In April 2016, France joined Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Northern Ireland on the list of countries where paying for sex – rather than selling it – is illegal. Similarly, just last week, UK MPs called for reforming prostitution laws in England and Wales and decriminalising soliciting to give greater protection to sex workers. While reforms are happening across Europe, we were curious to find out how attitudes vary and asked 12.000 Europeans across 28 countries in December 2015.

On average, a small majority of Europeans (53%) think prostitution should be legal. Most support comes from Spain (67%), while Poland lies on the other end of the spectrum with only 42% in support. Interestingly enough, this does not correspond to the existing laws as prostitution is legal both in Spain and in Poland. When we asked France whether prostitution should be legal, 55% said no, a number reflecting the later law criminalising buying sex.

Our results also show that older Europeans are more in favour of legalised prostitution than younger Europeans. For example while only 40% of those between 14 to 25 support it, 59% of 40 to 65 year olds are in favour. Men are also overwhelmingly more pro-legalisation , with 60% in favour, compared to 46% of women.

In Italy and Germany, countries listed by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) as the most common destinations of human trafficking, prostitution is legal, and 66% and 61% respectively support it. In contrast, in Eastern Europe where human trafficking is a big problem, almost 3 out of 4 young women between the ages 14 to 25 oppose legalised prostitution.

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