Lawmakers in Switzerland, where prostitution is legal, have agreed to make it a criminal act to pay for sex with anyone who is under 18 years old.
The legal age for prostitution would rise to 18 years, up from 16, under an amendment passed by the lower house unanimously today.
It was passed to bring Switzerland in line with an international convention that the country signed in 2010 aimed at protecting children from any form of sexual exploitation or abuse. The Council of Europe treaty has been signed by 46 states and ratified by 28 of them.
Until now, the Swiss have been one of the few in Europe to allow prostitution by anyone who is at least 16, the age of sexual consent, although some cantons (states) and cities set stricter rules.
Under the new law, encouraging prostitution by anyone under 18 becomes a criminal offense. People who pay for sex with 16-year-old or 17-year-old prostitutes would face up to three years in prison.
People who consume underage pornography also could be prosecuted. Pimps and managers of brothels or escort services that hire anyone under 18 could face up to 10 years in prison.