Minister Barbara Steffens: “One cannot prohibit prostitution – Strengthening sex workers’ rights”
Claudia Zimmermann-Schwartz (right), Chairwoman of the Roundtable Prostitution in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), hands over the final report to Minister Barbara Steffens (left) © MGEPA NRW 2014 [North Rhine-Westphalia is the most populous state of Germany, as well as the fourth largest by area.]
Clicca qui per leggere la versione italiana di “La Tavola Rotonda sulla Prostituzione ha presentato la Relazione Finale”.
Roundtable Prostitution presents Final Report
+++ Update: Report now available in English (click here) +++
The Ministry of Health, Equalities, Care and Ageing (MGEPA) of North Rhine-Westphalia announces:
With the handover of its final report to Minister Barbara Steffens, the “Roundtable Prostitution NRW” has concluded its operation. On nearly 100 pages, the report documents a comprehensive analysis of the subject matter and includes positions to politically contentious issues, as well as recommendations. In doing so, the report sheds light on diverse forms of prostitution and pays particular attention to the dynamic changes of the market.
A nationwide unprecedented panel
“One cannot prohibit prostitution, and prostitution is not a job like any other. But those who wish to perform this job, must be able to do so under constitutional and humane conditions”, declared Minister Steffens on 8th October, 2014, as she received the report. “In a nationwide unprecedented manner, the Roundtable Prostitution has gathered an enormous wealth of knowledge that will provide an invaluable impetus, not only for the current debate about a reform of the Prostitution Act. This is clear: existing problems will not be solved by stigmatisation and prohibitions. What’s necessary is a differentiated analysis”, Steffens added.
“Countless myths, clichés and prejudices about prostitution, which we all have in our heads, stand in the way of an unbiased approach of the subject matter. At the Roundtable, we became only gradually aware of that”, said Claudia Zimmermann-Schwartz, chairwoman of the Roundtable. “Initially, being the Departmental Head for Women’s Affairs, it wasn’t easy to listen to brothel operators or to also invite [sex workers’] clients to the sessions. But our aim was to conduct a knowledge-based, ethical debate, and to speak with people, not about them”, Zimmermann-Schwartz added.
14 sessions and over 70 experts
The Roundtable was created following a resolution of the state government [of North Rhine-Westphalia], adopted on 14th December, 2010. During 14 sessions, over 70 experts were heard. The panel comprised staff from the responsible ministries, counselling centres, local councils, as well as two prostitutes.
From the report:
- Due to its visibility, street prostitution determines the public’s perception of prostitution, but according to estimates by experts, only about ten percent of all prostitutes work in this segment. Laufhäuser [walk through brothels], Eros Centres, S/M studios, bars, clubs, Anbahnungslokale [bars facilitating encounters], porn cinemas, saunas or massage parlours are also locations for prostitution just as other businesses premises – but private apartments account for over 50 percent.
- All experts who were heard unanimously stated that the total number of prostitutes in North Rhine-Westphalia cannot be authoritatively ascertained – estimates range between 25,000 and 45,000.
- Although the general view assumes prostitutes to be female and clients to be male, male-to-male prostitution (an estimated 10 percent) or the prostitution of transsexual people (an estimated 6 percent) are in demand to a not inconsiderable extent.
- The Roundtable found no evidence for the thesis that human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation increased after [the adoption of] the Federal Prostitution Act of 2002.
- What is necessary is the regulation of brothels and brothel-like businesses in order to secure the reliability of operators as well as a minimum standard of working conditions and hygiene. Required are regulations that take into account the rapid changes of the services on offer. Regulations must target these different business concepts and particularly put a stop to exploitative forms of prostitution, as well as those which endanger [people’s] sexual self-determination.
- The most important factor for the dynamic changes of the market is the internet. Not only has advertising for sexual services predominantly shifted to the net, negotiating and brokering also take place virtually. The services on offer continuously expand, they become more sophisticated and more transparent. Next to internet platforms catering to regions and specific types, the number of interactive forums is increasing, in which direct communication takes place. Advertisers create content themselves in the form of chats, sex cams, photos and texts, with demands by users steadily increasing; in many cases, some involvement takes place (e.g. in the form of so-called “auctions”, evaluation tools, etc).
- Municipal concepts to create spaces, in which street prostitution can be practised while safeguarding concerns of of others, are necessary, in which the interests of all involved parties (residents, prostitutes, clients, regulatory and health authorities, police, counselling centres) are represented. [*]
- One of the chief obstacles to practise prostitution in a professional and safe manner lies in the still existing strong stigmatisation. [*] Prostitutes still find themselves forced to lead double lives; there is a lack of trust in the police and the authorities. It is not unusual that preexisting social relations are discontinued, creating the frequently cited “pull of the milieu” [barrier to exit]. Required is a differentiated public debate about prostitution that accepts the decisions of people to engage in prostitution.
- The Roundtable strongly rejects restrictive measures, such as compulsory health checks or a law prescribing mandatory condom use, since these are legally problematic, unsuitable, stigmatising and even counterproductive. Instead, the Roundtable deems it necessary to offer preventative measures that fit the needs of specific target groups, which also integrate the environment, including the clients. Outreach work and open consultation hours of health authorities, as they are already successfully offered in some places, would also be useful.
The final report can also be ordered or downloaded at www.mgepa.nrw.de/publikationen. Please enter the order number 148. Orders by telephone are possible in North Rhine-Westphalia under the number 0211 – 837 1001. Please cite the publication number.
This press release was published on October 8th, 2014, by the Ministry of Health, Equalities, Care and Ageing (MGEPA) of North Rhine-Westphalia. Please note that the copyright for the press release and the photo lies with MGEPA and is not licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Translation by Matthias Lehmann. Research Project Germany. Every effort has been made to translate the somewhat complex language in such a way that the translation remained virtually verbatim. As a result, the wording may appear unusual on some occasions. Since this is a government document, the term “prostitute” was left unchanged, whereas usually, this author would use the term “sex worker”. Notes in square brackets were added for clarification. Asterisks indicate that passages were slightly shortened for clarity. Click here to view the German original. Any questions or comments are welcome.