Cities lose legal battles against prostitution businesses
While sex workers protests against the planned adoption of a new prostitution law claiming to protect them, two legal cases highlight continued attempts of municipal governments to ignore existing prostitution legislation, more than ten years after its introduction.
An administrative court in Minden in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia has issued a verdict against the use of prostitution-free zones, mirroring a decision in 2013 by an administrative court in the state of Hesse, while an administrative court in Dachau in the state of Bavaria ruled against objections by the city’s public construction authority, which had attempted to bar two operators from running a fetish studio and a wellness centre, the latter of which will include five rooms where sex workers can offer sexual services.
As regional daily Neue Westfälische reports, various municipalities in Ostwestfalen-Lippe, a region in North Rhine-Westphalia, will no longer be able to use off-limit zones to drive away prostitution, as the decision by the Minden Administrative Court calls their validity into question. The district council of Detmold is now faced with having to adjust its decades-old ordinances to the new legal norms and changed moral values.
In its decision, the court closely examined a case in the city of Oerlinghausen, where an operator had opened a tantric massage parlour in November 2013. As the city believed this to be a venue where sexual services were offered, she was barred from operating her business. The city referred hereby to an ordinance to protect youth and public morals.
According to the Minden Administrative Court, such a general prohibition of prostitution is no longer permissible as it violates basic law by unduly limiting the freedom to choose one’s occupation. The court found that the Prostitution Act of 2002 must take precedence here, which defined prostitution as an act of service provision and removed the previously existing notion that prostitution constituted a violation of public mores.
Even the Federal Constitutional Court holds that off-limit zones were only justified in case that the “milieu” would cause disturbances of schools, kindergartens or churches, none of which applied in this particular case, according to the Minden Administrative Court. The city of Oerlinghausen was ordered to pay all procedural costs.
A decision in the actual case was no longer necessary, however, since the operator of the massage parlour no longer wishes to run the business in Oerlinghausen. A decision on whether or not sexual services were actually offered there was not made. The operator and her attorney Burkhard Zurheide had always maintained that hadn’t been the case. Zurheide sees the verdict as success: “The district council should now eliminate its old off-limit zone ordinances or at the very least adjust them to the new legal norms”.
The ruling by the Dachau Administrative Court is still subject to appeal, but in both aforementioned cases, the court found that the operators had fulfilled construction and planning regulations. The two cases can be seen as typical examples how municipal governments attempt to circumvent the prostitution law by imposing arbitrary requirements to prevent prostitution-related businesses from operating within their jursidictions.