal, but the prohibition was not consistently enforced. Many women engaged in prostitution due to poverty
Antigua and BarbudaIllegalbut it remained a problem. There were a number of brothels that catered primarily to the local population
ArgentinaLegalProstitution by individuals over the age of 18 is legal, but the promotion, facilitation, or exploitation of persons into prostitution is illegal.
ArmeniaLegalProstitution and sex tourism are legal, but operating a brothel is prohibited and engaging in other forms of pimping are punishable by one to 10 years imprisonment
AustraliaClick here
Australian Capital TerritoryLegalHowever, soliciting or loitering in a public place for the purpose of prostitution remains an offence.
Northern TerritoryLegal
New South WalesDecriminalisedIn 1988 changes were made to laws in New South Wales which prohibit street prostitution in residential zones, but allow it on commercial streets.
South AustraliarestrictedProstitution is not illegal, but the soliciting, procuring, keeping a brothel, receiving money paid in a brothel in respect of prostitution or living on the earnings of prostitution are illegal, which makes it illegal in effect. The definition of a brothel is wide enough to include women working who work alone.
VictoriaLegalBrothels are permitted in the central area of the City of Melbourne. In all other areas, a brothel must not be within 100 metres of a dwelling or 200 metres of a church, hospital, school, kindergarten, children’s services centre or any other facility frequented by children.
Western AustraliaLegal
AustriaLegalLaws regulating prostitution require prostitutes to register, undergo periodic health examinations, and pay taxes
Bahamas, TheIllegal
BangladeshrestrictedFemale prostitution was legal. Male prostitution was illegal
BarbadosIllegalbut it remained a problem, fueled by poverty and tourism
BelarusIllegalit is an administrative--rather than a criminal—offense
BelizeLegalThe law does not explicitly address adult prostitution, and the government did not use law enforcement resources to combat prostitution
BeninLegalthose who facilitate prostitution and individuals who profit financially from prostitution, including traffickers and brothel owners, face penalties including imprisonment
BhutanIllegalProstitution took place on a limited scale and mostly in border regions
BoliviaLegallegal for individuals age 18 and older
Bosnia and HerzegovinaIllegalprostitution and solicitation are misdemeanors punishable by a fine only
BotswanaIllegalbut was widespread. Enforcement was sporadic and complicated by vague laws that made it easier to charge violators with offenses such as unruly conduct or loitering than for prostitution
BrazilLegalThere are no regulations for adult prostitution, but exploiting it through associated activities, such as operating a brothel, is illegal
BulgariaNo lawsis not specifically addressed in the law
Burkina FasoLegal
BurundiIllegalthere were private brothels in urban areas, and women engaged in prostitution independently in high-traffic and tourist areas around Lake Tanganyika. While police did not aggressively attempt to curb prostitution, there was no reliable evidence that they participated in or profited from the sex trade
CambodiaIllegalThe constitution prohibits prostitution; however, there is no specific legislation against working in prostitution
CameroonIllegalit was tolerated and practiced predominantly in urban areas and places frequented by tourists
CanadaLegalbut the law prohibits pimping; operating, being found in, or working in a brothel; and communicating in a public place for the purpose of engaging in prostitution. Prostitution exists throughout the country, particularly in major urban centers.
Cape VerdeLegal
Central African RepublicLegalThe new penal code does not specifically prohibit prostitution, but it does criminalize procuring. Procurers can receive prison sentences
ChadIllegalit was prevalent in larger urban areas and in the south
ColombiaLegalThe law prohibits organizing or facilitating sexual tourism and provides penalties of three to eight years' imprisonment
ComorosIllegalwas not openly practiced except at a few hotels frequented by foreigners. Arrests for prostitution were rare
Congo, Republic of theIllegalbut was common, and the government did not effectively enforce this prohibition
Congo, Democratic Republic of therestrictedThe constitution prohibits forced prostitution and bans prostitution of children under age 18
Costa RicaLegalThe penal code prohibits individuals from promoting or facilitating the prostitution of persons of either sex, regardless of the persons age
Côte d'IvoireLegalbut associated activities such as soliciting, pandering or running brothels are illegal
CroatiaIllegalwidespread and generally punishable by fines
CubaLegallegal for persons over age 17
CyprusLegalIt is illegal to live off the profits of prostitution, however, and police routinely arrested pimps under this section of the law
Czech RepublicLegal
DenmarkLegalprocuring, coercion into prostitution, solicitation of prostitution from a minor, and trafficking are illegal
DominicaIllegalbut authorities rarely enforced laws against it
Dominican RepublicLegalthere are some prohibitions against sex with minors, and it is illegal for a third party to derive financial gain from prostitution. However, the government usually did not enforce prostitution laws. Sex tourism existed throughout the country
EcuadorLegallegal for persons over the age of 18 as long as the prostitution businesses are registered with the government and follow health regulations
El SalvadorLegalthe law prohibits inducing, facilitating, promoting, giving incentives to a person to work as a prostitute, or paying anyone under the age of 18 for sexual services
Equatorial GuineaIllegal
EthiopiaLegallegal for persons over age 18 and was commonly practiced around the country; however, the law prohibits pimping and benefiting from the prostitution of others
FijiIllegalbut it occurred, particularly in cities
FinlandLegalbut pimping, pandering, selling, and purchasing sexual services in public is illegal. Prostitution was generally limited to private apartments and nightclubs in larger cities
FranceLegalthe law prohibits procuring, aiding, assisting, maintaining, publicly soliciting, or profiting from the prostitution of another
French GuianaIllegal
GabonIllegalit was not a widespread problem
Gambia, TheIllegalhowever, it was a major problem, particularly in tourist areas
GermanyLegalalthough communities have the authority to exclude it from specified areas, such as residential neighborhoods
GreeceLegallegal at the age of 18. Persons engaged in prostitution must register at the local prefecture and carry a medical card that is updated every two weeks
GuatemalaLegalprocuring and inducing a person into prostitution are crimes that can result in fines or imprisonment, with heavier penalties if minors are involved
Guinea-BissauNo laws
HaitiIllegalbut it remained a widespread practice, particularly among women and girls. Police generally ignored prostitution
HondurasLegallegal for adults over the age of 18 and relatively widespread, the law prohibits promoting or facilitating prostitution
Hong KongLegalbut there are laws against activities such as public solicitation, causing or procuring another to be a prostitute, living on the prostitution of others, or keeping a vice establishment
HungaryLegalbut persons engaged in prostitution could only work legally in certain locations away from schools and churches
Icelandrestrictedhowever, in April the parliament passed legislation criminalizing the buying of sexual services. The law also prohibits advertising for prostitution and prohibits a third party, or pimp, from profiting from prostitution or procurement of sexual services. It is also illegal for a person to rent facilities for prostitution
Indiarestrictedmost activities, such as selling, procuring, and exploiting any person for commercial sex or profiting from the prostitution of another individual, are illegal
IndonesiaNo lawsProstitution is not specifically addressed in the law. However, many officials interpreted "crimes against decency/morality" to apply to prostitution. Prostitution was widespread and largely tolerated, despite its contradiction with popular societal and religious norms.
IranIllegalbut it took place under the legal cover of sigheh (temporary marriage)
IrelandLegalIt was also illegal to keep or to manage a brothel. Reports of, and arrests for, these crimes were rare
IsraelLegalwidespread but not highly visible
JamaicaIllegalit was widespread, particularly in tourist areas
JapanrestrictedProstitution is illegal(only coitus act) but narrowly defined. Many sexual acts(non-coitus act) for pay that would be considered prostitution in other countries are legal.
JordanIllegalbut police and citizens reported its occurrence in certain restaurants and nightclubs throughout the country
KazakhstanLegalalthough forced prostitution, prostitution connected to organized crime
KenyaIllegalbut was widespread. While operating a brothel is illegal, soliciting prostitution is not a crime. Police arrested women engaged in prostitution. High rates of prostitution existed in tourist areas such as Nairobi and coastal tourist areas
KiribatiLegalhowever, procuring sex and managing brothels are illegal. The lack of a law against prostitution hindered the ability of the police to restrict these activities
Korea, NorthIllegal
Korea, SouthIllegal
KyrgyzstanLegalalthough the operation of brothels, pimping, and recruiting persons into prostitution are illegal, with penalties of up to five years imprisonment
LaosIllegalHowever, in practice antiprostitution laws generally were not enforced, and in some cases officials reportedly were involved in the trade
LatviaLegalRequires monthly health check.
LebanonLegalrequires brothels be licensed, including regular testing for disease
LesothoNo lawsIt was known to occur in urban areas, but its pervasiveness was unclear.
LiberiaIllegalit was widespread
LibyaIllegalbut there were reports that it existed in major cities
LiechtensteinIllegalhowever, police tolerated it in the country's few nightclubs as long as it did not cause public offense
LithuaniaIllegalbut remained a problem.
MacauLegalNevertheless, the SAR had a large sex trade, including brothels, most of which were believed to be controlled by Chinese organized crime groups, and many of those exploited by the trade were women
Macedonia [FYROM]Illegalhowever, authorities did not always enforce the law.
MadagascarLegalProstitution was pervasive and particularly visible in areas frequented by tourists
MalawiLegalprevalent around hotels and bars in urban and tourist areas
Malaysiarestrictedpublic solicitation for prostitution is illegal
MaldivesIllegalbut occurred on a small scale
MaliLegalwas common in cities.
Marshall IslandsIllegalbut reportedly occurred at low levels on the Majuro and Kwajalein atolls
MauritiusIllegalhowever, it was prevalent.
MexicoLegalWhile pimping and prostitution of minors under age 18 are illegal
Micronesia, Federated States ofIllegalillegal and was uncommon, although the police alleged that a small number of prostitutes were available to fishermen temporarily docked in Pohnpei
MoldovaIllegalProstitution is punishable by a fine or administrative arrest. Pimping is a crime with penalties ranging from two to seven years in prison. Advertising prostitution in the media is punished with a fine.
MonacoIllegalovert prostitution is uncommon, although it exists in a well-hidden form
MongoliaIllegalWomen's activists claimed that in Ulaanbaatar there were hundreds of brothels posing as saunas, massage parlors, and hotels. Some were occasionally raided by police. Nevertheless, the overall infrequency of raids allowed brothels to operate de facto
MontenegroIllegalProstitution and offering sexual services are crimes, but using the services of a prostituted person is not a criminal offense. Prostitution existed but was not widespread
MoroccoIllegalClosely linked to tourism and urban migration, it was a growing but not yet pervasive problem. Authorities did not effectively enforce the law
MozambiqueNo lawsalthough it is governed by several laws against indecency and immoral behavior and restricted to certain areas
BurmaIllegalpunishable by up to five years in prison.
NamibiaLegalThere were continued reports that police officers threatened to arrest prostitutes who did not agree to give them free sex.
NepalrestrictedForced prostitution is illegal, but there are no laws banning prostitution by choice
NetherlandsLegallegal for persons age 18 or older who engage in the practice voluntarily. In Aruba prostitution was not a criminal offense but soliciting in public places was prohibited.
Netherlands AntillesLegallegal for persons age 18 or older who engage in the practice voluntarily.
New ZealandDecriminalisedAccording to Prostitution Reform Act 2003 No 28, Public Act, prostitution has been decriminalized. The purpose of this Act is to decriminalise prostitution (while not endorsing or morally sanctioning prostitution or its use) and to create a framework. It is legal for citizens over 18 years old.
NicaraguaLegalwhich is legal for persons 14 years of age and older, was common, although the law prohibits its promotion
NigerIllegalProstitution is illegal but remained prevalent in big cities and near major mining and military sites.
NigeriaIllegalProstitution remained pervasive, particularly in urban areas. Statutes at both the federal and state levels criminalize prostitution. All states that adopted Sharia had criminalized prostitution but enforced such prohibitions with varying success. The police frequently used the antiprostitution statutes as tools for harassment, arresting prostitutes and holding them until they paid bribes but rarely prosecuting the cases in court.
NorwayrestrictedIt is illegal for citizens to purchase, but not to sell, sexual services. The prohibition applies to citizens regardless of where in the world the purchase takes place.
OmanIllegalObservers reported, however, despite strict cultural norms and immigration controls, women from Eastern Europe, South Asia, North Africa, and China engaged in prostitution.
PakistanIllegalPolice generally ignored the activity if they received bribes. Police raided brothels during the year but many continued to operate underground, particularly in larger cities.
PanamaLegalprostitutes required to register and carry identification cards; however, the majority of prostitutes were not registered.
Papua New GuineaIllegalhowever, the laws were not enforced, and the practice was widespread.
ParaguayLegalProstitution is legal for persons over the age of 18, but exploitation and trafficking of women, particularly underage prostitutes, remained serious problems.
PeruLegallegal for women over 18 years of age if they register with municipal authorities and carry a health certificate.
PhilippinesIllegalProstitution is illegal but was a widespread problem.
PolandLegalbut pimping, forced prostitution, and prostitution of minors are prohibited.
RomaniaIllegalThe law does not provide punishment for clients of prostitutes unless the prostitute was a minor and the client admitted knowing that fact before the act.
RussiaIllegalThe organization and operation of a prostitution business is a crime, while selling sexual services is a lesser administrative offense.
Saint LuciaIllegalbut laws against it were rarely enforced. Some underground strip clubs were fronts for prostitution and reportedly were owned and/or protected by corrupt police officers.
Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesIllegal
SamoaIllegalit existed but was not widespread.
San MarinoIllegal
Sao Tome and PrincipeIllegal
Saudi ArabiaIllegal
SenegalLegalAlthough soliciting customers is illegal, prostitution is legal if individuals are at least 21 years of age, register with the police, carry a valid sanitary card, and test negative for sexually transmitted infections.
SerbiaIllegalalthough being a client of a prostitute is not a criminal offense.
Sierra LeoneLegalhowever, prostitutes occasionally were arrested and charged with loitering or vagrancy.
SingaporeLegalLegal red-light districts, mandatory health checks, and must be 18 years or older.
SlovakiaLegalProstitution is legal, but related activities, such as operating brothels, knowingly spreading sexually transmitted diseases, or trafficking in women for the purpose of sexual exploitation, are prohibited. There were no reliable data on the extent of prostitution.
SloveniaIllegalProstitution is decriminalized but can be considered as a misdemeanor if its performance violates the Regulation on Public Order.
Solomon IslandsIllegalbut the statutes were not enforced.
South AfricaIllegalProstitution is illegal but was widespread and practiced openly.
SpainLegalbut forcing others into prostitution and organizing prostitution rings are crimes; it is illegal to profit from the prostitution of another person
Sri LankaIllegal
SudanIllegalProstitution is illegal but widespread throughout the country.
SwazilandIllegalEnforcement of laws against prostitution was inconsistent, particularly near industrial sites and military bases.
SwedenrestrictedSelling sexual services is legal, but the purchase of sexual services and procurement are illegal. In recent years, the government has sought to curb prostitution by focusing on the demand rather than the supply and by arresting clients rather than prostitutes.
SwitzerlandLegalhowever, street prostitution is illegal except in specially designated areas in the major cities.
SyriaIllegalbut it was not strictly enforced
TajikistanIllegalalthough in practice prostitutes who were arrested were assessed a nominal fine and released
TanzaniaIllegalhowever, prostitution remained common. Prostituted women were occasionally arrested
ThailandIllegalalthough it was practiced openly throughout the country. Local officials with commercial interests in prostitution often protected the practice.
TongaLegalbut activities such as soliciting in a public place, procuring, operating a brothel, and trading in women are criminal offenses.
Trinidad and TobagoIllegal
TunisiaIllegalHowever, there were government-sanctioned brothels in which the workers reportedly had regular medical exams. There were no penalties for visiting these brothels.
TurkeyLegalWomen need to be registered and acquire an ID card stating the dates of their health checks. It is mandatory for registered prostitutes to undergo regular health checks for sexually transmitted diseases.
TurkmenistanIllegalbut remained a problem throughout the country. Authorities actively monitored prostitution and attempted to counter it.
UgandaIllegalProstitution is illegal but common.
UkraineIllegalProstitution is not a criminal offense, although it can be punished as an administrative offense with a fine up to 255 hryvnia (approximately $32). However, pimping and the organization and operation of a prostitution business is a crime that carries a term of three to 15 years imprisonment.
United Arab EmiratesIllegalhowever, it has become an increasing problem in recent years, particularly in Dubai. Although prostitution was widely acknowledged to exist, the government did not publicly address the issue. During the year the media reported several arrests for prostitution, trafficking, and operating a brothel.
United KingdomLegalProstitution is technically legal in the United Kingdom, but several associated activities are outlawed that make it difficult to work legally. It is illegal to solicit or advertise or own a brothel. It is also illegal for prospective clients to 'kerb-crawl'.
United StatesIllegalexcept for 11 rural counties in Nevada, where registration and health checks are required
UruguayLegallegal for persons over the age of 18 and was practiced openly in major cities and tourist resorts. Prostitutes would be obligated to obtain an identification card from a registry which would be established within the National Police. They would also be required to submit to periodic medical examinations and to work only within designated commercial establishments and zones
UzbekistanIllegalhowever, it remained a problem. Police enforced the laws against prostitution unevenly; some police officers harassed and threatened prostitutes with prosecution to extort money.
YemenIllegalbut it was a problem, particularly in Aden and Sana'a. Many prostitutes were third-country nationals who had traveled to the country looking for employment as domestic workers. There were reports that underage citizen girls worked as prostitutes in major cities.
ZambiaLegalAlthough prostitution is not illegal, the penal code criminalizes certain conduct associated with prostitution.
ZimbabweIllegalPolice often tolerated prostitution at nightclubs, truck stops, and bars in urban areas. Clients were rarely arrested.
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