Prague, Czech Republic – Neither outright legal nor completely illegal, prostitution in the Czech Republic has been at the center of a nation-wide debate in recent months: should Prague move to legalise the sex-trade?
New proposal to legalise prostitution in Czech Republic
Earlier this year, the opposition Pirate Party, with the support of several NGOs and civic associations, reopened the long-standing debate with a proposal to regulate and de-facto legalise prostitution in the Czech Republic.
Head of the Pirates parliamentary group Jakub Michálek argued that prostitutes should be officially recognized by the state. Under the scheme put forward by the Czech Pirates, which would allegedly bring up to 1 billion Kc (around €40 million) to the budget, sex-workers would be taxed and receive social insurance as well as a right to pension benefits. By legalising prostitution and bringing the activity out of the informal economy, advocates hope to improve sex-workers’ access to public health services, fight against the stigmatization of their activity and protect them from physical abuse.
To be able to regulate prostitution, the Pirate Party highlighted that the Czech Republic would have to leave the 1950 United Nations Convention on sex-trade, officially known as the Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others.
Czech Republic remains divided over the issue
The current Czech government, however, appears unwilling to move in that direction. Reacting to the proposal, Finance Minister Alena Schillerova from the ruling ANO party said that legalising prostitution would not bring 1 billion Kc to the state budget, but half of that, at most – citing estimates from the Czech statistical office.
Schillerova pointed out that Czech prostitutes, often registered as freelance workers in other trades (for example in massage parlors), were already de-facto taxed by the state. Schillerova also claimed that legalizing it would further stigmatize prostitutes, who would be forced to officially register as sex-workers.
Legalisation of prostitution: a long-standing debate in Czechia
The Czech Republic, as many other countries in Europe, has long debated about whether or not to legalize prostitution, a highly divisive issue among both politicians and the population.
Lawmakers have already dealt with, and turned down, similar proposals in the past, including in 2005 and 2010, when Prague City Hall proposed a bill to provide prostitutes with licenses, taxation obligations, social insurance and pensions.
For now, however, the status-quo appears to be prevailing, with prostitution itself not illegal per se, contrary to all the organized activities surrounding it (brothels, pimping, sex-trafficking, etc.).
Prostitution a widespread phenomenon in Prague
Paying for sex remains a widespread activity in the Czech Republic, with some reports claiming that as many as one in every six Czech men has already used the services of a prostitute. Most of the brothels are concentrated in Prague, as well as in the regions bordering Germany and Austria in western and northern Bohemia.
The Czech Republic is both an important trafficking destination and transit country for women, mainly from Eastern Europe, Asia or the Roma community, forced and sold into prostitution, sometimes at a very young age.
But according to ‘Rozkoš Bez Rizika’ (‘Pleasure Without Risk’), one of the main NGOs fighting the stigmas surrounding prostitution and protecting sex-workers’ rights in the Czech Republic, there are currently around 13,000 female prostitutes in the country, a large majority of whom are Czech and roughly half of whom are single mothers. The average age for women sex-workers, according to the study, is 30 years old.