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Prostitution in Estonia is legal in itself, but organized prostitution is illegal. Since prostitution is a sensitive indicator that develops with changes in the social environment and the state, it is useful to divide the history of this phenomenon from Estonia 's first independence according to the different historical stages of the country. Firstly, the period of Estonian independence , when the prostitution in Estonia was legalized.
Secondly, the period of the Soviet occupation when prostitution was criminalized. Thirdly, since Estonian new independence when prostitution is neither criminalized nor legalized that is, the selling of and buying of a sexual service is not a crime but prostitution is not considered a profession either. On the first of June , so-called morality guarding, or censoring institution in the bigger cities replaced censoring police. Attitudes to the organization of prostitution derived mainly from health considerations.
That was not sufficiently successful and in May , obligatory measures to fight prostitution and sexually transmitted diseases STD were issued. The police were obliged to give necessary practical help. Because prostitution was legal in , the data from that period is remarkably precise and allows giving an adequate overview of the phenomenon. The number of prostitutes had been relatively stable throughout that period, showing only a slight increase.
For instance, in and , there were and registered prostitutes in Estonian cities, and the number remained the same until the s. The proportion in other cities was very modest. There were permanent prostitutes registered in Tallinn in , and in In Tartu, the numbers were 53 in and in There were also illegal, unregistered individual prostitutes of whom there is very little and non-systematic data. In the mids the number of Estonian hidden prostitutes was estimated to be up to Police measures were predominantly directed to uncovering and registering this contingent, because unlike the registered prostitutes, neither unofficial prostitute nor their clients went through regular medical check-ups.
Each of these apartments had approximately women. In , there were 47 of such apartments registered. Along with Estonia's occupation by the Soviet Union , attitudes to prostitution changed drastically. Legalization of prostitution was replaced by total denial and was made criminal. For instance, Tallinn City Moral Censoring Unit and Ambulatory of STDs which had been controlling the prostitutes and their health, was now liquidated on the 16 of November , only a few months after occupation.