Constitutional Court ruling enables municipalities to ban street prostitution

A ruling on Thursday by the Constitutional Court was good news for many towns and villages across the Czech Republic. It enables local authorities to ban prostitution from public areas. In the verdict, the court said the potential harmful effect of publicly offered sexual services on the moral development of children is greater than the freedom of enterprise.

The newly achieved right of municipalities to regulate street prostitution is in fact a by-product of the Interior Ministry's request that the Constitutional Court annul a controversial bylaw issued by the northern town of Usti nad Labem. Besides prostitution the bylaw banned for example begging, the consumption of alcohol in public and loud music. The court abolished all items on the list except the ban on prostitution. The mayor of Usti nad Labem Jan Kubata welcomed the decision.

"I think it is a good signal that these kinds of services will no longer be displayed in public. Prostitution can be limited to private establishments. The ruling now enables the towns tackling the problem to drive prostitution away from public areas without having to specify what public areas are."

Constitutional Court judge Ivana Janu comments on Thursday's ruling.

"It is about public order and it is about good morals. Such phenomena as street prostitution might harm the moral development of children. Besides, the Constitutional Court drew on an international convention on the stemming of trafficking in people."

Street prostitution is a burning issue mostly in the towns and villages along the German and Austrian borders and also in Prague. Individual towns will now be able to control prostitution in public places but they cannot regulate the sex industry in brothels, bars or hotels. Many mayors say that local bylaws can only solve a part of the problem and are therefore calling for a law regulating the sex business. Prague deputy mayor Rudolf Blazek.

"The Czech Republic is in need of a law regulating prostitution, a law which would define what prostitution is, give it some legal status and enable the authorities to control it."

According to statistics from the year 2003, the clients of sex workers spent almost 9 billion crowns (420 million dollars) in the Czech Republic, two thirds of that amount coming from foreigners. In 2005, the government proposed a bill on the regulation of prostitution but it was rejected by parliament.