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History of Brothels and Red Light District Essay

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Updated: Dec 2nd, 2019


Brothels and red rights streets are destinations, houses or spaces provided or offered to accommodate commercial sex workers. They are licensed houses or rooms specifically meant to accommodate commercial sex workers mainly in major towns. From time in memorial, brothels and red rights were a confined location for commercial sex workers (May, Page & Brunsdon, 2001).

This form of business started in twelfth century and still in force today. As a result, it has come to be known as the oldest profession in history. Brothels were and still are organized institutions that manage the business of prostitution across the world.


Prostitution started as an ethical act within the society. However, with time, the profession assumed an ugly face, developing into a huge vice that could not be stopped merely by setting laws to guide the individuals partaking in it. Prostitution is a deep-seated evil that is slowly getting into our day- to- day life. It has turned to be one of the sources of employment among the jobless youths.

The brothel business in London started in a town known as Liberty which was under the authority of the Bishop of Winchester. This was the first organized and prudently managed brothel in history. Prostitutes were stationed there all round the clock where they would be useful in helping to meet the increased demand for prostitution services needed in the town. The reasons behind the increased need for prostitution services were as a result of increased number of industries in the area.

An increase in the economic development resulted in rural -urban migration mainly of males, leaving back their spouses at home so as to work in the newly opened industries in the urban centers. With time, these males felt deprived of their sexual needs since they had left their spouses back at home for a long and they did not wish to go back home out of fear of losing their jobs.

Therefore, the males therefore had no choice but to the streets in search of willing women to satisfy their sexual needs (May et al, 2001). The need to operate an organized prostitution based center for prostitutes were necessitated by unhealthy competition among the sex workers in the area. Brothels at this initial stage were recognized by the Liberty location authority (London) and were granted a license to operate freely.

Although prostitution was a legal profession in the eyes of the local authority bodies, on the other hand, the general public did not appreciate it at all. In the Christian based societies, prostitution remained an evil and unacceptable activity (Allen 2009). As a way of demonstrating their disapproval of the involvements of men and women in prostitution, the churches stopped giving Christian burial services to those who were known to partake in the vice.

In addition, such individuals would also be buried in an area set aside for sinners in the society. They were buried in a place called Cross bones. This graveyard was set aside for prostitutes only (May et al, 2001).

By the sixteenth centaury, the towns become more industrialized, hence pulling different industries together (for example theatres and production industries, among other industries). This growth of the different industry resulted in increased promotion of prostitution. More brothels were established and licensed to cater for the increased demand.

At the same time, the authorities in Medieval Paris sought to imitate their counterparts in London in as far as the issue of prostitution is concerned. This was as a result of increased prostitution in the streets of Paris and for this reason the authorities deemed it appropriate to confine prostitutes to specific streets in their town. Consequently, nine streets of Beaubourg quarters were set aside for prostitution.

Those who were willing and able to set up brothels were licensed by the authority to do so (May et al, 2001). These business entrepreneurs were supposed to meet the entire requirements that were set by the authorities in order to get the license. This business opportunity attracted many stakeholders who eventually ventured into this business fully.

Jobless women from all walks of live committed themselves fully to this window of opportunity. As a result, prostitution was indirectly promoted by the local authority. Beaubourg quarter district was economically empowered because most of its residents were either directly or indirectly involved, hence creating much wealth. Meanwhile, the population of self-reliant women increased in that district because they could easily get a living out of prostitution (May et al, 2001).

Brothel and red streets business continued to grow with age. Technology and new changing believes in the society have made it possible to have the modern brothels. By the eighteen century, Paris alone had one hundred and eighty registered brothels. Brothels and red streets were no longer regarded as evil places but normal social places. These places were properly managed and controlled to meet their objectives.

It was became an offence to disrupt those taking part in the business. In the brothels could not operate without prostitutes and for this reason, the management ensured that they upheld their rights (Caron, 2009). Proper supervision was undertaken to protect sex workers from being exploitation by their customers and also the customers’ rights were preserved to encourage a continuation of the business (Caron, 2009).

In the nineteenth century, the French government started running legal established brothel firms. It was a source of income for the government and therefore massive investments were undertaken (Caron, 2009). The government built and maintained brothels with the expectation of earning more in this unexploited venture.

Recruitment was properly undertaken while hiring the employees in the brothels; mainly retired prostitutes were given a chance to work there due to their noble skills, while they were still young and vibrant. French government invested heavily in this sector and marketed it to the rest of the world as one of its spectacular scene in French nation (Caron, 2009). The French government earned super profits from this business where locals and foreigners participated fully.

Paris was the only city that was proud to own and host the most comfortable brothels at that time. Le Chabanais and Le Sphinx brothels ware popularly known for their comfort and better services they offered to their customers (Caron, 2009). In 1917 the brothel industry in French assumed another face when gay brothels were opened.

The need to bring gays together in one roof was effected by the construction of a hotel, Second Arroundissement of Paris. This hotel was believed to be a gay brothel center were gay related services were offered. Although this idea was not welcomed, with time however, members of the society started to accept these changes.

Although most of the European nations legalized brothels and red rights, by nineteen forty six, a massive campaign against this antisocial practice was started by activists who managed to outsmart the governments. This brought changes in the laws to illegitimise the practice.

By the time Marthe Richard managed to successfully petition these anti-social practices within the European government, Germany had already succeeded to get a brothel service provider for its army. This was a proof of how this business was conducted and promoted at the government level. Due to changes in time and the effect of Marthe Richard activism against brothels, Italy illegalized the business in 1959 (May et al, 2001).

New versions of brothel- like organizations have sprung up as a way of avoiding Marthe Richard’s policy which brought brothels legality to an end. Netherlands therefore came up with the red lights districts option to serve the purpose of the brothels (May et al, 2001). Today, Netherlands owns the best legal policies in the world to guide and manage prostitution.

This has in effect helped to promote sex tourism industry in the country. Foreigners and local sex workers have embraced the brothel concept in Netherlands. Amsterdam is a living example of an advanced red light district that hosts a big population of sex tourists.

In a 2009 report made public by the Daily Telegraph in Australia, it emerged that the levels of prostitution licensed brothel are diminishing irrespective of the brothels ability to organize it workers and customers (Carron, 2009). This is because many customers are no more willing to be associated with the brothels due their bad image portrayed to the public. The freelance sex works are believed to earn more because of their many customers.

Less cost are incurred by freelance sex workers while providing the services as compared to the legalized sex workers who are restricted to one station and have to pay subscription fee to the management (May et al, 2001). Illegal brothels have come into force whereas new types of services and operations to suit the clients are being developed outside brothels management.

These effects have denied the organized and licensed brothels and red right street workers who could have developed this industry positively. In the countries where brothels, red rights districts and the whole prostitution concept is illegal, people always bend the law to achieve their ultimate goals (Tessa, 2007).

Some countries such as the United States have a well organize and managed brothels where the stake holders are forced to adhere to the strict rules that guide them. A sex worker for example, working in a licensed brothel in United States must have a regular medical checkup among other strict requirements (Tessa, 2007). Those sex workers who operate outside the licensed brothels are claimed to be going against the law and are subject to be fined or be imprisoned.


In the present day, we have rules and regulations that govern the oldest profession in the world, prostitution. Prostitution was seen as an evil act to the eyes of the majority in the world during seventeen and sixteen century.

However, with time, society has come to slowly accept the fact that prostitution could be operated just like any other form of business. In future, we expect more tolerance within our society. More changes are expected due to the population advancement which will bring forth to different funny characters in our societies.

Reference List

Allen, P. (2009). Sleeping with the enemy. Daily Mail. France.

Caron,C. (2009). Navada Brothels Hit Hard by Gas Prices. ABC News. Navada.

May, M., Page, R., & Brunsdon, E. (2001). Understanding social problems.UK: Blackwell

Tessa, M. (2007). Japan Comfort Women. The Asia-Pacific Journal. Japan.

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