It is often called the oldest profession in the world – prostitution. Should it be banned or regulated like other businesses? In Europe there are a few countries where it is forbidden, such as Finland and Romania but without penalising those who use the services of a prostitute.
For it is the clients and not the prostitutes who are the core of the business.
“You have to cut off evil at the root. Prostitution flourishes and is maintained by customers and the only way to hit the business is with a change of outlook and that is to punish the root of it, the client,” opined Rosen Richer, a former prostitute
There are five countries in Europe which impose punishments. Sweden, Norway, Iceland, the United Kingdom but only if the person is forced into prostitution – human trafficking is an example of that. Slovakia has penalties of up to ten years in prison.
Since 1999 Sweden has been at the forefront of curbing prostitution, punishing paying for sex with imprisonment of at least six months and with fines imposed in proportion to the person’s income.
It has proved an effective weapon, say the police, in the fight against human trafficking.
“Things have definitely changed because all the customers that come here know that there’s the risk that there are some police officers sitting somewhere,” said Per Hjort who is a police inspector in Sweden.
The result is that almost 5,000 men have often just been detained for questioning and not imprisoned. The fear is the law has driven customers to go online where sex is on offer.
In contrast, five countries have regulated prostitution. Denmark since 1999 while the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and Greece also regulate it.
In Switzerland prostitution is considered a fully fledged economic activity and permitted from the age of 16.
In Zurich a drive-in-for-sex has just opened in a bid to better-regulate the business. It is run by the city authorities.
“In the last few years the problem has increased and in particular when we saw Romanians being forced into it. The situation deteriorated and so we had to find a solution,” said Michael Hertzig of the Social Services Department.
Germany has adopted a similar approach where the business is regulated with brothels having their own shop front onto the streets. Since 2002 the oldest profession in the world has, in Germany, an estimated annual return of 14 billion euros and employs 400,000 prostitutes.