Prostitutes Protection Act: Conservatives Fully Achieved Their Objectives
Photo by Abigail Lynn on Unsplash
Haga clic aquí para una traducción al español de este artículo.
ProstSchG well on its way to achieve Conservatives’ goals
A flurry of recent media reports have suggested the Prostitutes Protection Act (herafter ProstSchG) had failed to achieve its stated goals and would not sufficiently protect people engaged in prostitution.
The ProstSchG is well on its way to achieve all of the federal government’s desired goals and effects, especially those of the conservative parties [Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Christian Social Union (CSU) in Bavaria, together known as die Union]. It may have taken a while, but now, around two years after the ProstSchG went into effect on July 1, 2017, it has become increasingly apparent that the law’s consequences, which we expected and predicted, have materialized up and down the country.
As interior minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) aptly noted on June 6, 2019, when speaking about the legislative process in Germany:
“The law is called the Data Exchange Act. Introduced completely quietly. Quietly, probably because it’s complicated, so it didn’t attract as much attention. Over the last 15 months, I’ve made the experience that you have to make laws complicated, then [laughs] they don’t attract so much attention. We’re not doing anything illegal, we’re doing what’s necessary. But even necessary things are often illegitimately called into question.”
While the subject here was the Data Exchange Act, the same tactic was already employed when the ProstSchG was adopted.
Almost as an aside, the law undermined Germany’s Basic Law [Grundgesetz, GG]. Article 13 GG, which grants the inviolability of one’s home? No longer applies to sex workers. Occupational freedom? That, too, is being undermined through the registration procedures forced upon sex workers. Naturally, the law does not spell that out. That would have been too simple, and then there might have been louder protests against it. (See also: “Prostitutes Protection Law violates fundamental rights”; click here to read the article with Google Translate.)
Instead, the plan was hatched to call the measure “Law on the Regulation of Prostitution and the Protection of Persons Working in Prostitution”, in short, Prostitutes Protection Act. Such things always earn wide acceptance in the society. There is a widespread misconception, however, that the “protection of persons working in prostitution” is meant to do just that: provide sex workers with protection. On the contrary, if one scrutinises the law, one quickly realises that the law aims to protect people from themselves and from prostitution, just like sunscreen does not protect the sun but those using it from the effects of sunlight exposure.
In the context of the ProstSchG, the above-cited quote by Horst Seehofer fits yet again, as the ProstSchG, in a roundabout way, is also supposed to help curb migration. It was clear from the outset that the law would be particularly problematic for people from countries where prostitution is illegal, such as Bulgaria or Romania. If they register as sex workers in Germany, they risk receiving mail in their countries of origin, despite the promised option to have any related mail delivered to a different mailing address. (See for instance, “Prostitutes Protection Act: Between Aspiration and Reality” by the German AIDS Service Organisation; click here to read the article with Google Translate.)
Tax offices flout this provision knowingly and deliberately, and in doing so, they greatly endanger the lives of sex workers in their countries of origin. Protection? Nil. Did lawmakers heed the advice of experts? They did indeed, though not in the way those experts intended. Instead, their expertise and reasoning were turned on their head, making it easy to create regulations that would hit sex workers as hard as possible. Without further ado, the list of measures fundamentally rejected by the called-upon experts was converted into the government’s wish list.
[Irony on] Sex workers require anonymity to protect themselves? Let’s do the opposite and write mandatory registrations into the law. [Irony off]
ProstSchG is intended to deter, not protect
The entire construct of the ProstSchG is intended to deter people from entering prostitution and render sex work impossible in most places. Mandatory registrations at public authorities are nothing short of forced outings in front of strangers. In some places, for instance in the city of Gießen, the government even tasked private organisations with carrying out this measure. (See also: “Sex worker files suit at administrative court against implementation of Prostitutes Protection Act through the city of Gießen”; click here to read the article with Google Translate.)
Such practices reinforce the stigma sex workers are exposed to on a daily basis. Politicians cannot pretend they were unaware that many sex workers would opt to circumvent the mandatory registration procedure and instead, out of necessity, work underground and, thus, illegally. All experts, including representatives of trade associations and counselling centres as well as sex workers themselves, had explicitly warned them this would happen and called for other, better measures, e.g. expanding the offer of counselling centres, funds for job retraining for people in sex work, the full decriminalisation of sex work, the abolition of all measures fuelling the stigma attached to sex work, and many others.
With those measures, however, the federal government would not have achieved their actual goal to quietly abolish prostitution under the guise of helping people in prostitution.
Two years after the adoption of the new law, news articles about the demise of brothels and vacancies in prostitution businesses appear almost on a daily basis, as officially registered sex workers are few and far between. The majority of good and safe work places are fast disappearing, be it due to requirements set out in the ProstSchG or the law’s effects, e.g. sex workers being unable or unwilling to obtain a “Whore ID” in order to avoid being outed. In addition, the ProstSchG dictates that sex workers are no longer permitted to stay overnight at brothels, walk-in brothels (Laufhäuser) and other prostitution businesses. This requires sex workers to earn more money to cover the added daily expenses for a separate bedroom [offered by some prostitution businesses] or hotel room. As a result, many decide to work illegally, either independently or in unlicensed prostitution businesses.
Many sex workers have disappeared from the public sphere for fear of attracting attention and facing an inspection. Consequently, sex workers spent less time on solicitation via internet or phone, which puts them at greater risk as they can no longer screen their clients to the extent necessary.
Sex workers, who were previously able to share apartments where they could both live and work, are now forced to work alone. This results in higher costs (for rent, utilities, advertising, etc., which they were able to share) that most cannot afford on their own. And the protection through their colleagues is, of course, also gone. Where previously sex workers could provide protection to one another, those working in apartments are now forced to work alone. The result: over the last two years, the large majority of those work places has also disappeared.
All this has been confirmed by the recently published “Evaluation of the Prostitutes Protection Act in North Rhine-Westphalia”. (See also: “Ineffective protection of prostitutes: Sex workers pushed underground”; click here to read the article with Google Translate and select “Schon dabei” on the pop-up window.)
“Forced registration – Not with us!” Sex workers and allies demonstrate against the ProstSchG in front of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs in Berlin © Emy Fem
Even the counselling centres are hit hard by the ProstSchG, jeopardising years of their work and efforts to build trusting relationships with sex workers. In 2018, Madonna e.V. [a member of the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) and the only sex worker self-help project in North Rhine-Westphalia] received significantly less funding from the provincial government. Funding for the widely acclaimed Lola app [offering advice for sex workers in Bulgarian, English, German, Romanian and Turkish] was also reduced. Needless to say, the aforementioned evaluation report conveniently omitted this. (Honi soit qui mal y pense.) Urgently needed counselling positions had to be cut, as funds are no longer sufficient. This is especially worrisome considering that independent and anonymous counselling for people engaging in sex work is immensely important.
In this context, it should be noted here that the Kober counselling centre, which authored the report “Changes and Effects of the ProstSchG on the Prostitution Scene in North Rhine-Westphalia”, which is attached to the aforementioned evaluation report, did receive funds and support from the provincial government. Thus, one can hardly speak of “independent research,” and the report does neither satisfy academic standards nor does it provide answers for the many questions it poses. (Listen to the commentary by cultural scientist Mithu Sanyal; German only.)
Whoever still believes that the Prostitutes Protection Act was intended to protect sex workers also believes that woodchucks chuck wood.
Translation by Matthias Lehmann, co-founder of SWAT – Sex Workers + Allies Translate.
“The aim of SWAT is not only to provide sex workers and allies with a network to enable sex work knowledge sharing across as cultural and language barriers, but also to reward contributors for their work whenever possible.”
Every effort has been made to translate this article verbatim. The photo and tweet above as well as some of the links did not appear in the original article. The German original of this article was first published as “Prostituiertenschutzgesetz: Ziele der Union voll erreicht” by Voice4Sexworkers (June 8th, 2019). This translation is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.