Sex Work

In Austria the principle is regulatory, and sex work is only tolerated.

According to the still undisputed judgment of the Austrian Federal Supreme Court (1989), sex work is still considered “contra bonus mores”. Sex work is recognised neither as a professional trade nor as gainful employment, and there is no possibility to legalise sex work in an employment relationship.

There are national and provincial laws regulating prostitution in Austria.

On a national/federal level prostitution is regulated by the following laws: Civil Code, Penal Code, Alien Police Law, Sexually Transmitted Diseases Law, AIDS Law, Income Tax Law, Immigration Police Law and in the National Insurance Act.

According to article 118 of the National Constitution, the prostitution issue belongs to the provincial sphere. In provincial laws the handling of prostitution is regulatory, prohibitionist or sometimes one may even find an abolitionist approach.

In Austria we have nine federal states, and each of them has regulated initiating and providing of sexual services by different federal laws:

Specific prostitution laws: Carinthia, Lower Austria, Styria and Vienna

Part of the Police Penal Code: Burgenland, Upper Austria, Salzburg and Tyrol

Vice police law (Sittenpolizeigesetz): Vorarlberg

The legislation may be grouped into two major groups:

The brothel system: Exercising and soliciting prostitution is prohibited unless it takes place in a licensed brothel. (Styria, Tyrol, Carinthia, Salzburg, Upper Austria and Vorarlberg) In Vorarlberg, this statement is theoretical because thereat there are no licensed brothels. In Styria, home visits are also legal.

The protected zone model/regulatory system: Prostitution is allowed only if it is performed in certain protected areas or by protected persons. (Vienna, Lower Austria and Burgenland)


Compulsory registration:

In Austria it is compulsory for sex workers to register. In Carinthia, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol and Vorarlberg, the registration must be made through the owner of the brothel to either the municipal office or to the police department. In Vienna, sex workers must register at the police department whereas in Burgenland at the municipal office.


Administrative fines:

Owing to the restrictions of the legal system, the legal framework for prostitution is very tight and has strong regional differences. There is a lot of legal uncertainty because of the differences in enforcement in practise from one locality to another. In all the provincial “prostitution laws”, the competence for handing out and collecting administrative fines is assigned to either the provincial district authorities or, in the cities, to the Federal Police Central Office.

The maximum penalty for the offences against specified prohibitions are between €1.000 (and in the case of recurrence €2.000) in Vienna and €10,000 (in the case of recurrence €20.000) in Salzburg. The majority of the provincial laws also include terms of imprisonment. v