Legal prostitution is a hot potato and often discussed, especially in Sweden. In Europe differs a lot between the countries. This applies to both laws and attitudes. The Netherlands and Germany have a notorious liberal view of the sale and purchase of sex. But how does it look in the rest of Europe?

Views on the sale of sexual services have great cultural differences. Basically, it is the view of prostitutes (in most cases) women. They can be seen, such as victims or self-employed. In some countries it is forbidden to convey sexual services, but not as an individual to sell.

Sweden, Norway, and Iceland are the countries that apply the law to prevent the purchase, but not the selling of sex. They argue that women do not sell sex to get rich, but because of various personal problems – usually financial or drug abuse.

Other countries where prostitution is illegal may instead emphasize the immoral aspect of selling sexual services. This approach is most common in eastern Europe.

Countries with legal prostitution

In Europe, there are eight countries where the sale and purchase of sex are legal and regulated. Above all, many people think of the Netherlands and Germany, but some more countries have similar regulations. These are Austria, Switzerland, Greece, Turkey, Hungary, and Latvia.

The area with the most profitable sex trade is De Wallen in Amsterdam. It’s the famous so-called Red Light District. Here, the customer only needs to meet the requirement of being at least 16 years.

In Germany, it is sometimes seen as an “acceptable” work, and some prostitutes are also members in unions.


More than just playing the piano?

Illegal but tolerated

There are countries in Europe where the sale of sexual services is illegal, but almost no one cares and the trade is completely open. This is common in Belgium, Spain, and the Czech Republic. In the Czech Republic, it is particularly evident in the small towns along the border towards Germany.

An example of this is the European road 442 that runs from Dresden and on to Prague.

Shortly after the border illuminates a red glow from shop windows where women are making more or less inviting waves. The operation is fully transparent, and any fear of being prosecuted, either for the buyer or seller, does what it seems not exist.

Since April 6, 2016, the purchase of sex illegal in France. The punishment for the one who is caught may result in up to 3500 euros in fines.

The same design of the law exists in the UK.

As both France and Britain until recently had legal prostitution, the public view is still tolerant.

Morally reprehensible

Many countries of the former Eastern bloc, have in contrast to the Swedish model chosen to criminalize the prostitutes. In this countries, they don’t see the prostitutes as a victim. The law is founded in a conservative point of view, where these services are considered sinful.

Legal in a majority of EU countries

To summarize the legal situation about the sex trade in Europe, are the countries that allow prostitution (but not in an organized scale), a majority. It is not therefore legal with brothels and so on, but a person alone who sells on the street is no legal impediment.

The second most common attitude advocates a total ban. Unfortunately, in many cases, it doesn’t protect the residents, since many are victims of trafficking, which might place them in a brothel in Germany, for example.

In the last place are the countries of northern Europe which have criminalized all purchase of sexual services.