Do These 8 Countries Sex Worker Laws Pass the CHASTE Test?


Sex work is the oldest profession in the world. Or at least that’s what they say.


Unfortunately, despite it being a safe and well-paying line of work, that entered into by the vast majority of workers with full freedom of choice, it has also consistently been one of the most maligned professions.


And laws that drive sex work underground tend to have the same effects: they make the work less safe for sex workers, easily exploited by criminals and impossible to regulate for health and worker’s rights considerations.


However some countries have developed laws that are attempting to keep the unsavoury elements OUT of the sex trade rather than letting them flourish. We’ve developed the C.H.A.S.T.E. to determine how these countries are measuring up.


What is the CHASTE test?

Each of these categories are rated on a three tier scale: green for pass, red for fail and orange for laws that attempt to or only partially address the issue.


Sex work is recognised as legitimate legal professional option and workers are entitled to the same rights and privileges as any other industry


There is legislation in place to ensure that licencees (owners of establishments) must take measures to protect their workers from sexually transmissible infections (STIs) and STI testing takes place to limit the spread of infection


A sex worker does not belong to, or is not considered in debt to, any employer, whether legally or by unofficial practice. The employer gets an agreed upon cut of a sex workers business based on facilities provided only.


Measures must legally be put in place to protect the physical safety of sex workers and prevent dangerous situations from occurring.


Laws that focus on illegal sex work are not about the act itself but on the criminal forms of the profession such as coercion and underage trafficking.


The laws of a country ensure that sex workers have the option to practise their profession in a secure and clean environment and are not forced to work in undesirable conditions.

How CHASTE are the countries?



Sweden gets a tick in one area of the CHASTE test by focussing on punishing traffickers rather than the workers. However for such a historically liberal country it falls drastically short in all the other considerations. The overarching reason for this is that in the Swedish model, since 1999, prostitution is classified as male sexual violence against women/children, meaning while selling sex is not against the law – buying sex is.


This ignores the freedom of choice a sex worker has over their own destiny and, while there has been a reduction in human trafficking, sex workers say that the profession has been forced underground giving them no option but to work unsafe conditions and more likely to be exploited by a criminal system. The health of sex workers is also compromised by the black market environment



The Finland model is a step up from the Swedish model with sex workers able to successfully argue that selling sex is a person’s individual right. Selling and buying sex is therefore legal, unless it is done in public. It is also illegal to buy sex off anyone who has been trafficked or coerced. Both the government and non-profit groups provide health support to the sex industry, with data suggesting a high standard of general health.


Brothel ownership is however illegal. This means that clients must be sourced in other ways. For many sex workers this is simply done safely through the internet but it also leaves a market for pimps (particularly with foreign workers) which is unregulated can compromise the health considerations and safety of the workers involved.



Prostitution in Brazil is completely legal. Unfortunately as far as the CHASTE test goes that is where it stops.


Brazil has the double whammy of both outlawing brothels and other business that involve sex workers, while in practice turning a blind eye to such organisation. This means that brothels and pimping is widespread but completely unregulated by law making trafficking, coercion and underage workers widespread. There is no mandatory health checks and violence is common



Germany is considered to have some of the most liberal sex worker laws in Europe. Not only is sex work completely legal, so are brothels and pimping (with exceptions of course if any form of coercion is involved).


The legality of the industry allows for many things that many countries don’t. Sex workers have a mandated 40 hour work week, pay tax and have portions of their wage withheld for pension and health insurance. In general the policy have helped to normalise the industry.


However there has been criticism of issues with the legislation having holes that are exploited by traffickers and some brothel owners. In some cases workers are reluctant to pay tax, despite the benefits, as they are sharing their salary with brothel owners and other parties.



Though it can be hard to make definitive statements about Australia’s sex worker laws as there are variations from state to state.


The industries in Victoria, Queensland, NSW and ACT have the most liberal laws and are highly regulated, safe, and supported from discrimination thanks to the work of strongly vocal sex worker organisations such as the Scarlett Alliance Australian Sex Workers Association.


Health regulations and education is in place and the risk of disease among sex workers is no higher than the general population.


The only substantial knock on the Australian system in the eastern states of the country is that the amount of regulation around zoning and permits makes it hard to open new venue legally leading to supply and demand issues with workers which can fuel working in less safe environments, like the street.


While sex work is legal in the rest of the country, it is not regulated and brothels are illegal, giving criminals more freedom to operate, making Australia CHASTE, but not as CHASTE as it could be


United States

Though there will be different laws in different states, by and large, the United States does not provide a safe working environment for sex workers. Selling sex is considered a crime and while people arrested for sex work may be subject to mandatory health test, this can often be to prosecute more harshly if they are found to be HIV positive.


The impact of these harsh laws are very negative for the sex working community with one study showing a death rate 5.9% higher than the average population.


There is some counties in Nevada where prostitution is legalised but the picture is not all that brighter. Ssex worker’s rights organisation criticising Nevada’s regulation giving too much power to employers of sex workers and not enough to the workers themselves leading to exploitation. They also claim legal and health regulations are designed to protect customers only with little concern for workers.



From Jekyll to Hyde, it won’t surprise many that the Dutch are the polar opposite of the Americans when it comes to attitudes to the sex trade.


Famous for their red light district in Amsterdam, the Netherlands sex industry has long been regulated by labor and employment laws and has mandatory health checks for registered sex workers. Brothels have been legal since 1999 and the bodies that issue licenses insure than minimum amenity and safety standards are met.


If you are looking for a CHASTE country, the Netherlands is a prime example of what can be achieved.


New Zealand

Joining the Dutch are our Pacific neighbors, the Kiwis, who have not legalised sex work, but have completely decriminalised it with the Prostitution Reform Bill of 2003.


While this may not sound at first to be as comprehensive as some of the systems above, in the real world what this means is simply removing sex-work specific laws from the criminal system. The move aimed to professionalise the industry and as such workers and businesses within the sex trade are afforded all the same benefits as any other employee or business owner.


There is a strong social support group called New Zealand Prostitutes’ Collective that advocates the rights of sex workers that provides free sexual health check ups for sex workers and played a big role in the initial decriminalisation of sex work.


The system New Zealand has put in place makes it a much safer sex workers and a very CHASTE place for the industry.

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