Brothel

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A brothel in the Czech Republic
A prostitute working in a brothel

A brothel is a bar, nightclub or hotel where prostitutes work. People go there to buy sex for money.

Is it legal?[change | change source]

In some countries operating brothels is legal, in other countries it is illegal. Examples of countries where brothels are illegal are Canada and most of the United States. Brothels are legal in some countries from Europe, for example. A country which has permissive laws regarding prostitution is the Netherlands.

Most of the time, where legal, brothels need to be registered like other businesses. However even if it is legal to run a brothel, there may still be conflicts with the law. Examples of problem cases are:

  • The prostitutes working there do not have a work permit (the right to work in a country)
  • The prostitutes are too young (underage)
  • The prostitutes are dependent on the people who run the brothel, or on so called pimps

History[change | change source]

Brothels have been known for most of recorded history. At first there was temple prostitution in many Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries. In Ancient Greece and Roman civilizations, brothels were established. Sometimes they were licensed institutions. This was first recorded in Athens in 594 BC. Public sources of the time said it was good that Solon installed the brothel. People said this would reduce the problems caused by sexually unfulfilled sailors and workers. It would also fill money into the public purse. This first official brothel was soon followed by many others, and also influenced the creation of special schools in which various classes of prostitutes (from slavegirls to future courtesans) were trained for their profession.[1]

Business models[change | change source]

Woman lying on bed, looking at mirror, Berlin 2001.jpg

Brothels use a variety of business models:

  • In some, prostitutes are held like slaves without the option to leave.[2] They only get a small portion (or none) of the money paid by the patron. This is typical where human trafficking procures a large percentage of prostitutes. It is common in those countries where prostitution is forbidden or repressed. In some cases, prostitutes are bought and sold by their keepers, making them slaves. All of this is illegal in most countries.
  • In others the prostitutes are employees. They receive a small fixed salary and a portion of the money spent by the customer. (Maison close French for "closed house")
  • In still others, the prostitutes pay a fee for use of the facilities. The brothel owner is not involved in the financial transaction between prostitute and client, he simply rents rooms to the prostitutes. (Maison de passe, French for "trick house")

The third option (the brothel owner renting space and facilities to prostitutes) gives some way for the brothel owner to say he did not know what is going on. This is especially the case where prostitution is forbidden or restricted. Brothel owners often disguise their actions as running a massage parlor, a bar or a similar venue.

Allowing such places (while forbidding prostitution) can also give politicians a way to save face when they do not want to put the laws against prostitution into practice.

References[change | change source]