ProstitutionSANTA MONICA, Calif. – As human trafficking, child sexual abuse and global criminal networks that deal in sexual contraband continue to proliferate, laws that cover behavior and regulate the actions of sex workers around the world take on increased relevance.

A website called has compiled a list of laws for 64 countries and their policies on prostitution, brothel ownership, and pimping.

“Countries were chosen in order to be inclusive of major religions, geographical regions, and policies towards prostitution. Additional countries will be added over time. Whenever possible we have included government documents in English regarding prostitution such as laws, court decisions, employment information, etc. under the name of the country,” the site explains. The list was last updated in May 2009.

Of the 64 countries looked at, prostitution is legal in 32 (50.0%); Illegal in 23 (35.9%); and of limited legality in 9 (14.1%). Despite society’s general intolerance for professional sex work, many countries throughout the world have laws that humanely accomodate not only prostitution but thr activities that support it such a brothel ownership and pimping. Others impose penalties that range from imprisonment to death.

in Turkey, for instance, which is a Muslim nation, prostitution is legal but with severe restrictions. Sex workers cannot be married and their children are barred from occupying high rank in the army or police, or marrying persons of such rank, although they can work in other areas of government service. Interestingly, brothel ownership also is legal inbthe country.

In Iran, on the other hand, prostitution, brothel ownership and pimping all are illegal, with the harshest possibly penalty a death sentence for prostitutes only. “Establishing or managing a place of immorality or prostitution is a criminal act, subject to imprisonment from 1-10 years.”

Laws in the West also are all over the map, so to speak, Some countries, such as Italy, make prostitution legal but pimping and brothel ownership illegal. In Spain, prostitution in not illegal but its exact legal status is unclear. England is a polyglot of laws. Prostitution, per se, is legal, but “Persistent” solicitation in public places is illegal as is “kerb crawling.” (The site provides a glossary of terms as well.)

In the United States, two states have legal prostitution. Everyone knows that Nevada is one, but few know which is the other state in which prostitution is legal but loitering in public places for the purpose of prostitution and soliciting prostitution services in motor vehicles are not. Do you?

The list can be found here, complete with links to the actual laws where possible. It is a fascinating read in the aggregate that reveals a great deal about our collective attitude toward the oldest profession in the world.