While always illegal in Texas, prostitution had a time that it flourished in Houston. However, with pressures from reform groups, the War Department and the media, Houston’s days of being a vice capital are long over. While prostitution undoubtedly occurs in Houston, it’s not for the lack of effort of law enforcement and city officials to suppress it.
History of prostitution in Houston
From the late 1800s to the early 1900s, prostitution was a part of normal life in Texas. With vast numbers of settlers moving to the area and immigrants finding new lives in the U.S. across the border, prostitution ran rampant.
“Happy Hollow,” Houston’s vice and red-light district, operated just a few blocks away from the downtown business district. Brothels, saloons and gambling establishments were commonplace. At one time during its history, Houston experimented with legalizing this vice zone and required residents to pay regular fines and maintain low profiles.
However, with the passing of the Mann Act in 1910 and pressures from the War Department, Houston stepped up efforts to close down the district in 1917 and arrest prostitutes. The War Department pressured many communities that hoped to acquire military camps in this way.
Despite pressures from the federal government, prostitution continued, especially during the days of Prohibition. Just as they protested the prohibition of liquor, many Texans protested the prohibition of prostitution. Vice organizations continued and provided entertainment in many forms to customers.
The Great Depression saw an increase in prostitution, though none of the women who worked in this career became rich.
Prior to World War II and afterward, Houston saw a greater offensive rise against prostitution. Officials cracked down on prostitution and the authorities and media continued to make efforts to suppress the practice of prostitution in Houston. This has continued to current day. Houston still is one of the more aggressive communities in Texas in their attempts to limit prostitution.
Prostitution laws in Texas
Specific ordinances do not exist that cover the prohibition of prostitution in Houston. Texas statutes declaring prostitution unlawful provide direction for Houston officials. The laws mandate that prostitution and patronization are regarded as class B misdemeanors.
Prostitution is defined as engaging in or offering to engage in sexual conduct for a fee. Patronization is the solicitation of another in a public place for sex for hire services.
Offenders may face sentences of jail for up to 180 days and/or a fine up to $2,000. This sentence is for first offenses, only. Future offenses receive much harsher sentences.
Because Houston is considered an immigrant town, promotion of prostitution is taken very seriously. Because many immigrants are limited in their abilities to speak English, they are often taken advantage of by individuals wishing to engage them in a lifestyle including prostitution. Additionally, many immigrants do not have financial resources or legal documentation to be in the country. These individuals fall prey to unscrupulous pimps in hopes of getting help. They are often forced into prostitution, which is considered compulsion by Texas laws. Compulsion charges result in 2nd degree felony charges. More serious sentences are applied when offenders are found to be promoting the prostitution of someone under age 18.
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The following Nevada counties have their own laws and regulations on prostitution:
- Prostitution laws in Churchill County
- Prostitution laws in Lander County
- Prostitution laws in Lyon County
- Prostitution laws in Nye County
- Prostitution laws in Storey County
Prostitution laws in US cities:
- Prostitution laws in Chicago
- Prostitution laws in Dallas
- Prostitution laws in Houston
- Prostitution laws in Las Vegas
- Prostitution laws in Los Angeles
- Prostitution laws in New York City
- Prostitution laws in Philadelphia
- Prostitution laws in Phoenix
- Prostitution laws in San Francisco
- Prostitution laws in Seattle