• France's news in English

Prostitution around Europe: Which country has it right?

AFP · 29 Nov 2013, 13:22

Published: 29 Nov 2013 13:22 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

French lawmakers are to debate a prostitution law on Friday that would penalize clients instead of sex workers.

Here is the situation in other European Union countries:

Punishing clients:


Sweden pioneered the punishment of those who pay for sex in 1999, with six-month prison terms and a fine based on the client's income. It remains to be seen whether the law can be enforced owing to a rise in use of the Internet to procure sex.


Norway followed Sweden's example in 2009. A six-month prison term can be raised to one year if the nature of the sex act is "particularly degrading". Sex workers initially faded from view in Oslo but are gradually returning.

  • ICELAND                      

Those who pay for sex can go to prison for a year if the sex worker is an adult, or for two years if the prostitute is a minor. No prison terms have been handed down so far by courts in those three countries.


Pimping and soliciting are both illegal. Clients of prostitutes forced into sex work are prosecuted, even if the client was unaware of any coercion. But prostitution is not a violation if the sex worker is self-employed, owns the site where sex takes place and does not create a public nuisance.


Seeking sex from a prostitute is punished by up to 10 years in prison, but prostitution itself is not forbidden and "massage parlours" are tolerated.


Barcelona levies fines of up to 3,000 euros ($4,050) for clients, and from €300-750 euros for prostitutes working on the street. Madrid has proposed fines of €750-3,000 for clients. Prostitution itself is tolerated in Spain, and La Junquera, a town on the border with France, has an active sex industry.

Organizing prostition:


Prostitution was legalized in 1999. Sex workers must declare their earnings and pay taxes. In 2012, experts concluded that adopting the Swedish model would probably not lead to a decline in prostitution.


Prostitution has been regulated since 2002. Voluntary sex workers can be either independent or salaried and get unemployment insurance and medical coverage. Brothels exist but it is illegal to pimp someone out against their will.


Voluntary prostitution by adults was legalized in 2000, along with pimping of willing workers. Sex workers in established brothels receive salaries and have work contracts, social protection, unemployment insurance and pensions.


Prostitution is allowed unless it is forced. Sex workers must be at least  16. In August, Zurich launched a sex "drive-in", a new addition to the sector.

Story continues below…

Prostitution is authorised in registered, regulated brothels.


Sex workers can register as independent workers and brothels are authorised in some cities. A special 'Eros Centre' with bedrooms, parking for clients, and an on-site medical centre and police station is planned for 2016 near Liege.

 Other European countries:

Some forbid prostitution but do not punish clients, as in Finland and Romania.

Others tolerate it but prosecute pimping and solicitation, such as in Estonia, Italy, Poland and Portugal.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
France to clear 'Jungle' migrant camp Monday
Migrants will be bussed from the camp to some 300 temporary accommodation centres around France. Photo: Denis Charlet/ AFP

The "Jungle" migrant camp on France's northern coast will be cleared of its residents on Monday before being demolished, authorities said Friday.

How life for expats in France has changed over the years
A market in Eymet, southwestern France. Photo: AFP

Foreigners in France explain how life has changed over the years.

London calling for Calais youths, but only a chosen few
Photo: AFP

Dozens of Calais minors are still hanging their hopes on help from the UK, but not all will be so lucky.

17 different ways to talk about sex in French
Photo: Helga Weber/Flickr

Fancy a quick run with the one-legged man?

Yikes! This is what a rat-infested French jail looks like
Photo: YouTube/France Bleu TV.

This video is not for sufferers of ratophobia (or musophobia as the condition is officially called).

France to allow Baby Jesus in Town Halls this Christmas
Photo: AFP

Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus are safe to go on display again this year, it seems.

National Front posts locations of migrants in French town
The National Front courts controversy. Photo: AFP

"Local tax payers have a right to know," says local far-right party chief.

Paris thieves use tear gas to steal €500,000 of watches
Photo: AFP

The thieves pretended to be couriers then threatened staff with tear gas to get the watches.

Bataclan survivor recounts attack in chilling drawings
Photo: BFMTV screengrab

One survivor has recounted the horrific night through illustrations.

Anger among French police grows as Hollande vows talks
French police demonstrate on the Champs Elysées. Photo: AFP

A fourth night of protests shows government efforts to ease anger among French police have been fruitless.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
The ups and downs of being both French and English
How Brexit vote has changed life for expats in France
Twelve French insults we'd love to have in English
What's on in France: Ten of the best events in October
jobs available