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Sex Laws Info

Is it lawful to be a prostitute?


 Let’s begin with the current legal definition of a prostitute:

A prostitute" is defined in Section 51(2) of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 as:

"a person (A) who, on at least one occasion and whether or not compelled to do so, offers or provides sexual services to another person in return for payment or a promise of payment to A or a third person; "prostitution" is to be interpreted accordingly."


Strictly speaking, prostitution has always been legal in the UK, in the sense that it is not illegal to pay for sex, or to receive money for it. Therefore working alone as an independent "escort", working in a brothel, or working as an agency girl are all lawful occupations and no criminal offence is being committed by the girls concerned. However, soliciting/ loitering for the purposes of prostitution is illegal, and so working the streets really is not a good idea. As our Information section shows in greater depth, many of the activities that are associated with prostitution – such as controlling prostitution for gain, and keeping a brothel /assisting in its management – are against the law.

In practice, much depends on interpretation of the laws and law enforcement, and this can vary considerably from one part of the country to another.

Note that the laws relating to prostitution apply both to men and women. Section 56 and Schedule 1 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 extends the gender specific prostitution offences to apply to both males and females equally.

Common Prostitute”:
The term “common prostitute” is worth a mention here, out of historical interest. It dates back to the Vagrancy Act of 1824, but was abandoned as a legal concept as from April 1st 2010. In a landmark judgement, R v De Munck (1918), it was said, "the term 'common prostitute' is not limited so as to mean only one who permits acts of lewdness with all and sundry, or with such as have her, when such acts are in the nature of ordinary sexual connection. We are of the opinion that prostitution is proved if it is shown that a woman offers her body commonly for lewdness for payment in return”. The rationale of the case was that prostitution does not necessarily involve normal sexual intercourse but that any act of “lewdness” suffices. The term common prostitute has also been widely used in more modern times to refer to a prostitute with several previous convictions for soliciting.