Prostitution in Austria

In principle, prostitution - adults offering sexual services - is legal in Austria, but the legal and social approach to this issue has remained ambiguous. Sexworkers are subject to numerous duties: they must register, undergo weekly medical checkups, pay taxes and comply with a great number of restrictions as specified in the laws of the federal states. Yet, up to a recent decision by the Supreme Court of Justice as of 18 April 2012 (in German), contracts concerning their services were considered null and void and they couldn't sue for their fees. Furthermore sexworkers frequently work under employment-like conditions without enjoying proper employee protection.

Since women account for the vast majority of prostitutes - far over 90% - these are predominantly women's problems.

So if we want to ensure sustained protection against exploitation for female (and male) sexworkers, we need a clear concept for dealing with the voluntary performance of sexual services. Primary goals are protection through regulation and control of working conditions and the creation of alternative means of earning their livelihood to enable them to change jobs at any time.

A regulated and controllable market that takes account of its specific risks for sexworkers will also help to better identify and support possible victims of trafficking as well as of other forms of (sexual) violence and coercion

Policy package

In June 2007, the Human Trafficking Task Force responded to this challenge by appointing an interdisciplinary group of experts chaired by the Women's Division in the Federal Chancellery which was commissioned to develop comprehensive policies - especially on the national level - for improving the situation of sexworkers in Austria. The findings were summarised in a comprehensive report in June 2008.

Following one of the reports recommendations another interdisciplinary group of experts - again chaired by the Women's Division in the Federal Chancellery - was set up in March 2009 to also develop comprehensive policies on the federal state level. A first report covering a description of and recommendations on the most urgent issues was published in May 2012.

Publication (in German)