There is a strong political debate on the legal framework surrounding prostitution.
05 June 2022 10:00 AM

Prostitution in the UK

05 June 2022

Is prostitution legal in the UK?

Prostitution describes the offering and provision of sexual services for financial gain.

In the UK, with the exception of Northern Ireland (where buying sex is illegal), the law around prostitution is considered a grey area.

Prostitution itself is not illegal but there are a number of offences linked to it. For example it is an offence to control a prostitute for gain, or to keep a brothel.

Prostitution: The oldest profession or an oppressive trade?

Which countries legalise prostitution?

Currently there are a number of different legal frameworks in existence around the world in relation to prostitution. The three most cited are:

The legalisation model is the one followed in Austria, Germany and the Netherlands.

Prostitutes are classified as independent workers. They need to register, obtain a permit, and pay tax in order to work legally. Sex work is thus legalised, but regulated, with the aim of preventing exploitation, improving the conditions of sex workers, and reducing links with organised crime.

Critics of this approach include the group, the English Collective of Prostitutes who claim it benefits those running sex businesses rather than those working in them. They claim that a second clandestine tier of prostitution is driven underground, and that this leads to unsafe conditions for those involved.

It is also claimed that many prostitutes do not want to register under a legalised system as it threatens their anonymity.

Decriminalisation is the choice supported by many sex worker campaign groups, but also by Amnesty International, the World Health Organisation, and the Royal College of Nursing.

Decriminalization of prostitution is the regime operated in some American States, and in New Zealand. New Zealand is the only country in the world that takes this approach at a national level.

Decriminalisation removes all laws related to prostitution. It is said to allow sex workers to take control of their industry and help eliminate the exploitation that may exist with it. The New Zealand government has claimed that since sex work was decriminalised, trafficking has been all but eliminated, and 70% of sex workers say they are more likely to report violence to the police.

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