In General Knowledge

Prostitution Statistics: What You Need to Know

Prostitution Statistics

Prostitution is an old problem and at the same time it may be a solution within human cultures. The idea that prostitution is accepted or not takes accredition from other issues and social beliefs. Statistically speaking, prostitution is a dangerous job where many workers face death, beatings, and rape every day. It is different from one country to the other, but the risk remains the same. Many prostitutes are forced into the sex-for-pay industry. Even where it is legal, prostitution statistics show that workers have few rights, and are not treated as employees. There is no healthcare, retirement, and for many sex workers, there is no hope.

Why Learn about Prostitution Statistics?

An example of how prostitution may seem okay is seen in Argentina where prostitution is legal, but brothel ownership and pimping are both illegal. This places the prostitutes almost as business owners. They have come together to form a union and are working towards recognition by the Argentinean Government to hold the same rights as workers in other industries. That is not to say that the life of a prostitute in Argentina is glorious or even safe. It is to say that the women and a few men who sell sex as a commodity there have more control over how they do business than prostitutes in most other countries.

Why Is Prostitution Illegal?

There are several countries where prostitution, brothel ownership, and pimping are all illegal. Prostitutes in Egypt are imprisoned. Minors who are prostitutes are sent to a correctional facility that is equivalent to prison. The men who would purchase sex from women prostitutes are not charged with a crime. They are, in fact, expected to testify at the prostitute’s trial.

The situation in Argentina and the situation in Egypt represent two entirely different points of views on whether prostitution is good or bad. They offer a glimpses into the darker side of the sex-for-sale industry in that they both begin to suggest that women and children often do not have a say in whether or not prostitution becomes their “job.” Neither begins to discuss the issue of human trafficking, the violence, disease or health concerns of prostitutes, those that are willing and unwilling participants in the sex-for-sale industry.

Global Statistics on Prostitution

According to Foundation Scelles, as reported in Le Figaro:

While these statistics about prostitution are just touching the surface, they indicate the extent of the sex-for-sale industry worldwide. The age range 13-25 years of age is important. The question rises of why are there so few prostitutes over the age of 25. Part of that answer is found in the violence that prostitutes face every second of every day. Even where prostitution is legal the risk and violence that prostitutes face are frequent and deadly.

According to Prostitution Research:

  • 70-95 percent of prostitutes experience physical assault during work.
  • 60-75 percent of prostitutes are raped while working as a prostitute.
  • 95 percent of prostitutes experience sexual harassment that in other industries would result in legal action.
  • Women who are prostitutes are raped 8-10 each year on average. (

These statistics show just some of the violence that prostitutes face. A common response to these numbers is why don’t women just leave or stop being prostitutes. What readers have to understand is that many prostitutes do not become prostitutes because of their own choice. Many are forced into the sex-for-sale industry. This is a broad industry too. It is not just about women on the street. It is about comprehensive systems that trap women through circumstances that they cannot escape. Some prostitutes sell their body to feed their children. They have no skills; they have little education. They have no resources. Even with public assistance, many prostitutes find no hope in leaving prostitution, especially in underdeveloped nations.

In 2004, a long-term mortality study published by Potterat, et al. showed the following trends out of 1969 prostitutes from the years 1967-1999:

  • Prostitutes and those who had managed to leave the industry faced an increased rate of death that was 200 times the rate of death for women of the same race and age range.
  • During the study, 100 prostitutes died. Their cause of death equated to the following: 19 homicides, 18, drug induced or overdose, 12 died from accidents, 9 deaths were alcohol related, and 8 died of AIDS.

Mortality among prostitutes is substantially higher than mortality rate of the society in which the prostitutes worked or lived. The study showed that the general population had a mortality rate of 1.9 per every 100,000 people, but the mortality for prostitutes was 391 per 100,000 people and active prostitutes have a mortality rate of 459 per 100,000 people.

To put into perspective, the story that these statistics tell is important. Not only is prostitution a deadly profession, it is a trap. Its very beginnings are woven by society, and not just one society, but by the global society. It begins with people who make laws. It is contributed to by people who abuse their children. It continues because of lack of mental health treatment. It has a basis in the culture and the value that a society places on people. It is spurred on by issues of racism, poverty, economics, religion and many other social problems such as social stigmatism.  It is not an isolated problem. Prostitution is clearly a global issue. To expect that laws that ban prostitution are enough to prevent prostitution from existing is irresponsible. If laws worked to prevent prostitution, then the only place that prostitutes would exist in the United States would be in the state of Nevada. Nevada is the only state that allows the legal practice of prostitution.

Statistics on Prostitution in America

A recent study of eight major US cities indicated that the financial contribution from the Underground Commercial Sex Economy for 2007 ranged from $39.9 Million dollars to $290 million dollars. The study also uncovered a growing interest in child pornography in the United States. Child pornography and child prostitution statistics show that sexual acts with children are by no means restricted to just the United States. It too is a global portion of prostitution around the worlds. Earlier, the age ranges for prostitutes listed out as 13-25 years of age. The sad truth about child prostitution is that it even involves sexual acts with babies and toddlers. The driving force behind the increase in child pornography and child prostitution is the Internet. The eight cities in the study were Denver, CO, Washing DC, San Diego CA, Miami FL, Seattle WA, Dallas TX, Kansas City MO, Atlanta GA. Notice that none of those cities is in Nevada.

Prostitution Is Not Just an Industry that Involves Women

A look at male prostitution statistics shows that of the 40-42 million prostitutes in the world, 8-8.42 million are thought to be men. The face of male prostitution in developed countries is quite different than that of women prostitutes. In a study by Humanity In Action it was discovered that many male prostitutes enter the paid-sex-industry voluntarily. A second fact discovered was that many male prostitutes do not need the money. Those facts are not true of all male prostitutes. In a report published by the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, 50% of the 100,000 children trafficked for sex are boys.  Even sadder, when it comes to trafficked children, boys are often off the radar. The bias of society and law enforcement tends to tilt towards women and girls over men and boys. Part of that has to do with the view of homosexuals world-wide. Those children, boys and girls, are not entering the paid-sex-industry voluntarily.

What Changes when the Law Allows Prostitution?

Legalizing prostitution statistics show that even in the places where prostitution is legal, illegal prostitution still exists and is often more lucrative than legal paid-sex businesses. In Nevada, clients pay upwards of 66% more for services performed by illegal prostitution than they do in legal brothels. In fact, only 19 legal brothels exist in Nevada; though, in major cities outside of Nevada, the illegal paid-sex-industry brings in as much as $290 Million dollars annually.

To understand what changes when the laws allow prostitution, one must first understand how the law views prostitution. For the majority of nations, prostitution is broken down into three categories. Those are:

  • Prostitution outside of a brothel and without a pimp.
  • Prostitution inside of a brothel
  • Prostitution where a pimp is involved.

Even in countries where prostitution is legal the violence and deadliness do not change. The prostitution statistics show that illegal prostitution exists even in the presence of legalized prostitution. In the case of prostitutes in Argentina, legalized prostitution may eventually mean that those sex workers will be afforded the same rights as other workers. In any market, demand is what drives business. Those who purchase sex are ultimately the ones who keep illegal prostitution around. It may be that they do not wish to be discovered. Statistics showed that 78% of those who purchase sex were men who are either married or in cohabitation with a women. That seems to suggest that it is the type of sex or sexual act that those men seek. Those desires drive the underground and illegal sex-for-sale industry. Taxation is also a factor. Having to list or be identified as a prostitute or pimp is another factor that keeps illegal prostitution a segment of many communities.

One of the things that changes is the type of prostitution permitted. Some nations allow one or more forms of prostitution, but many do not allow all three. Limitation is an attempt to remove some of the more dangerous aspects of prostitution. Statistics show that instead, it merely drives those sexual services underground.

Why Is Prostitution Illegal?

In many countries, prostitution is illegal because sex or promiscuity by women is considered a mortal sin against God. Which God, depends on where you are in the world. Prostitution is also illegal as a means of keeping societies more wholesome. In some countries prostitution is illegal because of social pressures. Religion, political views, and culture all play a part. In a few countries women are not permitted to work or earn an income and prostitution is made illegal to keep women subservient to men. In more developed countries, prostitution is made illegal to control more significant crimes. Those laws are not always successful.

Where Is Prostitution Legal?

Surprisingly, prostitution is legal in one form or another in over 100 nations around the worlds. For a complete look at how each country regulates prostitution visit this map by ProCon: 49 percent of the world offers legal prostitution. 39 percent makes prostitution illegal. 12 percent offer limited legality.

While prostitution is a dangerous career, it exists in record numbers around the world. Things readers might consider is how their views of prostitution may change based on the statistics available.


Potterat, et al: ohn J. Potterat, Devon D. Brewer, Stephen Q. Muth1, Richard B. Rothenberg3, Donald E. Woodhouse, John B. Muth, Heather K. Stite1, and Stuart Brody, “Mortality in a Long-term Open Cohort of Prostitute Women,” Am J Epidemiol 159:778–785, 2004.

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  • Michael Hamilton
    Mar 28, 2016 at 07:26 am

    There is a possibility of increased violence against women who may be involved in prostitution (and other women as well) if the USA were to follow the Swedish model. And of course, the Swedish model of prostitution actually makes prostitution illegal. That is no remedy. What is needed is more respect and protection for all women and the avoidance of irrational, religious and personal wishes among the public and the acceptance of people who want to have relationships that are not any business of any other person.

  • Michael Hamilton
    May 03, 2016 at 06:45 pm

    There is a possibility of increased violence against women who may be involved in prostitution (and other women as well) if the USA were to follow the Swedish model. And of course, the Swedish model of prostitution actually makes prostitution illegal. That is no remedy. What is needed is more respect and protection for all women and the avoidance of irrational, religious and personal wishes among the public and the acceptance of people who want to have relationships that are not any business of any other person.

  • Christopher Barcelo
    Jul 25, 2016 at 12:31 pm


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