Economic activity or public order limitations
: the interplay of the regulation of prostitution between national law, EU law and efforts to combat human trafficiking

  • Alicia Danielsson

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis examines the legal tensions that arise when different national regulatory models for prostitution and opposing views on their connection to or separation from Trafficking in Human Beings (THB) for the purpose of sexual exploitation are placed under a supranational legal framework, such as that of the European Union (EU).

Before investigating the legal dynamics in practice, the thesis explores the causes of the current diversity in regulatory approaches to prostitution across EU member states by setting out a philosophical roadmap to assist in the placing of views on prostitution that underpin the three main regulatory approaches, which here refer to regulationism, abolitionism and prohibitionism.

The findings are that minor philosophical discrepancies pertaining to individual elements of the understanding of prostitution, such as morality, harm or the preference for either autonomy or paternalism, can result in the adoption of opposing regulatory approaches in practice, which are based on the conceptual understanding of prostitution constituting an economic activity, a social harm or a public nuisance. Rawls’ public reason theory is utilised as a tool to analyse the way moral views of the general public of each jurisdiction influence the regulatory approach adopted.

A comparative legal examination of the jurisdictions in three sample EU member states, Germany, Sweden and the UK, in respect to their national approaches to regulating prostitution and THB for the purpose of sexual exploitation is undertaken. Variations in the level of applicability of EU law are found to result from the differing underlying philosophical stances in each member state and the fact that the EU has openly supported the view that prostitution is an economic activity. It is further argued that opposing positions on the conceptual conflation or strict separation of prostitution and THB jeopardise the effectiveness of the individual national laws.

The thesis concludes that the neglect by legislators to consider the wider structures into which laws are placed, such as supranational or international legal frameworks, other areas of national law, philosophical foundations or societal understandings of terminology, can result in significant harm to Commercial Sex Providers or potential victims of THB for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
Date of AwardMar 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Abertay University
SupervisorMaria O'Neill (Supervisor) & Michelle Weldon-Johns (Supervisor)


  • Law
  • Trafficking in Human Being
  • Prostitution
  • European Union
  • Abolitionism
  • Prohibitionism
  • Regulationism
  • Jurisprudence

Cite this