Street prostitution

A street prostitute talking to a potential customer in Turin, Italy, 2005

Street prostitution is a form of prostitution in which a sex worker solicits customers from a public place, most commonly a street, while waiting at street corners or walking alongside a street, but also other public places such as parks, benches, etc. The street prostitute is often dressed in a provocative manner. The sex act may be performed in the customer's car or in a nearby secluded street location, or at the prostitute's apartment or in a rented motel room.

In the UK a study showed that up to 95% of women in street prostitution are problematic drug users, including around 78% heroin users and rising numbers of crack cocaine addicts.[1] Abuse is often suffered by prostitutes, more than half of UK women in prostitution have been raped and/or seriously sexually assaulted and at least three quarters have been physically assaulted.[2]

A global study of prostitution found that 9 out of 10 women engaged in street prostitution would like to exit if they could.[3]


Street prostitution is often illegal, even in jurisdictions that allow other forms of prostitution.

It is estimated that only 10-20 percent of women are working in the streets; however, it is also estimated that 90 percent of the arrests of prostitutes are of street workers. [4]

Many countries which outlaw street prostitution have "unofficial" tolerance zones, where the practice is tolerated by the authorities, in spite of its illegality.

In some jurisdictions where prostitution itself is legal, such as in the United Kingdom, street prostitution is still illegal.[5]

Some jurisdictions also outlaw kerb crawling, slowly driving around with the intent to procure the services of a prostitute.

In Australia, in New South Wales it is legal to solicit on the streets, except in some areas (such as near schools). The other Australian states and territories prohibit street solicitation, although some of these jurisdictions allow licensed brothels.

Street prostitution is legal in New Zealand. In Germany it is allowed too, but cities can restrict it to certain areas or hours (regulations vary widely from place to place).

In the United States, street prostitution is illegal in all 50 states; 49 of the states outlaw all forms of prostitution; Nevada allows licensed brothels, but only in some rural areas, not in the major metropolitan areas (only 8 counties have active brothels and prostitution outside these brothels is illegal throughout the state).

In six towns in the Netherlands, a special zone (tippelzone) is designated for legal street prostitution. The zone is often in a business park, to avoid inconvenience for residents and can include a sex drive-in (afwerkplek). In some of the zones the prostitutes need a licence, no new licences are granted as there is an "extinction policy".

Risks and research

Street prostitutes are extremely vulnerable to physical and sexual assaults, as well as to muggings, by clients and pimps. Melissa Farley's study of 854 prostitutes in nine countries, including The United States of America, found that 95% of women had been physically assaulted, and 75% had been raped. 89% of the women interviewed stating that they wanted to leave prostitution.

In a 2008 study of Chicago, USA street prostitutes, economists Steven D. Levitt and Sudhir Alladi Venkatesh found that women working without pimps work for an average hourly rate of about $25, and those working with pimps make 50% more. This is roughly four times the wage of other jobs available to them. Prostitutes are arrested once for every 450 encounters and every 10th arrest results in jail time. [6]

See also


  1. (Home Office 2004a)
  2. (Home Office 2004b)
  3. (Farley, 2003)
  4. Lucas, Ann (September 2013). "Race, Class, Gender, and Deviancy: The Criminalization of Prostitution". Berkeley Journal of Gender, Law & Justice. 10 (1): 48–49.
  5. S. 1(1) of the Street Offences Act 1959 as amended by section 16 of the Policing and Crime Act 2009
  6. Steven D. Levitt (April 2009). "Trading Tricks: The Economics of Prostitution". The University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
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