Legalization of prostitution would mean its regulation with laws regarding where, when, and how prostitution could take place.
Those who support legal prostitution argue that prostitution is a consensual sex act between adults and a victimless crime, thus the government should not prohibit this practice. In Netherland and Germany, prostitution is a legitimate occupation and regulated as a profession.
Legalization refers to an approach that regards prostitution as inevitable, but in need of special social controls and regulation. These special controls may include a state registry for prostitutes, mandatory health exams and condom use, zoning, and other laws that aim to protect third parties from harm and render prostitution businesses relatively invisible to the public.
In countries where sex work has been legalized, the State regulates sex work. For example, sex workers may have to pay special taxes, work exclusively in brothels or certain designated zones, or get a permit (these restrictions can cost a lot for a person who only wants to work part time or when a worker isn’t getting a lot of work). It can also mean that sex workers are obliged to register and pass physical exams that can lead to the workers being quarantined. (Or worse, knowing about the compulsory exams could lead clients to believe that bareback sex is risk-free, which would lead to more clients asking for this dangerous practice and to more pressure on workers.)
Legalizing sex work means that certain forms of the work that used to be illegal become regulated in a specific way, which does not provide sex work with the same status as any other form of work.
Some people argue that once a legalized system is in place, decriminalization could then take place. Unfortunately, that is not the way it works. The government does not relinquish its power and control, and it is unrealistic to believe otherwise. Once established, a legalized system will not give way to a laissez-faire one.
Case of Germany
Prostitution is legal in Germany. Prostitutes may work as regular employees with contract, though the vast majority work independently. Brothels are registered businesses that do not need a special brothel license; if food and alcoholic drinks are offered, the standard restaurant license is required.
Prostitutes have to pay income taxes and even have to charge value added tax (a tax on the purchase price) for their services, to be paid to the tax office. In practice, prostitution is a cash business and taxes are not always paid, though enforcement has recently been strengthened. Berlin and some Federal States have initiated a system where prostitutes have to pay their taxes in advance, a set amount per day, to be collected and paid to tax authorities by the brothel owners.
The first city in Germany to introduce an explicit prostitution tax was Cologne. This tax applies to striptease, peep shows, porn cinemas, sex fairs, massage parlors, and prostitution. In the case of prostitution, the tax amounts to 150 euros per month and working prostitute, to be paid by brothel owners or by privately working prostitutes. Containment of prostitution was one explicitly stated goal of the tax.
The Federal Court of Justice of Germany ruled in July 2006 that, as a consequence of the new prostitution law, advertising of sexual services is no longer illegal. Many newspapers carry daily ads for brothels and for women working out of apartments. Many prostitutes and brothels have websites on the Internet. In addition, sex shops and newsstands sell magazines specializing in advertisements of prostitutes ("Happy Weekend", "Sexy" and many more).
Every city has the right to zone off certain areas where prostitution is not allowed (Sperrbezirk). Prostitutes found working in these areas can be fined or, when persistent, jailed. The various cities handle this very differently. In Berlin, prostitution is allowed everywhere, while almost the entire center of Munich is Sperrbezirk, and under-cover police have posed as clients to arrest prostitutes. In Leipzig, street prostitution is forbidden almost everywhere, and the city even has a local law allowing police to fine customers who solicit prostitution in public. In most smaller cities, the Sperrbezirk includes the immediate city center as well as residential areas. Several states prohibit brothels in small towns (such as towns with fewer than 35,000 inhabitants).
Foreign women from EU countries are allowed to work as prostitutes in Germany. Women from other countries can obtain three-month tourist visa for Germany. If they work in prostitution, it is illegal, because the tourist visa does not include a work permit.
Pimping, admitting prostitutes under the age of eighteen to a brothel, and influencing persons under the age of twenty-one to take up or continue work in prostitution, are illegal. It is also illegal to buy sex from any person younger than 18. This law also applies to Germans traveling abroad, to combat child prostitution occurring in the context of sex tourism.
Regular health checks for prostitutes are not mandated by law in Germany. In Bavaria, law mandates the use of condoms for sexual intercourse with prostitutes, including oral contact.
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