In 1999 Denmark legalised the sale of sexual services, but it is still illegal to earn money from selling the sexual services of others.
By Katarina Blomqvist, 2006
A new law passed in 1999 legalised the sale of sexual services; it is thus no longer a criminal offence to work as a prostitute in Denmark. But it is still illegal to earn money from selling the sexual services of others, i.e. procuring or pimping.
However, even though prostitution is now ‘allowed’, it is not a legitimate job. Earnings from prostitution are undeclared, no tax is paid, and prostitutes have no contracts specifying pay, working hours, working conditions or pension schemes. Many prostitutes are also in receipt of social security benefits. Prostitution in Denmark is thus a grey area: neither completely legal nor completely illegal.
Other European countries have chosen a more radical approach.
Prostitution is for example permitted in the Netherlands, with the caveat that brothels are state-controlled and legally obliged to conform to rules set by the authorities; there are also a number of demarcated red-light areas where window prostitution is tolerated. However, there is still a high incidence of evasion: prostitution as business beyond the control of the authorities, which is the situation for the victims of human trafficking, i.e. women with no immigration papers who find themselves ‘sold’ as sex workers.
The Dutch model: legalisation of prostitution as opposed to the Swedish model: criminalising the purchase of sexual services is subject to vociferous debate in Denmark.