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A brothel , bordello , 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. Around the world, attitudes towards prostitution and how and if it should be regulated vary considerably, and have varied over time. Part of the discussion impacts on whether the operation of brothels should be legal, and if so, to what sort of regulations they should be subjected.
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. In the European Union , there is no uniform policy and no consensus on the issue; and laws vary widely from country to country. Netherlands and Germany 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, Ireland, and France 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". In February , the members of the European Parliament voted in a non-binding resolution, adopted by votes to ; with abstentions , in favor of the "Swedish Model" of criminalizing the buying, but not the selling of sex. 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 other places, prostitution itself may be legal, but many activities which surround it such as operating a brothel, pimping, and soliciting in a public place are illegal, often making it very difficult for people to engage in prostitution without breaking any law. This is the situation, for example, in the United Kingdom , Italy and France. In a few countries, prostitution and operating a brothel is legal and regulated. The degree of regulation varies widely by country.