Economics and Human Rights

Prostitution and human rights

From the book by Andrey Sokolov, "Economics and Human Rights"

"Economics and Human Rights" is a book about how the observance of human rights affects the economy.

Prostitution and the right to life, health, work, rest.

Oddly enough, the conversation about crime, which can be greatly reduced by legalizing weapons, immediately leads us to the question, where the maximum crimes against the individual are committed, where the state also does not want to provide residents with the right to life and health. And also for work and rest. The first thing that comes to mind when talking about crime is drugs and prostitution.

Let's start with prostitution - one of the types of criminal business, which is criminal not by the will of the people employed in it, but by the will of the state, which does not want to legalize this work.

The same thing happened in the USA with the introduction of the Prohibition Illegal alcohol instantly caused the growth of crime.

If tomorrow some state wants to ban milk, then dairymen will fall into the sphere of attention of criminals.

So is it wise to ban?

A person has the right to work. This right is as immutable as the right to life.

Prostitution is labor. If someone does not believe - he can try and make sure.

Maybe this work is not prestigious, maybe not very aesthetic, maybe someone doesn’t like this profession, but scavengers are also not among the prestigious professions. The janitor is also not prestigious. Or a waiter.

But just as the state ensures the right to work as a nurse or social worker, it is obliged to ensure the realization of the right to work and rest to a prostitute, and therefore, to legalize prostitution.

Not everyone wants to be prostitutes, but not everyone wants to be police officers, doctors, teachers, plumbers, politicians, officials, dancers, masseurs, hairdressers, or programmers.

A woman does not become a criminal by choosing to work as a janitor or waitress.

A female waitress can call the police if the client has not paid, if hi behaves badly. And the waitress will receive protection, and the client will be punished. But the prostitute cannot do this.

However, not only a woman, but also a man. For, as prostitutes are of both sexes, so are clients.

I ask the reader not to consider the author a sexist. The author will use the word prostitute, woman or she only in the above context. The context of the two sexes, both customers and employees. The feminine gender will be used solely to reduce the amount of text, and also as the most common type of sexual service. Services of a woman for a man.

The most important thing in the legalization of prostitution is the reduction of crime around it. Legalized prostitutes start paying taxes to the country, not to the mafia and not to the pimp. Both the client and the employee are protected from crime by the police (remember also about the right to a gun). Crime ceases to receive money from prostitution and weakens. The police do not spend their time and taxpayer money on catching a person who decided to relax and catching a person who decided to earn money, providing the client with such an option of rest.

It would probably be rather strange if the police broke into a cafe and arrested a musician, waitresses and visitors at a time when some were working and others were resting. At the same time, both of them regularly pay taxes.

But the law and the layman consider the musician and the waiter a “white profession”, and “prostitution” - "black". After all, hardly anyone objects to the fact that prostitution is a profession. Segregated, discriminated against in some countries, prohibited, but a profession. Those is discrimination by occupation, profession.

But who cares? Just as "white people" once did not care about the rights of people from Africa.

As for family and morality, it does not depend on the employee, but on the client. In a cafe, you can also twist adultery, destroy a family and spread diseases in the nearest motel. And not only in the cafe, and not only in the motel.

Prostitution, from a business point of view, is simply a service industry.

The service sector is a very profitable branch of the economy. In many countries, this industry (for example, tourism belongs to it) brings a significant share of budget revenues.

From a human rights perspective, the right to prostitution is the right to work and the right to rest.

In terms of sales, a person can sell either brains or a body (intelligence skills or body skills). We do not declare models working in art institutes or in the plein air of artists as criminals. The police do not catch athletes, masseurs, ballerinas, models who earn with their bodies. It never occurs to anyone to declare a fashion designer, choreographer or trainer a pimp.

They are all protected by law. They, their life, their work.

But not legalized prostitution endangers the life and health of the prostitute and her client. It increases the number of crimes, promotes the growth of crime, reduces revenues to the budget and entails additional budget expenditures.

The legalization of prostitution, on the other hand, leads to the elimination of budgetary costs for catching prostitutes and their clients, to a decrease in budget expenditures for investigating criminal incidents in this area, as well as to the receipt of additional taxes from sex workers.

Think and count:

How much time does the police spend fighting prostitution?

How much does it cost the budget, or rather taxpayers, that is, you?

And compare, for example, with the amount of taxes paid by prostitutes in Germany or the Netherlands.

Fortunately, as with weapons, there are examples of countries where prostitution is legalized. This allows us to evaluate this legislative step in the experiment, both from the point of view of the economy and from the point of view of human rights.


Prostitution in Austria is legal, but this has not always been the case. The 1885 law outlawed both prostitutes and their clients and intermediaries.

It was only in 1973 that the Constitutional Court ruled that this law was contrary to the Constitution. Since then, the number of officially employed prostitutes in Austria has varied between 3,500 and 6,000. They serve about 15,000 clients a day. And they pay taxes on their income.

Austrian laws recognize a prostitute as an entrepreneur, oblige to pay taxes, stipulate a mandatory medical examination, and also regulate the places and hours of their work.

By decision of the Supreme Court (1989), a prostitute has the right to demand a fee from a client for the services rendered.


Prostitution in Belgium is legal. Prostitutes enjoy the same rights as all working citizens. Including the right to retirement, safety and health. All these aspects of the life and work of a prostitute in Belgium are fully protected by law. Taxes also regularly go to the treasury.


In Bolivia, prostitution is legal. This becomes especially noticeable during the strikes of prostitutes, which happen very regularly.


Prostitution in Brazil is legal and probably very profitable for the budget.

Great Britain

Prostitution in the UK is legal. However, since 2009, contact with a prostitute who was forced to trade in the body has been criminally punished, even if the client did not know about the slave position of the employee.


In Hungary, a prostitute is a law-abiding entrepreneur and has the same rights and protections as an employee in any other service or trade. A prostitute has the right to open her own business, register it and work as legally as any store. Advertising of services is allowed. Including in the newspapers.


Prostitution in Germany is legal for citizens of the European Union. Government agencies protect the rights of prostitutes, the consequence of this is the safe behavior of clients and the absence of crime around this legal business. Prostitution is considered an official profession. The prostitute pays taxes, observes the laws, and after the end of her career, she receives a pension, like people of other professions.

About 400,000 women are engaged in prostitution in Germany. The annual turnover of this legal business is approximately 6 billion euros. Taxes are paid in full, replenishing the budget.

In Bonn, for street prostitutes, there are special devices similar to machines for paying parking. A prostitute, going to work, pays 6 euros per shift through this device. As a result, in 2011 the city budget received an additional 250 thousand euros. A quarter of a million extra revenue in just one city!

The annual turnover of the entire sex industry in Bonn is approximately 2 billion euros.

Legalizing prostitution in Germany has significantly reduced the risk of crime in this business. Prostitutes can complain about a client to the police, sue him.

Of course, legalization gave prostitutes in Germany not only the right to protection, but also the obligation to pay taxes and contributions to the pension fund.

As in any other country, prostitution is one of the favorite topics of political talkers. And most of their arguments are about morality. The historical perspective allows you to take a closer look at these moralists and understand the true value of their arguments.

So at the beginning of the 20th century, in Germany, the NSDAP faction (ie the Nazis) in the Bundestag was against the legalization of prostitution, since it "threatens the moral and racial foundations of the family." Der Stürmer believed that the adoption of the law on the legalization of prostitution "was beneficial to Marxists and Jews."

February 28, 1933, the day after the burning of the Reichstag, an "Extraordinary Decree on the Protection of the People and the State" was adopted. A sane person will not be able to understand how the prostitution and arson of the Reichstag are related, but arson and the “Extraordinary Decree” led to the arrest of tens of thousands of prostitutes throughout Germany.
For example, in Hamburg in the spring and summer of 1933, 3,201 women were arrested, only on the basis of suspicion of prostitution, 814 of them remained in prison for quite a long time.

Prostitutes “disappeared”. The Party of the Center of Germany was pleased and voted on March 24, 1933, to provide extraordinary powers to the Hitler government. The Social Democrats objected to these powers (well, the deputies of the Communist Party of Germany were already in prison by this moment).

Those. in pursuit of morality ... Germany got Hitler.

A very clear story for moralists and advocates of the prohibition of prostitution. Which is not surprising. As mentioned above, the legalization of prostitution ensures human rights to work, life, health and rest. But human rights and Hitler are diametrically different concepts.

But back to history.

Very soon, the Nazi government, which received full power, softened its moral principles.

On September 9, 1939, the Nazi government issued a decree restoring the regulation of prostitution. The decree stated that "where special prostitution houses still do not exist, the police should organize them in suitable areas." By 1942, the police had organized 28 brothels in Berlin. That's all there is to know about moralists and the value of their words and arguments.


In Greece, prostitution is also legal. She can deal with men and women who have reached the age of 21. Of course, they pay taxes from their income that replenish the country's budget. Workers in this profession (as, indeed, workers in many other professions - cooks, drivers, pilots, etc.) should undergo regular medical examinations.


In Denmark, according to the law, prostitution is only allowed for those people who have some other source of income. There is a certain logic to this. The source of income outside of prostitution suggests that it was not poverty pushed a person to the sex market, but something else. To some extent, this is insurance against trafficking in persons and coercion to engage in prostitution. It is difficult to force a well-fed person to do something if he does not like it.

In this regard, for advocates of morality would like to point out that in the main place of work a prostitute can be a teacher or a trainer. Or a financial worker, a pilot, a bus driver, a waitress. The Danes are not worried at all. They are worried about something else - some Danes believe that the services of a prostitute should be included in the state social package for disabled people, along with medical care.


Prostitution in Israel is legal. Brothels and pimping is illegal. The annual turnover is approximately $ 2 billion shekels per year.


Prostitution in Spain is illegal. And this immediately leads to the growth of crime. In 2007 in Spain 1,035 victims of sexual slavery were officially discovered.

However, it is useful for moralists to know some facts.

So in 1076, in some parts of Spain, the ban on prostitution was interpreted in a very original way. A woman who was at night in the vicinity of a men's bath could be raped with impunity. Such is the unusual concern for morality. She was raped, probably also by selected moralists ...

Morality quite often took on a very bizarre shape when it came to prostitution. So in 1325, King of Spain founded the first red-light district in the city of Valencia and surrounded it with a high wall. The king ordered all women of easy virtue to move to this quarter. It is important to note precisely the word "relocate". Those. Despite the prohibitions, prostitution continued to exist.

Many municipalities began to ask the king to allow them to create the neighborhoods in their cities. Permission was obtained and "red lanterns" appeared in Tarragona in 1325, in Barcelona in 1330, in Castellon in 1401 and in Mallorca in 1411. Brothels were also opened in the kingdom of Valencia in six cities. And before 1450, it was also in seven cities of the kingdom of Aragon.

In 1476, Queen Isabella, wife of the Aragonese king Ferdinand, obliged all the prostitutes of Castile to pay tax. Probably to maintain morality in society.

Catholic kings quite widely distributed licenses to open brothels to city municipalities, charities and their entourage. As a result, by 1479 brothels were opened in cities such as Segovia, Cuenca, Toledo, Valladolid, Logroño, Madrid, Medina del Campo, Palencia, Ecija, Carmona, Seville, Cordoba, Granada, Jerez de la Frontera, Malaga, Salamanca, etc. As they say ... all for the sake of morality ...

Since then, prostitution in Spain has been banned and allowed many more times.

Currently, brothels in Spain are banned, but there are quite a few "clubs" that do not really hide and function as semi-legal brothels.

At the same time, on January 25, 2005, the Spanish National Judicial Collegium recognized prostitution as a legitimate economic activity in a lawsuit between the Messalina National Association of Entrepreneurs and the Spanish Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. And the judge from Barcelona recognized the prostitute’s right to pay contributions to the state social insurance system, because the woman is engaged in “work for the good of society”. At the same time, the courts referred to the decision of the European Court of Justice of 2001, in which prostitution is considered as “a legal type of economic activity”.


There are no brothels in Italy. They are prohibited by a special law of 1958. But private sex work is not prohibited. Only pimps and traffickers are punished. Clients who have not paid prostitutes are equated with rapists. In 2010, 70,000 prostitutes from 60 countries of the world worked in Italy. In December 2002, Italian authorities passed a law permitting prostitution in private homes. And street prostitutes face a fine and arrest.

In the Middle Ages in Italy, some cities tried to expel prostitutes (Bologna in 1259, Venice in 1266 and 1314, Modena in 1326), but to no avail, because demand creates supply. In 1287, Florence ordered that there were no brothels within a radius of 0.5 km from the city, but already in 1325 it again began to count urban prostitutes and allocate separate areas for them. In 1355, prostitutes were forbidden to appear in the city on all days except Saturday and Monday. And according to the decree of 1384, prostitutes were ordered to wear bells on their heads, gloves and high-heeled shoes.

From 1401, Naples began to tax prostitutes.

On April 30, 1403, a morality police (Onesta) was created in Florence, which controlled prostitution, based on the writings of Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, who considered prostitution to be a necessary institution to satisfy the sexual desires of men and an alternative to homosexuality. In the last part, their views coincided with the position of the Minister of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Nazi Germany, Himmler, who was also a homophobe and saw prostitution as a salvation from homosexuality.

Since 1823, the municipality of Palermo began to issue licenses to open brothels in the city. In 1841, at the request of the King of Naples, a compulsory medical examination was introduced for prostitutes. Bologna did likewise, setting up even a special hospital for prostitutes.

The first law on prostitution in a united Italy was passed on February 15, 1860. The number of registered prostitutes peaked in 1881 - 10,422 ; in 1948 there were 4,000, and in 1958 there were 2,560.

In 1923, Mussolini ordered all prostitutes to wear special passes, which noted the results of their examination for sexually transmitted diseases.

During the occupation of Ethiopia, special houses of tolerance were created in Addis Ababa for the needs of the army. Separate brothels were set up for Italians, and separate ones for local residents.


In Colombia, prostitution and brothels are legal. The activities of prostitutes are limited to "zones of tolerance" - districts specially designated for legal activities.


Prostitution in Latvia has been legal since 1998. Prostitutes, by law of 2017, must be at least 25 years old, have a health certificate (health card issued by a venereologist) and can only provide sexual services in their own or rented living quarters. A client who uses the services of a minor prostitute risks a fine of 350 to 700 euros.

The number of prostitutes in 2005 was estimated at 10-30 thousand. Legalization of prostitution in Latvia has led to a significant increase in the flow of tourists. And here it is important to understand that tourists use not only the services of girls, but also rent housing, pay for a hotel, for travel, for food. Those. the legalization of prostitution has had a full beneficial effect on the Latvian economy and the development of the tourism industry.


Prostitution in the Netherlands is legal, and near the Red Light District, actually in the center of Amsterdam, there is a statue of Belle, on the pedestal of which is written: “Respect sex workers from all over the world.”

According to official figures for 2000, between 20,000 and 25,000 prostitutes worked in the Netherlands. Including:

Moreover, in the Netherlands, from 1000 to 1700 victims of sexual slavery are registered annually. In 2008, 763 women from Hungary were identified, 60% of whom were forced into prostitution. Is this the fault of legalizing prostitution, is it the fault of the legislators? Hardly. If prostitution was illegal, the percentage of forced exploitation would be much higher.

The argument that the legalization of prostitution leads to human trafficking and forced exploitation does not hold water. Firstly, these are shortcomings in the work of the police, and secondly, there are many other ways of forced exploitation and modern slavery. For example, the creation of clandestine workshops, where they are kept in slavery and forced into slave labor, not prostitutes, but seamstresses or people of other specialties. So the profession and the legalization of prostitution have nothing to do with it.

Do not think that slavery and prostitution are equivalent concepts. Slavery, human trafficking, the concept is much broader, and therefore is not the cause of prostitution and is not a pretext for the prohibition of prostitution. The reasons for trafficking in human beings lie in a completely different plane and the prohibition of prostitution is more likely to promote the slave trade than the legalization of sex workers.

Let's look at the numbers. According to the Global Estimates of Modern Slavery study, prepared by the Walk Free Foundation in conjunction with other organizations in 2017, 40 million people around the world are in slavery, earning up to $ 32 billion annually. Of these 40 million, only 5 million slaves (99% of cases are women) are involved in the sex industry.

sex slavery, labor slavery, child slavery


Modern Slavery 2



But besides sex slavery, there is also a huge layer of labor slavery, child slavery.

According to the Walk Free Foundation, Russia ranks 7th in the world in terms of the total number of slaves - over 1 million. Most are labor.

In February 1985, the first World Congress of Prostitutes was held in Amsterdam. The congress was held on the initiative of the head of the American organization COYOTE Margarita James and her like-minded Gail Feterson. The Congress established the International Committee for the Rights of Prostitutes and adopted the Charter of the Rights of Prostitutes Worldwide. The public organization "Red Thread" was established, which set itself the goal of legalizing prostitution. This organization, as well as the De Graaff Foundation and the Foundation against Trafficking in Women, have become the main lobbyists for the legalization of prostitution. In January 1988, the Netherlands government recognized prostitution as a profession. October 1, 2000 in the Netherlands was allowed to open brothels. Since then, the Red Light quarter in Amsterdam has been not only a place of sale of sex services, but also a tourist attraction.

In Holland, women and men who earn their living with their bodies are given equal rights with all other working citizens. They pay taxes, and in return receive the right to health insurance, funded pension and vacation pay. Prostitutes must have a medical certificate, the age of a prostitute must be at least 18, the age limit for clients is 16.

New Zealand

New Zealand legalized prostitution more than 10 years ago. The law protects both prostitutes and their clients. Even pimping is legal in New Zealand.

Costa Rica

In Costa Rica, prostitution is legal and protected by law. Prostitutes must have a medical record with them and be over 18 years old.


Prostitution in Singapore is allowed from the age of 18. There are special red-light districts. Prostitutes undergo regular medical examinations.


Only women can engage in prostitution. This is forbidden to men.

Matilda Manukyan (1914 - 2001), the owner of a network of brothels in Turkey, was Istanbul's largest taxpayer in the 1990s.

Report of the Ankara Chamber of Commerce (ATO) (2004):


Prostitution in Finland is not officially banned, but there is a ban on the construction of brothels, pimping and the purchase of sexual services from victims of trafficking in persons, from prostitutes acting under the control of pimps and from persons under 18.

Those who pay a prostitute, knowing that she was forced to have sex, face four months in prison or a fine. Buying and selling in public places is punishable by a fine.

According to data for 2015, prostitutes from Africa, Russia, Estonia and Romania worked in the streets of Helsinki. Basically, according to the Finnish police, 90% of sex services are advertised on the Internet and sold in private premises.

According to a 2013 study by the THL Health and Wellness Department, 95% of Finnish prostitutes use condoms, and 60% have been tested for HIV in the last six months. Half of the sex workers are vaccinated against hepatitis B. It is noteworthy that the respondents to this study answered questions in Finnish in 32% of cases, in Russian in 34%, and Thai in 30%.


Prostitution is legal, but since 1946 brothels, pimps, street harassment and prostitution among minors have illegal. A prostitute who speaks with a man on the street faces a fine of up to $ 1,500, and a pimp faces a prison sentence of up to 2 years.

Czech Republic

Prostitution in the Czech Republic is not punishable by law. But organizing brothels is considered a crime.


In Chile, prostitution is legal. Since 2009, laws have been adopted in the country to ensure the social and physical protection of prostitutes. Prostitutes were even allowed to publish a textbook in order to teach police officers to respect the rights of female workers in this profession.


Prostitution in Switzerland has been legal since 1942. The sex worker must be over 18 and the brothel must be licensed. In 2010, a special gay brothel opened in Zurich.


In Ecuador, prostitution is legal. Brothels are licensed. One of the motives for legalizing prostitution and licensing brothels was not even budget revenues or any lobbying, but the fight against prostitution of minors, criminals and those containing sex slaves. It was from the women who were forcibly involved in prostitution that the contingent of clandestine brothels at the end of the 20th century was. Legalization helped solve this criminal problem.


Since 1956, prostitution has been banned. But of course there is. The turnover of this services market is more than 2.3 trillion yen or 0.4 - 0.5% of GDP. However, in Japan, "sex industry" and "prostitution" are different things. Prostitution, according to Japanese law, is vaginal sex for money. Therefore, legally exist, for example, sex clubs offering oral sex. These services are regulated by the Business Affecting Public Moral Act 1948.

Prostitution is also legal in South Africa, Canada, much of Mexico, Australia, and Southeast Asia (excluding the Philippines and China). In the United States, prostitution is permitted in only a few counties of Nevada, i.e. in fact, in Las Vegas (since 1971). In Sweden, Norway and Iceland, the offense is committed by a client, not a prostitute.

One can debate for a long time about the consequences of legalizing prostitution. One can just as long discuss the consequences of the ban. However, these discussions are not important. It is important whether human rights are respected in the legalization of prostitution. Respect for human rights is important, not arguments why these rights should not be respected.

It is not a matter of whether the legalization of prostitution or anything else is good or bad, but whether the right to engage in prostitution, the right to use this service, relates to the human right to work and to rest. Does the ban on prostitution limit the right to life and health for the prostitute and her client? And if the answer is yes, then prostitution must be legalized.