Prostitution Law

What is Prostitution?

Prostitution is generally described as the granting of sexual acts in exchange for compensation. Prostitution has been an area of increasing concern for legal professionals in recent years, both as a result of the Internet and an increase in sex trafficking.


The rise of the Internet made prostitution much easier and more accessible to the masses. Previously, prostitution required direct interaction between the sex worker (also known as a prostitute) and the client. This often involved the prostitute standing in a public location waiting for someone to approach and solicit them for prostitution. Alternatively, a group of prostitutes might congregate in a single building to which clients would come, called a brothel. These forms of prostitution were difficult for sex workers to participate in given the relatively public nature of the solicitation and the reluctance of clients to engage them for fear of the legal consequences. Indeed, these methods were relatively easy for police to monitor and for lawmakers to outlaw.

The Internet, on the other hand, allowed anyone with an Internet connection to offer sex services almost anonymously, screen potential prostitutes/clients, and avoid law enforcement. This has led to an explosion in the sex trade that lawmakers have struggled to regulate.

Similarly, interest in pornography made available via the Internet has caused a dramatic boom in the legal sex industry. Unfortunately, this has also created a great deal of gray market pornography / prostitution in which any person with a camera may attempt to assert that they are making a film rather than soliciting someone for prostitution, or prostitutes may claim that they are merely attempting to perform as adult models or actresses.

Child Prostitution and Sex Trafficking

Unfortunately, not all prostitution has been between two consenting adults. Child prostitution has also seen increases in the last few years. Child prostitution is, as the name implies, paying for sexual encounters with a person who is under the age of consent. Many of these children are either troubled teens or are being forced to participate in the sex acts as a form of modern slavery.

A similar and related issue has been the trafficking of humans to act as sex workers. These individuals are often lured to another country with offers of employment in legitimate industries, then held against their will and forced into the sex industry as slaves. Often these individuals may be smuggled across borders, as well, further affecting their ability to leave the industry with no passports, a lack of understanding of the local laws and customs, etc.

Legalization and Dangers Caused by Illegal Prostitution

To date, Nevada is the only state that allow any legalized prostitution. But, there are a number of groups lobbying for legalization of prostitution. Many of these groups point out that the act of sex exchanged for something of value is essentially a victimless crime, but because it is illegal, prostitutes are often exposed to a variety of other crimes which they cannot report to law enforcement for fear of arrest. Examples include rape, battery, muggings, and murder.

More Information

For more information about prostitution, please review the materials found below or contact an attorney in your area that has experience with this area of law. For a list of local attorneys, please visit our Law Firms page and search by your location.


Know Your Rights!

Human Trafficking and Prostitution Law - US

  • DOJ - Human Trafficking

    Trafficking in persons is a heinous crime and human rights abuse. The most vulnerable members of the global community, those who have limited access to social services and protections, are targeted by traffickers for exploitation. Steps have been taken, however, to locate victims, reinstate their inherent rights, provide them with protection and services, and prosecute offenders.

  • FBI - Innocence Lost - Child Prostitution

    In June 2003, the FBI in conjunction with the Department of Justice Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children launched the Innocence Lost National Initiative. Their combined efforts were aimed at addressing the growing problem of domestic sex trafficking of children in the United States.

  • Prostitution - Overview

    Prostitution is illegal in all states except Nevada, where it is strictly regulated. Some state statutes punish the act of prostitution, and other state statutes criminalize the acts of soliciting prostitution, arranging for prostitution, and operating a house of prostitution. On the federal level, the Mann Act (18 U.S.C.A. § 2421 [as amended 1986] makes it a crime to transport a person in interstate or foreign commerce for the purpose of prostitution or for any other immoral purpose.

  • State Prostitution Laws

    Prostitution is illegal in the United States with the exception of 11 Nevada counties. On Nov. 3, 2009, Rhode Island closed a legal loophole that had allowed indoor prostitution to exist since 1980.

  • The Mann Act

    The Mann Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2421 et seq., prohibits transporting any individual in interstate or foreign commerce for the purpose of engaging in prostitution or other sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense, and related crimes. The Child and Exploitation and Obscenity Section of the Criminal Division is responsible for supervision of the Act.

  • US Federal Prostitution Laws and Related Punishments

    Presentation of federal laws on prostitution within the United States. Prostitution is illegal in the United States with the exception of 11 Nevada counties. On Nov. 3, 2009, Rhode Island closed a legal loophole that had allowed indoor prostitution to exist since 1980.

  • US Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act

    The original and reauthorized versions of the U.S. Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act are included here in full text and in summation. In addition, international conventions and protocols related to human rights, the human rights of women, slavery, human trafficking, and organized crime are presented.

Human Trafficking and Prostitution Law - International

  • Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-International (CATW)

    The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-International (CATW) is a non-governmental organization that promotes women's human rights by working internationally to combat sexual exploitation in all its forms. Founded in 1988, CATW was the first international non-governmental organization to focus on human trafficking, especially sex trafficking of women and girls. CATW obtained Category II Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council in 1989.

  • Commercial Sex Information Service (CSIS) - Canada

    The Commercial Sex Information Service (CSIS) is a clearinghouse of information about laws, sexual health, commerce and culture as these topics relate to sex work.

  • Factbook on Global Sexual Exploitation

    The Factbook on Global Sexual Exploitation was compiled from media, non-governmental organization and government reports. It is an initial effort to collect facts, statistics and known cases on global sexual exploitation. Information is organized into four categories: Trafficking, Prostitution, Pornography, and Organized and Institutionalized Sexual Exploitation and Violence.

  • - East Asia and Pacific

    The purpose of this Web site is to bring Government and NGOs in the East Asia and Pacific together to cooperate and learn from each other’s experiences in their efforts to combat human trafficking. This Web site has country-specific information such as national laws and action plans and contact information on useful governmental agencies. It also has a description of NGO activities in different countries and their contact information.

  • International Prostitutes Collective

    Since 1975, the International Prostitutes Collective has been campaigning for the abolition of the prostitution laws which criminalize sex workers and our families, and for economic alternatives and higher benefits and wages. No woman, child or man should be forced by poverty or violence into sex with anyone. We provide information, help and support to individual prostitute women and others who are concerned with sex workers’ human, civil, legal and economic rights.

  • Sex Work and Sexual Exploitation in the European Union

    This site aims to provide a useful reference to Sex Work in Europe. It gives a brief description of the de jure and de facto situations in each of the 15 EU Member States, and drawing primarily on web resources it guides the user through the essential debates, providing up to date reference. Following the site's progression through background arguments surrounding sex work, leads to the argument that in the control of sex work lies an answer to Europe's sexual exploitation problem.

Child Prostitution, Slavery, Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking

  • Child Sex Tourism - ECPAT

    ECPAT began as a campaign against child prostitution in Asian tourism, which is closely tied to the issue of child sex tourism as, respectively, the supply and demand side of the same phenomenon. Since the early 1990s, ECPAT International and many member groups of the ECPAT network around the world have worked with the tourism and travel industry to raise awareness and to take practical measures against children being sexually abused. Partnerships have been established with the hotel industry, tour operators, and other members of the tourism sector for the prevention of child sex tourism. Technical support is provided by ECPAT to assist the tourism industry, as well as governmental and international agencies.

  • Childern of the Night - Saving Children from Prostitution

    Children of the Night is a private, non-profit, tax-exempt organization founded in 1979. We are dedicated to assisting children between the ages of 11 and 17 who are forced to prostitute on the streets for food to eat and a place to sleep. Since 1979 we have rescued girls and boys from prostitution and the domination of vicious pimps. And we provide all programs with the support of private donations.

  • CRIN - Report on the Sexual Exploitation of Children

    Guided by our passion for social and legal change, CRIN has built a global network for children's rights. We press for rights, not charity, and advocate for a genuine systemic shift in how governments and societies view children. Our inspiration is the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which we use to bring children's rights to the top of the international agenda. We launch advocacy campaigns, lead international children's rights coalitions, and strive to make existing human rights enforcement mechanisms accessible for all.

  • DOJ - Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS)

    Welcome to the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) website. Created in 1987, the mission of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) is to protect the welfare of America’s children and communities by enforcing federal criminal statutes relating to the exploitation of children and obscenity.

  • End Child Prostitution and Trafficking - ECPAT International

    ECPAT International is a global network of organisations and individuals working together for the elimination of child prostitution, child pornography and the trafficking of children for sexual purposes. It seeks to encourage the world community to ensure that children everywhere enjoy their fundamental rights free and secure from all forms of commercial sexual exploitation.

  • Legislation of Interpol Member States - Sexual Offences Against Children

    In order to set up a base document regarding legislation of the member countries of the International Criminal Police Organization - Interpol on child sex abuse, we asked member countries to provide us with a summary of the applicable legal texts regarding these offences.

  • National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC)

    The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s® (NCMEC) mission is to help prevent child abduction and sexual exploitation; help find missing children; and assist victims of child abduction and sexual exploitation, their families, and the professionals who serve them. NCMEC was established in 1984 as a private, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization to provide services nationwide for families and professionals in the prevention of abducted, endangered, and sexually exploited children.

  • Stop Child Slavery

    Child slavery is a problem larger than most are willing to admit. We need more voices crying out for it’s end. We need more people awakened to the horrors inflicted on our innocents. We need to make a stand and call out for others to make a stand as well. We need education. We need action.

  • UNICEF - Child Protection from Violence, Exploitation and Abuse

    UNICEF’s child protection programmes aim to prevent and respond to violence, exploitation and abuse against children. The programmes also target children who are uniquely vulnerable to these abuses, such as when living without parental care, in conflict with the law and in armed conflict.

  • World Vision - Fighting Child Trafficking

    As an international aid Christian humanitarian organization, World Vision works in nearly 100 countries around the globe, combating the root causes of poverty and responding quickly when disaster strikes. We partner with communities to find lasting ways of improving the lives of children and their families while providing international disaster relief.

Organizations Related to Prostitution Law

  • Open Society Institute - Sexual Health and Rights Project (SHARP)

    OSI’s Sexual Health and Rights Project (SHARP) was launched in 2005 with an aim to increase access to health care and advance the health-related rights of those who are marginalized because of their sexual practices, sexual orientation and/ or gender identity. This includes work with sex workers and sexual minorities, including gay, lesbian, bisexual, intersex, and transgender persons. SHARP works towards this mission by building the capacity of civil society leaders and groups to effectively address the health of these populations and advocating for accountability and a strong civil society role in the design and implementation of rights-based policies and practices that have the most impact on the health of sex workers and sexual minorities.

  • Prostitutes' Education Network

    The Prostitutes' Education Network is an information service about legislative and cultural issues as they effect prostitutes and other sex workers. The service is comprised of information for sex workers and activists/educators who study issues of decriminalization, human rights in the context of prostitution, violence against prostitutes and women, sex workers and pornography, as well as current trends in legislation and social policy in the U.S. and internationally.

  • Prostitution Research & Education (PRE)

    Prostitution Research & Education (PRE) is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization that conducts research on prostitution, pornography and trafficking, and offers education and consultation to researchers, survivors, the public and policymakers. PRE’s goal is to abolish the institution of prostitution while at the same time advocating for alternatives to trafficking and prostitution - including emotional and physical healthcare for women in prostitution. The roots of prostitution are in men’s assumptions that they are entitled to buy women for sex, and in racism, and women’s poverty.

  • - Prostitution was founded in February 2000 by a group of lawyers, teachers, advocates, and web designers interested in seeing the power of the Internet work for more disadvantaged people and specifically for survivors of domestic violence. We pulled together our experiences and resources and launched this website in October 2001. changed its formal name from Women's Law Initiative in 2005.

Publications Related to Prostitution Law

  • ABA - Prostitution Publications

    Various articles on prostitution, human trafficking and sex workers.

  • CDC - Prostitution Health Issues and Articles - STD's and HIV

    The Center for Disease Control provides a list of articles, surveys and reports on STD's, HIV and the sex trade; a high risk group for transmitting or becoming infected with sexually transmitted diseases.

  • FAQ'S on Child Prostitutes

    Child prostitution is international in scope. Pimps have become more sophisticated in recruiting and harboring the children they force to prostitute, moving their victims from state to state, often forcing them to work as prostitutes outside the larger cities and in small towns where police are unfamiliar with the operations of child prostitution rings.

Articles on Related to Prostitution Law

  • What Is Prostitution and Solicitation for Prostitution?
    Most states outlaw the act of willfully engaging in sexual conduct in exchange for money or other goods like drugs. Likewise, most states prohibit the selling of another person’s sexual services for money or other goods, but these prohibitions may be included in a separate state statute.
  • Prostitution Defenses When Charges are Filed
    Prostitution is an ongoing problem in many states. Exchanges of money, services or products with those selling their bodies occur with clients often in big cities, but even smaller locales witness such activity.
  • New York Prostitution
    Prostitution in New York is defined as engaging in sexual relations with another person for money or services. This includes agreeing to engage in these activities or offering to do so. Typically, this crime is a Class B misdemeanor with a possible maximum of 90 days in jail. These crimes are common in certain areas of the city, and law enforcement agents may sometimes use prostitutes as informants for other crimes.
  • Human Trafficking Victims Accused of Prostitution
    In many instances, women and men have been charged and convicted of various kinds of prostitution. What may not be known is that the actual issue for many of these crimes is human trafficking. These individuals are often victims, not criminals. Without evidence of the culprit of these crimes, it is all too common for the responsible party to get away.
  • Can I Get My Name Removed from an Offender List?
    If a person commits certain sexual crimes in North Carolina, his or her name can be added to a sex offender registry. Being added to this list requires the convicted individual to register his or her name, address and other information so that his or her whereabouts are known by the public and law enforcement.
  • Entrapment
    When a law enforcement officer helps to influence an individual to attempt to commit a crime, the criminal defendant may wonder if the officer’s conduct rose to entrapment. If entrapment was involved in a case, the criminal defendant may raise entrapment as a defense to the criminal charges.
  • Defenses For Prostitution Charges In California
    A California criminal defense attorney explains prostitution laws and how you can fight the charges. Learn more about prostitution defenses here.
  • Victims of Human Trafficking Charged with Prostitution
    Too often women are charged and convicted of prostitution, when they could more accurately be described as victims of human trafficking.
  • Why is Pornography Legal and Prostitution is Not
    It seems like the headlines are constantly filled with new stories of politicians quite literally caught with their pants down in scandals with prostitutes. This often raises the question of why we do not treat prostitution in the same was as pornography. Why is sex for money okay in one setting and not another?
  • Legal Considerations for Child Pornography Cases
    Few sex crimes bring more negative connotations to mind than those related to child pornography. In our computer age where information, images, and videos can be rapidly and easily accessed, this has become a growing area of concern. Although search engines have become better at filtering out inappropriate materials, it is still possible to occasionally come into contact with these matters, either intentionally or not.
  • All Criminal Law Articles

    Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Criminal Law including: arson, assault, battery, bribery, burglary, child abuse, child pornography, computer crime, controlled substances, credit card fraud, criminal defense, criminal law, drugs and narcotics, DUI, DWI, embezzlement, fraud, expungements, felonies, homicide, identity theft, manslaughter, money laundering, murder, perjury, prostitution, rape, RICO, robbery, sex crimes, shoplifting, theft, weapons, white collar crime and wire fraud.

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