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Is it legal to exchange money for sex in the UK?

Sex work is not necessarily always prostitution. It can mean stripping or lap dancing. It can also mean pornographic performance or other sexual services in return for money, gifts, or other agreed terms.

Providing sexual services in exchange for money is legal in the UK except in Northern Ireland, where it is illegal to pay for sex. The UK has specific guidelines to ensure the safety of service providers. There are also some activities that are deemed illegal under the Sexual Offenses Act 2003.

  • Getting clients on the street or from public places includes someone in a vehicle.
  • Paying escorts who were forced or threatened to give the services.
  • Owning or managing a brothel house or any establishment where more than one person uses it to provide sexual services.
  •  Practising control over the sex workers and arranging the money they earn.
  • Advertisements for sexual services, including giving away cards to passers-by and putting cards in phone boxes.

Sex Laws for London

Paying money for sex with escorts is legal in London. There are over 60,000 people who work in the adult industry in the UK. In London, as much as 80% of these people are foreigners. The sex work sector here takes several forms, including massage parlours, private flats, saunas, and Soho walk-ins.

There are also some lap-dance-providing clubs and brothels. In London, one can work as an escort in private, and buying their services is not illegal as long as it follows the Sexual Offences Act 2003 with the Policing and Crime Act 2009.

Although child prostitution and pornography are illegal, the UK legislature does not use the term ‘child prostitution’ anymore; sexually exploiting is a criminal offence.

Sex Laws for Paris

In France, prostitution is legal, but purchasing sexual services is illegal. In Paris, therefore, the law is heavily maintained. The law to penalize the consumers of prostitutes was passed in 2016. Before that, both the buying and selling of prostitution were legal in Paris.

1946 Paris saw the closure of brothels with Loi Marthe Richard, and after the studios and g=hotels shut down, most of the prostitutes left the industry.

The clients of the sex workers in Paris now need to pay a hefty fine of 1,500 euros ($1,700). Repeat offenders could be fined up to 3,750 euros ($4,260). They also need to enrol on a workshop that teaches them the plight of sex workers.

Sex Laws for Madrid

Prostitution was decriminalized in the country in 1995. The act of prostitution, either buying or selling, is not adequately addressed in the Criminal Code of Spain; specific actions related to this are illegal. The illegal activities regarding prostitution are pimping or sex trafficking.

Owning an establishment where prostitution is bought and sold is legal, but the owner cannot gain profit from this establishment. The owner cannot hire any person to sell sex. There are numerous migrant sex workers in Madrid. Almost 90% of the sex workers are migrants from Latin America, Bulgaria, Romania and Africa. Here, sex laws are less regulated than in other European countries.

Sex Laws for Budapest

Prostitution in Budapest, the capital of Hungary, has been legalized since 1999. Here, prostitutes are professionals who can provide sexual services in exchange for money. Prostitution is adequately regulated, and the government allows them legally engage in the activity as long as the taxes are paid.  

The government could mark legalized zones of prostitution if the locality needed it. But most local authorities deny this need; hence the Hungarian trade union of prostitutes are still fighting for the zones.

Some activities are illegal in Budapest, including providing a place for prostitution, running a brothel or gaining profit from the escorts.

Sex Laws for Lisbon

Operating as an escort was decriminalized in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1983. The legal framework of the country has been changed quite a several times. The act was recently amended in 2001, which deals with child prostitution and sex trafficking.

Lisbon believes that escorting is not a crime, nor the customers of sex for money are penalized, but the prosecution follows the people who exploit escorts.

The city has many forms of places where one can buy sex: bars and pubs, massage parlours, unofficial brothels, discos, hotels and restaurants.

Sex Laws for Berlin

Sex in exchange for money or other agreed terms is technically legal in Berlin, Germany. But the selling and buying of sex in Germany are regulated locally. The city can put up restrictions as to where and when one can buy or sell sex. But Berlin is free from all these regulations, and one can freely consume or sell sex.

The escorts in Berlin need to register themselves and state their profession to the authorities to work freely in the brothels or independently. The sex workers are also provided with a special pass. The brothels are also legal as long as they are registered.

Sex Laws for Helsinki

In Helsinki, Finland, prostitution is not illegal, but the activities regarding managing a brothel, operating a prostitution ring or forms of pimping are. Buying and selling sexual services in public places is a punishable offence.

Street prostitution in Helsinki consists of both local and foreign prostitutes. This type of prostitution was prohibited in 1999. In the 21st century, online prostitution has become popular. Restaurants have also become places for escorts to sell their services to clients.

Sex Laws for Bratislava

Although prostitution is illegal in Bratislava, numerous massage parlours, escort services and strip bars are officially legal. Any form of pimping or managing organized brothels are punishable act.

The strip clubs, private bars etc., are perfectly safe to enter as these are registered and legally authorized. Street prostitution is often seen in areas frequented by truck drivers. Other than these, erotic massage parlours offer a semi-legal form of prostitution.

Sex Laws for Athens

Sex in exchange for money is legal in Athens, Greece, although most of the escorts are working illegally. The illegal sex workers are mostly foreigners. There are state-run brothels in Athens which are called ‘studios’.

It is also possible to manage a legally licensed brothel. The escorts are expected to register at the local prefecture and carry a medical report card updated every two weeks. Solicitation and pimping are illegal; however, solicitation is often expected.

Sex Laws for Rome

Prostitution is legal in Rome, but organized prostitution in indoor brothels or managing through a third party is illegal. Brothels were prohibited in Italy in 1958. The act of prostitution is not mentioned in the legal codes of Rome.

EUR is the city's red-light district, where more than 20 streets are used for several sexual services.

Sex Laws for Stockholm

While prostitution is legal in Stockholm, buying services from an escort is illegal. The Act was first enacted in 1999. The law is often known as the ‘Nordic model’.

The law makes it difficult for escorts to look for clients and find a safe workplace. 

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