On 1 January 2017, new legislation in California came into effect barring law enforcement from arresting youths under the age of 18 for soliciting or engaging in prostitution. It is causing controversy.
Critics of the bill claim it would be in effect legalising child prostitution.
Democrat State Senate Holly Mitchell, who introduced the clause, insists that the newly introduced bill is designed to protect victims of underage prostitution:
The law is supposed to protect vulnerable children from adult abuse, yet we brand kids enmeshed in sex-for-pay with a scarlet 'P' and leave them subject to shame and prosecution.
Laws on prostitution – the act of engaging in sexual activity for payment - can be ambiguous, depending on the country.
The Netherlands legalised prostitution in the year 2000, and living off the income of a prostitute (pimping) is also legal, provided it doesn’t involve coercion.
In Latvia, prostitution is regulated, but owning a brothel, or pimping, are both illegal activities.
People over at OpenStreetMap created an interactive map of the world according to where prostitution is either:
Red: fully illegal.
Yellow: legal but non-regulated - with brothels being illegal.
Blue: legal and regulated.
There are only a few places in the world where prostitution, and brothel-ownership are legal.
Sex work in Turkey is both legal and regulated (though acquiring a licence is becoming more difficult).
Germany and Switzerland have also made prostitution legal and regulated.
For a number of other countries, the laws are more vague.
Prostitution in France was legal until April of 2016, where they introduced a bill to curtail the profession by seeing clients fined if they are caught paying for sex. Now, soliciting sex is legal, but brothels and pimping are both not.
In England, Wales and Scotland selling and paying for sex is not against the law, but like France, activities relating to it – like owning a brothel or pimping – are illegal.
Sex worker activists have previously argued this distinction actually endangers sex workers.