Countries Where Prostitution Is Legal 2023

Many countries around the world have adopted various legal approaches regarding the exact aspects of prostitution, aiming to either eliminate or regulate it.

  • Soliciting sex for monetary gain, facilitating (through establishments such as brothels or individuals known as pimps), purchasing, and vending of sexual services are activities that go against the law. Prostitution is universally illegal (restricted/criminalized) – a stance known as Prohibitionism. This approach is particularly prevalent in countries that ban pornography and in devoutly religious nations.
  • Neo-abolitionism is a philosophy that considers violence against women as prostitution. Sex selling is technically legal, but sex soliciting, organizing, and buying are all illegal. Prostitutes are legally considered blameless when caught in the act, but their pimps and clients (the boss or “organizer” of the prostitute) are prosecuted. “This loophole” is designed to suppress demand.
  • All types of “association” such as pimping, procuring, and coerced prostitution are typically not allowed; the running of brothels; and public solicitation. Both purchasing and selling sexual services are considered legal. The most common worldwide approach is abolitionism.
  • The legalization of sex entails the legality of organizing, typically brothels, as well as soliciting, buying, and certain forms of selling. However, there are also regulations in place, such as the requirement for prostitutes to register or the restriction of prostitution to specific districts.
  • Decriminalization refers to the minimal or non-existent special regulations concerning the solicitation, organization, purchase, and sale of sex, which are either not addressed in the law or simply not regulated.
  • In certain nations, like Australia and the United States, regional and national authorities may have supplementary regulations concerning the act of prostitution.
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    Country’s laws often fail to paint an accurate picture of the level of prostitution in that country, it is important to note.

    Legalizing prostitution can lead to an increase in sex worker abuse and harassment, as law enforcement personnel may not effectively enforce laws against it. Despite the local areas often being tolerant of prostitution, laws prohibiting it are often not strictly enforced, especially in tourist areas. For example, prostitutes may offer their services legally by presenting them as off-the-clock sessions or dances. Many countries with neo-abolitionist policies have discovered loopholes that enable prostitution to thrive, despite seemingly strict laws.

    An overview of legislation surrounding prostitution in different nations

    Canada

    In Canada, regulations on prostitution are strict. Under the Protection of Persons and Exploited Communities Act, it is legal to communicate with the intention of selling sex; however, it is illegal to communicate with the intention of buying sex and to purchase sex services. It is legal for sex workers to advertise their own services, but not the services of others. It is also illegal to sell sex near areas where minors (under 18) could reasonably be expected to be present, such as playgrounds and schools. These are just a few provisions in the law.

    Thailand

    Typical sights in Thailand include areas known for prostitution, establishments offering massages, venues with lively entertainment, and karaoke bars with a focus on adult entertainment. The legal regulations surrounding these activities are unclear and frequently not enforced, although engaging in prostitution is against the law. A considerable number of individuals, particularly financially strained women from rural areas who lack job skills, turn to sex work in Thailand as a substantial economic opportunity.

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    Japan

    Prostitution in Japan is forbidden, but flourishing. Consequently, these establishments include “Soaplands”, where customers are cleansed by sex workers; offering oral, anal, mammary, or other forms of non-vaginal sexual activity; and “fashion health” or “delivery health” services, which provide legal services such as massages and unofficially include a sexual act as an extra. However, due to the narrow and specific legal definition of prostitution (vaginal intercourse with a stranger), individuals involved in the sex industry have created numerous ways to work around and exploit the system. Participating in prostitution as a buyer or seller is technically against the law in Japan.

    Germany

    Part of the Act includes requiring a certificate of registration and a permit for all trades involving prostitution. The Protection of Prostitutes Act, which was passed in Germany in 2016, was intended to protect the legal rights of prostitutes. Germany also allows HR companies to process jobs related to prostitution, as well as advertisements and brothels. Prostitution in Germany is both taxed and organized, making it one of the more progressive approaches worldwide.

    Australia

    Brothels and pimping are considered illegal, however, independent sex work in Western Australia, Northern Territory, and South Australia is legal and unregulated. On the other hand, sex work in Queensland, Tasmania, and Victoria is both legal and regulated. It is worth noting that pimping remains illegal, despite the fact that prostitution is largely decriminalized in New South Wales. It is important to recognize that the legality of prostitution in Australia differs significantly from one state or territory to another, with each having its own set of laws.

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    Mexico

    Mexico, in accordance with federal legislation, decriminalizes the practice of prostitution. Each of the 31 states in the country establishes its own regulations pertaining to prostitution, with 13 states permitting and overseeing this activity. Certain cities facilitate regulated prostitution within designated “tolerance zones,” which serve as designated areas for red-light districts. Nevertheless, the act of pimping remains unlawful in the majority of Mexico.

    USA

    Where can prostitution be practiced legally in the United States?

    Legislation on the Global Regulation of Sex Work

    For a more complete table of countries around the world and each of their legal stances on prostitution, see the table below.

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