Meaning of Prostitution

Popularly called the “oldest profession in the world”, prostitution is morally disapproved in almost all societies, given the degradation it represents for the people who practice it.


Prostitution is the activity that consists of offering sexual satisfaction in exchange for remuneration, in a habitual and promiscuous way.

The definition of prostitution is based on cultural values ​​that differ in various societies and circumstances, but generally refers to the sex trade of women for the satisfaction of male clients. There are also male forms of homosexual prostitution and, to a lesser extent, among men who rent out their services to women.

In very permissive societies, the practice of prostitution becomes unnecessary; in cultures that are too rigid, it is persecuted and punished as an offense.


In primitive societies, in which neither private property nor the monogamous family existed, prostitution or any other paid personal service was not practiced. However, there are known cases of small tribes in which men were able to incite women to sexual intercourse by offering objects they liked. In other peoples, prostitution of girls was practiced as a rite of initiation to puberty.

With the first civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt, sacred prostitutes emerged, linked to certain deities and certain temples. In ancient Greece sexual practice related to religious worship also took place.

Prostitution itself, both in Greece and in Rome, was controlled by the state, which collected high taxes from prostitutes and forced them to wear clothes that identified their profession. The Greek heteras or hetairas, cultured and refined courtesans who attended meetings and parties of intellectuals and politicians, exercised a respected type of prostitution.

History of prostitution

During the European Middle Ages, the Christian church tried unsuccessfully to eliminate prostitution, but society, guided by the cult of courteous love, in which marriages were arranged for political or economic purposes, favored the flourishing of activity.

Prostitution started to be regulated and protected by law and to constitute an important source of income for the public power. Courtesans were also treated with dignity in the courts of the Italian Renaissance.

In the 16th century, an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases added to the puritanism of religious reform to launch an offensive against prostitution. With industrialization, urban agglomerations once again offered conditions for the expansion of prostitution.

International cooperation initiatives to eradicate trafficking in women began in 1899. In 1921, the League of Nations established a committee to address trafficking in women and children, and in 1949, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a convention to suppress prostitution.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, most countries in the West have been inclined to decriminalize prostitution and to dissolve the link between prostitution and associated criminal activities.

In general, the prostitute is only persecuted if he publicly incites sexual intercourse. However, the activity of pimps and people who promote prostitution, or who benefit from the sex trade, and those who compel other people to engage in prostitution, is considered criminal.

With the advent of antibiotics and the spread of prophylactic and hygiene measures, the control of one of the related evils of prostitution – the spread of sexually transmitted diseases – seemed close. The emergence of AIDS, however, made the practice of prostitution potentially fatal for prostitutes and clients and required the intervention of the public authorities to publicize preventive measures.

In some countries, attempts have been made to re-educate prostitutes to adapt them to society by carrying out jobs considered morally worthy. In the poorest nations, however, misery, prostitution and disease were intertwined.

One of the most serious problems that afflicted Brazilian society at the end of the twentieth century was child prostitution, especially common among the poorest strata in the northeastern capitals and in mining. Girls were often recruited for this activity through kidnapping.