A brothel, bordello, ranch, or whorehouse is a place where people engage in sexual activity with prostitutes. However, for legal or cultural reasons, establishments often describe themselves as massage parlors, bars, strip clubs, body rub parlours, studios, or by some other description. Sex work in a brothel is considered safer than street prostitution.
On 2 December 1949, the United Nations General Assembly approved the Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others. The Convention came into effect on 25 July 1951 and by December 2013 had been ratified by 82 states. The Convention seeks to combat prostitution, which it regards as "incompatible with the dignity and worth of the human person." Parties to the Convention agreed to abolish regulation of individual prostitutes, and to ban brothels and procuring. Some countries not parties to the convention also ban prostitution or the operation of brothels. Various United Nations commissions, however, have differing positions on the issue. For example, in 2012, a Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) convened by Ban Ki-moon and backed by United Nations Development Programme and UNAIDS, recommended decriminalization of brothels and procuring.
In the European Union, there is no uniform policy and no consensus on the issue; and laws vary widely from country to country. Germany and the Netherlands have the most liberal policies; in Sweden (and in Norway and Iceland outside the EU) the buying, but not selling, of sex, is illegal; in most former Communist countries the laws target the prostitutes; while in countries such as the UK (except Northern Ireland), Italy, and Spain the act of prostitution is not itself illegal, but soliciting, pimping and brothels are, making it difficult to engage in prostitution without breaking any law. The European Women's Lobby condemns prostitution as "an intolerable form of male violence" and supports the "Swedish model".
Prostitution and the operation of brothels is illegal in many countries, though known illegal brothels may be tolerated or laws not strictly enforced. Such situations exist in many parts of the world, but the region most often associated with these policies is Asia. When brothels are illegal they may nevertheless operate in the guise of a legitimate business, such as massage parlors, saunas or spas.
In a few countries, prostitution and operating a brothel is legal and regulated. The degree of regulation varies widely by country. Most of these countries allow brothels, at least in theory, as they are considered to be less problematic than street prostitution. In parts of Australia, brothels are legal and regulated. Regulation includes planning controls and licensing and registration requirements, and there may be other restrictions. However, the existence of licensed brothels does not stop illegal brothels from operating. According to a report in the Australian Daily Telegraph, illegal brothels in Sydney in 2009 outnumbered licensed operations by four to one; while in Queensland only 10% of prostitution happens in licensed brothels, with the rest being either independent sex workers (which is legal) or illegal operations.
State brothels/bordellos with regulated prices existed in ancient Athens, created by the legendary lawmaker Solon. These brothels catered for a predominantly male clientele, with women of all ages and young men providing sexual services (see Prostitution in ancient Greece). In ancient Rome female slaves were forced to provide sexual services for soldiers, with brothels being located close to barracks and city walls. Brothels existed everywhere. The custom was to display lit candles to signal that they were open.
Cities first began setting up municipal brothels between 1350 and 1450 CE. Municipalities often owned, operated, and regulated the legal brothels. Governments would set aside certain streets where a keeper could open a brothel. These separate sections of town were the precursors to the so-called "red light districts". Not only did the towns restrict where a keeper could open a brothel, but they also put constraints on when the brothel could be open. For example, most brothels were forbidden to be open for business on Sundays and religious holidays. The reason for this is not completely clear. Some scholars believe these restrictions were enforced to make the prostitutes go to church but others argue that it was to keep parishioners in church and out of the brothels. Either way, it was a day of no revenue for the keeper.
Although brothels were set up as a sexual outlet for men, not all men were allowed to enter them. Clerics, married men, and Jews were prohibited. Often, foreigners such as sailors and traders were the main source of revenue. Local men who frequented the brothels mainly consisted of single men; laws restricting the patrons were not always enforced. Government officials or police would periodically do searches of the brothels to cut down on the number of unpermitted customers. However, since the government was so closely related to the church, common punishments were minor. These restrictions were put in place to protect the wives of married men from any sort of infection.
Multiple restrictions were placed on the residents of brothels. One limitation prohibited prostitutes from borrowing money from their brothel keeper. Prostitutes paid high prices to the brothel keeper for the basic necessities of life: room and board, clothes, and toiletries. Room and board was often a price set by the local government but the price for everything else could add up to a common woman's entire earnings. Prostitutes were sometimes prohibited from having a special lover. Some regulations put on prostitutes were made to protect their clients. A woman was kicked out if she was found to have a sexually transmitted disease. Also, the prostitutes were not allowed to pull men into the brothel by their clothing, harass them in the street, or detain them over unpaid debts. Clothing worn by prostitutes was regulated as well and had to be distinguishable from that of respectable women. In some places, a prostitute had to have a yellow stripe on her clothing while in others red was the differentiating color. Other towns required harlots to don special headdresses or restricted the wardrobe of proper women. All restrictions placed on prostitutes were put in place not only to protect them but nearby citizens as well.
Because of a syphilis epidemic throughout Europe, many brothels were shut down during the end of the Middle Ages. This epidemic had been brought on by Spanish and French military pillages after the return of Christopher Columbus from the newly discovered Americas. The church and citizens alike feared that men who frequented brothels would bring the disease home and infect morally upright people.
From the 12th century, brothels in London were located in a district known as the Liberty of the Clink. This area was traditionally under the authority of the Bishop of Winchester, not the civil authorities. From 1161, the bishop was granted the power to license prostitutes and brothels in the district. This gave rise to the slang term Winchester Goose for a prostitute. Women who worked in these brothels were denied Christian burial and buried in the unconsecrated graveyard known as Cross Bones.
By the 16th century, the area was also home to many theatres, (including the Globe Theatre, associated with William Shakespeare), but brothels continued to thrive. A famous London brothel of the time was Holland's Leaguer. Patrons supposedly included James I of England and his favourite, George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham. It was located in a street that still bears its name and also inspired the 1631 play, Holland's Leaguer. Charles I of England licensed a number of brothels including the Silver Cross Tavern in London, which retains its license to the modern day because it was never revoked.
During the first half of the 20th century, some Paris brothels, such as le Chabanais and le Sphinx, were internationally known for the luxury they provided. The French government sometimes included a visit to the Chabanais as part of the program for foreign guests of state, disguising it as a visit with the President of the Senate in the official program. The Hotel Marigny, established in 1917 in the 2nd arrondissement of Paris, was one of several that were well known for catering to gay male clients. Premises suspected of being gay brothels, including the Hotel Marigny were, however, subject to frequent police raids, perhaps indicating less tolerance for them from the authorities.
In most European countries, brothels were made illegal after World War II. France outlawed brothels in 1946, after a campaign by Marthe Richard. The backlash against them was in part due to their wartime collaboration with the Germans during the occupation of France. Twenty-two Paris brothels had been commandeered by the Germans for their exclusive use; some had made a great deal of money by catering for German officers and soldiers. One brothel in the Monmartre District of the French capital was part of an escape network for POWs and downed airmen.
Brothels have been used formally in China for prostitution and entertainment since ancient China in its feudal period. For much of China's ancient and imperial history, brothels were owned by wealthy merchants, typically stereotyped as "madams", and engaged in business in urban areas such as the capital city. Prostitutes, or "courtesans" as they were known, were well-dressed and groomed to the proper table and drinking manners(禮). A Chinese prostitute may have been artistic and skilled at practices such as dancing, playing musical instruments, singing, and conversing in verse. Prostitution was not outlawed in ancient and imperial China (although prostitutes were not considered fit for marriage to men of respectable social ranking) and instead, prostitutes hosted in street brothels were popularly placed in the same social class as females artisans and regarded as elegant, albeit tainted, beings, most notably courtesans who used similar means to entertain members of nobility. Both young women and men worked as prostitutes in these elaborate brothel settings, though historical records and works of literature have widely romanticized the free-flowing, artistic nature of female prostitutes. 041b061a72