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Prostitution legal in Iceland

Prostitution became legal in Iceland after a new provision in the Penal Code was accepted by parliament on March 17. It is both legal to solicit sex and to buy sexual services, but it is illegal for a third party to profit from prostitution.

According to the 206th article of the Icelandic Penal Code (almenn hegningarlög), soliciting sex in Iceland was illegal until the new law was accepted, as RÚV reports.

The 206th article stated: “Anyone engaging in prostitution for own upkeep shall be subject to imprisonment for up to 2 years.” That paragraph has now been deleted.

The government argues most people who solicit sex do so because they have no other choice or because they are forced into prostitution by others.

By making soliciting sex legal, the government believes individuals who have been forced into prostitution would rather come forward and lead police to those responsible.

Buying sexual services was legal in Iceland before the adoption of the new law provision, and that remains unchanged.

Dorit Otzen, director of Reden, a women’s shelter in Copenhagen for prostitutes, some of whom have a foreign background, told RÚV she approves of legalizing prostitution, but only soliciting sex, not buying sexual services.

Otzen predicted Iceland would now become a destination for “sex tourism” and that human trafficking to Iceland would increase.

With the new provision punishment has become stricter for those who profit from the prostitution of others, force or encourage others to solicit sex.

The official English translation of the 206th article of the Icelandic Penal Code states: “Anyone having his/her employment or upkeep from the unchasteness of others shall be subject to imprisonment for up to 4 years.”

It continues: “Anyone supporting by means of alluring, encouraging or intimidation that others have carnal intercourse or other sexual intimacy against payment or making unchasteness a source of earnings, such as by the leasing of accommodation or other means, shall be subject to imprisonment for up to 4 years, but fines or [imprisonment for up to 1 year] in case of mitigating circumstances.”

A new clause has been added to this paragraph making it illegal for a third party to organize sexual relations between others for money, even though he or she does not profit from it.

With the new law provision it has also become illegal to advertise prostitution.

The 206th article states (unofficial translation): “Anyone who offers, mediates or requests sex with another person for money in a public advertisement is to be published with fines or imprisonment for up to six months.”

According to an article accompanying the law provision is an explanation that the goal of making advertising prostitution illegal is to make prostitution less visible.

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