Sex Work Regulations in Germany

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“A tua proteção é opressão” – Mais detalhes sobre a iminente Lei Prostitutas Proteção da Alemanha

Sex workers protest in Nuremberg, August 2014. Photo by Voice4Sexworkers. All Rights Reserved.“Tua proteção é opressão!” A foto é da organização Voice4Sexworkers; foi feita em agosto de 2014 em Nuremberg (Bavária), durante protesto de trabalhadoras sexuais que marcou a visita da ministra da Família, Manuela Schwesig, a um centro de aconselhamento. Schwesig é uma das principais proponentes do endurecimento da lei.

Sobre este texto

O texto abaixo é uma tradução de um acordo entre os partidos Democrata Cristão e Social-Democrata, da coalizão de governo da Alemanha, que estabelece adendos ao documento sobre questões-chaves de agosto de 2014 para uma “Lei de Proteção às Prostitutas” (ProstSchG), que suplementaria a Lei Alemã de Prostituição de 2002 (ProstG).

Inglês Tradução do original alemão por Matthias Lehmann. Research Project Germany (Projeto de Pesquisa Alemanha). Todo esforço foi feito para traduzir os termos legais de maneira que a tradução permanecesse virtualmente literal e ao mesmo tempo inteligível. Os parênteses quadrados no texto incluem classificações e comentários adicionais. Clique aqui para baixar a versão original do documento em alemão. Quaisquer perguntas, comentários ou sugestões de mudanças serão bem-vindos.

Acordo das facções da coalizão sobre a Lei de Proteção às Prostitutas 

Status: 3 de fevereiro de 2015

As regulamentações que se seguem serão acrescentadas ao registro individual obrigatório para todas as prostitutas:

1. Produzir provas de uma consulta médica em um serviço público de saúde será pré-condição para a emissão do documento que confirma o registro de uma prostituta. Será verificado se a emissão de tal prova também poderá ser arranjada por meio de médicos residentes em clínica geral, medicina interna e ginecologia.

2. Os registros precisam ser renovados a cada dois anos, Prova de registro precisa ser apresentada durante controles conduzidos pelas autoridades.

3. Provas de consultas médicas, como listado no item 1, devem ser apresentadas a cada 12 meses; de outra forma, o registro se torna nulo.

4. Operadores de bordéis são obrigados a manter prova das consultas médicas das prostitutas que trabalham em seus estabelecimentos em arquivo.

5. Será verificado como e a que custo o acesso a aconselhamento social nos centros de aconselhamento poderá ser melhorado.

6. O registro tem especialmente a intenção de proteger mulheres [engajadas em prostituição]. Registros serão concedidos pelas autoridades apropriadas. Candidatas precisam aparecer pessoalmente. Será verificado se e até que ponto a presença pessoal em um centro de aconselhamento oficialmente designado pode substituir a presença em autoridades públicas, desde que qualquer mau uso possa ser descartado.

7. Para satisfazer a necessidade de proteção para menores de 21 anos engajadas em prostituição e para melhorar seu acesso a programas de aconselhamento e apoio, a Lei de Proteção às Prostitutas vai incluir provisões específicas.

8. Prostitutas abaixo da idade de 21 anos precisam renovar seus registros anualmente e a prova de consulta médica precisa ser apresentada a cada seis meses.

9. Caso haja alguma indicação, durante o processo de registro, de que uma pessoa não tem a capacidade de discernimento necessária para sua própria proteção ou que terceiros a estão explorando, as autoridades responsáveis vão tomar as medidas requeridas para assegurar a proteção daquela pessoa. Além disso, o certificado de registro poderá ser negado se houver quaisquer indicações de tráfico humano ou de prostituição forçada, de acordo com as provisões já existentes da legislação criminal.

Itens adicionais do acordo:

10. O uso obrigatório de camisinhas será introduzido. Clientes serão penalizados por violações [Ordnungswidrigkeit; contravenções]. Operadores de bordéis são obrigados a manter camisinhas disponíveis. Na eventualidade de uma violação da regulamentação obrigatória sobre camisinhas, aquelas engajadas em prostituição não serão legalmente responsabilizadas.

11. O direito limitado de transferência [Weisungsrecht] de prostitutas será mais detalhado a partir da perspectiva da autodeterminação, por meio de uma emenda à Lei de Prostituição.


Leituras adicionais

Uma lei para proteger a sociedade de um mal imaginário” – inclui a tradução completa do Documento de Questões-Chaves para uma Lei de Proteção para Aquelas que Trabalham em Prostituição (Lei de Proteção às Prostitutas, ProstSchG)

Declaração da organização das trabalhadoras sexuais alemãs BesD (somente em alemão)

“Prostituição, Para Além de um Feminismo Infantilizante” – da professora de Direito Criminal dra. Monika Frommel

“Lei de Moralização“: Propostas de Reforma para a Lei Alemã sobre Prostituição – entrevista com Fabianne Freymadl, porta-voz política da Organização Profissional de Serviços Sexuais e Eróticos (Berufsverband erotische und sexuelle Dienstleistungen, BesD)

“Já existem leis comerciais em vigor para combater a exploração” – entrevista com Theo, da associação de trabalhadores sexuais Hydra e.V.

Mentiras e Verdades sobre a Lei Alemã sobre Prostituição – uma introdução para iniciantes.


Esta tradução apareceu pela primeira vez no Mundo Invisivel. Clique aqui para ler a versão em Inglês de “A tua proteção é opressão”. Inglês Tradução do original alemão por Matthias Lehmann. Muito obrigado a Renato Martins para a versão em Português.

This translation first appeared on Mundo Invisivel (Invisible World). Please click here to read the English version. of “Your protection is oppression” – Further details about Germany’s looming Prostitutes Protection Law. English translation from the Germany original by Matthias Lehmann. Many thanks to Renato Martins for the Portuguese translation.


“Your protection is oppression” – Further details about Germany’s looming Prostitutes Protection Law

Sex workers protest in Nuremberg, August 2014. Photo by Voice4Sexworkers. All Rights Reserved.“Your protection is oppression” – In August 2014, sex workers protested in Nuremberg, Bavaria, as Family Minister Manuela Schwesig, chief proponent of toughening Germany’s prostitution law, visited a counselling centre for sex workers.  | Photo: Voice4Sexworkers

About this text

The below is a translation of an agreement of Germany’s ruling coalition of Christian Democrats and Social Democrats, which sets out additions to the agreed upon key issues paper from August 2014 for a “Prostitutes Protection Law” (ProstSchG), which would supplement the German Prostitution Act of 2002 (ProstG).

Translation by Matthias Lehmann. Research Project Germany. Every effort has been made to translate the legal terms in such a way, that the translation remained virtually verbatim while also being intelligible. Squared parentheses in the text include additional clarifications and comments. Click here to download the original version of the document in German. Any questions, comments or suggested edits are welcome.

Agreement of the Coalition Factions about the Prostitutes Protection Law

Status: February 3rd, 2015

The following regulations will be added to the individual mandatory registration for all prostitutes:

  1. Producing evidence of a medical consultation at a public health service shall be a precondition for the issuance of the document confirming a prostitute’s registration. It shall be examined if the issuance of said evidence may also be arranged through resident doctors for general medicine, internal medicine and gynaecology.
  2. Registrations must be renewed every two years. Proof of registration must be produced during controls conducted by the authorities.
  3. Proof of medical consultations, as listed under 1., must be presented every 12 months, otherwise the registration becomes void.
  4. Brothel operators are obligated to have proof of the medical consultations of prostitutes working on their premises on file.
  5. It shall be examined how and at what costs access to social counselling at counselling centres can be improved.
  6. The registration is especially intended to protect women [engaged in prostitution]. Registrations shall be granted at the appropriate authorities. Applicants must appear in person. It shall be examined whether and to what degree a personal appearance at an officially designated counselling centre may replace appearing in person at public authorities, provided that any misuse can be ruled out.
  7. To satisfy the particular need for protection of under 21-year-olds engaged in prostitution and to improve their access to counselling and support programmes, the Prostitutes Protection Law shall include specific provisions.
  8. Prostitutes under the age of 21 must renew their registrations annually and the proof of medical consultation must be presented every 6 months.
  9. Should there be any indication during the registration process that a person does not possess the capacity of discernment necessary for her protection or that third persons are exploiting her, the responsible authorities shall take the required measures to ensure the protection of that person. In addition, the certificate of registration may be denied if there are any indications of human trafficking or forced prostitution, in accordance with already existing criminal law provisions.

Further agreed items:

  1. The mandatory use of condoms will be introduced. Clients shall be penalised for violations [Ordnungswidrigkeit; misdemeanour, administrative offence). Brothel operators are obligated to make condoms available. In the event of a breach of the mandatory condom regulation, those engaged in prostitution [i.e. sex workers] shall not be held legally accountable.
  2. The limited right of direction [Weisungsrecht] of prostitutes shall be further specified from the perspective of self-determination through an amendment of the Prostitution Law.

Further Reading

A law to protect society from an imaginary evil – Includes a full translation of the Key Issues Paper for a Law to Protect Those Working in Prostitution (Prostitutes Protection Law, ProstSchG)

Please click here for a statement by German sex worker organisation BesD [German language only].

Prostitution: Beyond an infantilising feminism – By Criminal Law Professor Dr. Monika Frommel

“Moralising Law”: Reform Proposals for the German Prostitution Act – Interview with Fabienne Freymadl, Political Spokeswoman for the Professional Organisation for Erotic and Sexual Services (Berufsverband erotische und sexuelle Dienstleistungen, BesD)

“There are already trade laws in place to take action against exploitation” – Interview with Theo from sex worker association Hydra e.V.

Lies & Truths about the German Prostitution Act – An Introduction for the Uninitiated


Prostitution abolitionists violate our rights!

Real Woman Support Sex Worker Rights. Photo by Zoccole Dure, All Rights Reserved.Photo by Zoccole Dure. All Rights Reserved.

Italian feminist blogger Eretica Whitebread recounts her conversation with an Italian sex worker living and working in Germany.

Clicca qui per la versione italiana di “Le abolizioniste della prostituzione violano i nostri diritti!”. Please note that the copyright for this article lies with Abbatto i Muri and is not licensed under a Creative Commons License.

By Eretica Whitebread

I wrote this article after a conversation I had with F., an Italian sex worker living in Germany. She works at a place that is perfectly legal and pays taxes. She has a son from a previous relationship and her current partner is a woman. A few years ago, she moved away from Italy, where she had been charged with abetting ‘exploitative prostitution’. At the time, she was sharing an apartment with another sex worker. They had intended to help each other in order to work more safely. But under Italian laws, merely living with a sex worker can put you in trouble and see you charged with ‘exploiting the prostitution of others’.

After she served her sentence, F. chose to relocate to Germany, but currently, she feels quite unsettled there. Having already suffered due to the unfair legal charge in Italy, which made her the victim of a law that criminalised her without reason, a law not intended to support her in any way, she now learnt from the news that fanatic feminists want to make sex work illegal, thus driving sex workers underground. F. is afraid that she might again face a law that will criminalise her job.

Abolitionist feminists – feminists who want to prohibit prostitution – affirm they want to rescue victims of prostitution, but in fact, laws against human trafficking already exist. What they really want is to declare all prostitution illegal, including for those who voluntarily chose to engage in sex work. Their beliefs enforce the idea that no woman could ever freely choose such a job, just because they never would. “But that’s not the case where I’m concerned,” F. said. “I feel confident, and this is in fact a job I chose for myself. Nobody compelled me and I have no regrets.”

In F.’s view, the abolitionist feminist movement in Northern Europe is responsible for abuses against people like her. She told me how, after a rally to protest against the criminalisation of sex workers and their clients, some of those feminists confronted the protesters and spat on them. At a nearby alley, they also attacked two others sex workers who had left the group earlier. After they refused to accept a flyer, and after saying that they had actually participated in the protest, those abolitionist feminists insulted them, telling them they were “insensitive people who do not care about victims of trafficking”, and that they had been “brainwashed by male chauvinists”. They also told one of the sex workers, who was a transgender woman, that she had no right to express her opinion because transgender people were in fact men who perpetuated the very same “sick ideas about sexuality” held by men. Those abolitionist feminists acted just like members of anti-abortion movements who attack pro-choice women, and while they walked away, they continued to hurl insults and accusations at them.

“This is madness,” F. said. “Sex workers are against human trafficking and they fight in order to put an end to exploitation”. There are places where sex work is perfectly safe and legal. All that those verbal verbal attacks and the lies spread by abolitionist feminists through the media accomplish is to push sex workers underground, particularly migrants. F. explained how organisations who defend sex workers’ rights are constantly slandered by abolitionist feminists. But if it wasn’t for those organisation, many women engaged in sex work would not have access to STD (sexually transmitted diseases) prevention. What abolitionist feminists do is the very same some religious extremists do: by fighting against condom use, they actually facilitate HIV infections. According to abolitionist feminists, prostitution is a perverted way to express one’s sexuality, and it appears they would prefer the spread of sexually transmitted diseases in order to get rid of self-conscious sex workers.

Due to the activities by the prostitution abolitionist lobby and religious anti-porn groups, sex workers all over Northern Europe feel pessimistic. F. said she couldn’t stand to move to another country again. She said she became all too aware of what those fanatics were doing against her, when her son came back from school one day and asked her whether or not she was a free woman. F. heard about institutional decisions in favour of terminating sex workers’ custodial rights, and it’s only because her son is old enough – he is already attending high school – that she is not particularly afraid the same could happen to her.

“How is it possible that we are going backwards instead of making progress? Who are those women and why do they want to ‘save’ us even though there is no need for us to be rescued?” I replied that I wouldn’t know either. One thing is sure: they call themselves feminists and they are transforming the internal debates between different feminists into a sort of war between fundamentalism and secularism. As a result, it has become impossible to have any meaningful discussion without suffering their insults.

I asked F. if she would stay in Germany, if the government would go through with its plan to pass legislation requiring sex workers to register with the police, a measure last seen under the Nazis, and a number of other anti-libertarian impositions. She replied, “No. I’ll probably go to Switzerland or Austria. I don’t want to be thrown in jail again simply for doing a job that nobody forced me to do.”


Translation by Antonella Garofalo. Edited by Matthias Lehmann. Research Project Germany. I would like to thank Eretica Whitebread for her permission to reblog this article and Antonella for translating it from the Italian original.


Prostitution: Beyond an infantilising feminism

A relief work in Amsterdam's Oudekerksplein Photo by  J.M. LuijtBronze relief installed by an anonymous artist in Amsterdam’s Oudekerksplein (Old Church’s Square) in the heart of the city’s red-light district of De Wallen. Photo by J.M. Luijt (cc)

Germany’s federal government is currently revising the country’s prostitution regulation. Criminal Law Professor Dr. Monika Frommel notes improvements of the one-sided debate of late, but demands regulations, which respect the reality of sex work.

By Prof. emer. Dr. Monika Frommel

Please note that the copyright for this article lies with Dr. Monika Frommel and is not licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Will federal policy makers during the current legislative period succeed to regulate prostitution adequately? If their efforts would lead to yet another blockade, it would hardly come as a surprise; feminist objections and male privileges – according to the abolitionist women’s movement, active since around 1900 – as well as diverse conservative currents agreeing on the condemnation of the world’s oldest profession as “fornication” have been clashing on the subject of prostitution for over a hundred years.

While conservative double standards ostracise sex workers, feminist perspectives favour criminalising their clients. Although these positions contradict one another, they still unfold – to some extent jointly – destructive effects and, each in their own way, they cement Denkverbote [oppression of opinions that differ from their respective dogmas]. In the statement that prostitution supposedly violates “women’s dignity”, both camps have found a new, seemingly anti-discriminatory language.

In light of this deadlock, it is no wonder then that the Prostitution Act of 2002 (ProstG) was only ever a half-hearted attempt. The ambivalences of the last twelve years have also had tangible negative effects, because on the one hand, the majority of the Länder [German states] circumvented implementing aspects of the new federal law falling within their jurisdictions, and on the other hand, a regulation under the trade law didn’t occur in any of the Länder. Up until this legislative period, there hadn’t even been a debate about different non-criminal regulatory models.

Infantilising Feminism

In the past, this blockade was obscured through ever-new ethics debates and human trafficking campaigns, which, since 1992, originate from a specific understanding of feminism at the EU level. Those are the dark sides of the Nordic women’s movement that the rest of European women have long overlooked. For one, because they do not speak the Nordic languages, and also because they thought, theirs were all noble goals. In northern Europe, however, these two currents combined have resulted in an infantilising feminism.

“The rest of the European women have long overlooked the dark sides of the Nordic women’s movement.”

Its hallmark are campaigns on the international, European and national level. Since so-called “forced prostitution” can only be ascertained in extremely rare cases through criminal law, European institutions regularly demand from respective national legislators to introduce stricter provisions in their criminal law. But since bolstering the fight against “exploitation” and “human trafficking” has failed to yield results, even further legislative amendments are being demanded, and subsequently further national efforts to implement the already expanded EU directive against human trafficking. National legislators, on their part, do not even discuss anymore whether the European objectives can be achieved with such measures, and nobody’s asking if the directive hasn’t already been implemented, but instead they lean towards ‘waving laws through parliament’ that are dubious because they are vague. The rationale is fatalistic: it should be done since Europe demanded measures of this sort.

All this is being accompanied by media campaigns. The last climax occurred in 2013. Back then, the public debate was dominated by shrill and extremely repressive overtones. There was much talk about „forced prostitution“, and calls grew to „punish the punters“ [clients], since after all it were „men“ who were taking advantage of the “plight” of those working in the trade. Therefore, one would have to design measures that render the demand as risky as possible (embarrassing investigations, denunciation). It was also claimed, without supporting evidence, that only a small minority of sex workers was working of free will, while in contrast, the trafficking of adults and children (“children” being defined as any person under 18) was the norm. The empirically unproven assumptions and the downright absurd legal constructs surrounding the concept of “children” already demonstrate what sort of fundamental reservations were stylised here. For the most part, these are conservative prejudices re-formulated in a crooked feminist tone to render them attractive to people with only superficial knowledge of the subject matters.

Amendment of the Prostitution Act

In this legislative period, politicians have begun to shift and support groups to act pragmatically. The excessive polemics of people from one side of the divide has thus resulted in the growing willingness of politicians to see things realistically and argue factually. There is a chance, therefore, that after twelve years of contested and eventually fruitless debates, this legislative period will see an adjustment of the Prostitution Act in line with the changing economic conditions.

To understand the change over recent months, one should first look at the half-heartedly conceived bill from the previous legislative period, which aimed to regulate prostitution through administrative laws. It failed to achieve a majority vote in the Bundesrat [the Upper House of the German Parliament], and for good reason. Back then, Bremen had voted against the bill [together with other states governed by coalition governments of Social Democrats and Greens]. In 2014, the Saarland brought forward a motion for the Bundesrat to adopt a “key issue paper for the regulation of prostitution and brothel-like businesses”. [1]

But the Saarland’s motion was anything but progressive or realistic. It aimed to curb fictitious self-employment and stipulated the so-called “Freierbestrafung” [criminalisation of sex workers’ clients]. The motion was therefore predominantly designed to use administrative and punitive measures. No attention was paid to the working conditions of people in prostitution, especially not to improving these conditions sustainably or to raising the prices for sexual services, which are too low, for the benefit of sex workers, not just the operators. It is promising, therefore, that this decidedly too narrow approach was rejected by a resolution of the Bundesrat on April 11th, 2014.

„It was attempted to paternalistically and maternalistically defend sex workers’ right to self-determination against their will, as it were.”

Now the federal government has to move forward and face the complexity of the imminent reforms. The focal point is a law to “protect prostitutes”. It aims to regulate what had already been discussed as regulation under the trade law, but was never fleshed out or subjected to discussions by the different interest groups, as would have been appropriate. That is because police and the women’s movement were unduly focused on the subject of “human trafficking and forced prostitution”.

This fixation was paradoxical, but over recent months, it has been abandoned. It was paradoxical because both help groups attempted, paternalistically and maternalistically, to defend sex workers’ right to self-determination against their will, as it were, by using criminal and police laws. They did also have sex workers’ rights in mind, but in a completely different sense. What they aim to expand is mainly the right of residence for non-EU citizens who might have become victims of human trafficking and may therefore be potential witnesses [in criminal proceedings]. So they think primarily along the lines of criminal law.

Together with the Länder and municipalities, plans should be developed for a comprehensive range of safe street-based prostitution. The trend in 2013 went the wrong direction. The Dortmund Model – legal street-based prostitution with Verrichtungsboxen [love boxes] – was terminated by the city of Dortmund, unlawfully and unconstitutionally. A sex worker who lodged a complaint won her case at the administrative court of Gelsenkirchen. [2] Should this decision stand, then municipalities will no longer be able to arbitrarily expand [prostitution] off-limit zones, unless in cases, where public order, especially the protection of minors, concretely warrants it, i.e. when actual facts are presented, and not just for exploiting general fears over a sudden influx of migrants who force their woman into prostitution.

Data protection and Self-employment

In the debate over the future law, one aspect will play a central role, which one could almost overlook when first reading the key issues paper by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. On the one hand it is the question of fair pricing, and on the other hand control under the trade law and the mandatory registration of individual sex workers. As stated in the preliminary key issues paper from August 2014, all sex workers will be subject to mandatory registration, i.e. a duty of disclosure, at the respective municipality. According to this approach, they would receive verification documents, which they would then have to produce upon request.

Obligations of this sort are highly problematic when they extend to all types of activities. If sex workers work at a brothel or comparable business and one wants to prevent circumvention of tax liabilities, shouldn’t it be sufficient for the operator to produce their data so that the sex workers remain anonymous? After all, operators are subject to strict control and are required to keep copies of the sex workers’ permits. So when the operators and their administration are strictly controlled, the data security of the sex workers should not have to be jeopardized.

Converted parking ticket machine in Bonn for tickets to use in tax statement of sex workers Photo by Sir JamesConverted parking ticket machine in Bonn for tickets to use in tax statement of sex workers.
Photo by Sir James (
cc)

Where there is no operator, as in street-based prostitution, it stands to reason to enforce general identity card requirements and flat-rate taxation (via tax machines). There are further concerns: if people work only occasionally at a business, their mandatory registration is problematic since guaranteeing data security in a digitalised world effectively is already uncertain, even in places where it shouldn’t be. [3] Besides, before any standardisation of mandatory registration, it should be clarified whether individual sex workers in fact carry on a trade or rather practice a freelance occupation sui generis [unique in its characteristics]. This is also relevant to the question if they, too – and not just the operator – must pay value-added tax.

“The last twelve years have shown that sex workers want to work independently and do not wish to be forcibly outed.”

There is an even more problematic aspect. Under the programmatic slogan “Prostitution – The Augsburg Model” [4], Helmut Sporer, a speaker for the Bavarian police, together with the public prosecutor’s office in Augsburg, initiated preliminary proceedings against the Colosseum, a brothel-like sauna club, for dirigiste pimping (instruction for those working there to remain naked while in the sauna area) and the failure to pay social security contributions and payroll taxes (§ 266a StGB, German Criminal Code). [A1] In a complaints procedure in 2010, the Higher Regional Court in Munich refused to open proceedings – with reference to the Prostitution Act. [5]

Ever since, the rule applies that “integration into a brothel business” serves as an indicator of non-independent employment (§ 7 Abs. 1 SGB IV, German Social Code) and fictitious self-employment. The defence disproved this assumption with an expert opinion. [6] Since then, attempts have been made to determine by law that integration into a brothel business constitutes an indicator of non-independent employment.

The key issues paper also refers to this debate. Under the heading “Legal relationship between prostitutes and operators”, the actual circumstances are pitted against the wish of sex workers to [be able to] leave at any time. Instead of focusing on the danger of economic exploitation as criterion for operators’ control, fiscal aspects dominate yet again.

Anyone who wants to “protect prostitutes”, to quote the name of the new law, must limit her- or himself to forcing operators to be more transparent, and to allowing those working in their businesses more access to files and counsel. One should not put sex workers into a position in which they rather choose a tolerance model again. After all, the last twelve years have shown that sex workers want to work independently and do not wish to be forcibly outed. It is simply a specific occupation. Occupations differ, one from the other. Blanket criminal proceedings due to the failure to pay social security contributions and payroll taxes offer no protection but create only new repressive powers and substantial regional differences. Both are counterproductive.

About Dr. Monika Frommel

Prof. emer. Dr. Monika Frommel -  Photo usage worldwide

Dr. Monika Frommel is an emeritus criminal law professor. She studied Law at the University of Tübingen and at the Ludwig Maximilians University Munich, where she obtained her doctorate in 1979 and received her habilitation in 1986. Until 2011, she was the director of the Institute of Sanction Law and Criminology at University of Kiel. Since 1990, she is a co-editor of the legal journal Neue Kriminalpolitik. Her current research interests include criminology from a feminist perspective, in particular the reform of sexual criminal law, and ethics in reproductive medicine.

Photo: Usage Worldwide


Footnotes

[1] Bundesrats-Drucksache 71/14, 26.02.2014. [English: Key Issues Paper for a Law to Protect Those Working in Prostitution (Prostitutes Protection Law, ProstSchG)]
[2] Az 16 K 2082/11, 21.03.2013 (noch nicht rechtskräftig).
[3] Sex workers fight against mandatory registrations for good reasons. Although tax authorities normatively guarantee data privacy, it cannot actually be guaranteed, and the Labour Inspectorate doesn’t guarantee it anyway. Therefore, one should forego general mandatory registrations, if there is anyway an operator who can be controlled. It might differ for street-based prostitution, where sex workers cannot rely on the right to data privacy anyway, since they are publicly visible.
[4] Helmut Sporer: „Prostitution – Der Augsburger Weg“ in: Kriminalistik 2010, S. 235-240.
[5] Az 3 Ws 101-105/10, 20.04.2010.
[6] Von Prof. Dr. Dagmar Felix, Hamburg.

[A1] The 2007 Report by the Federal Government on the Impact of the Act Regulating the Legal Situation of Prostitutes (Prostitution Act) stated that “operators expressed some uncertainty as to whether and under which conditions the stipulating of place of work, hours of work and prices for certain services went beyond what was legally possible and made them liable to punishment for exploitation of prostitutes (Section 180a(1) Criminal Code) or pimping (Section 181a(1) No. 2 Criminal Code, “dirigiste pimping”). Regional differences in criminal prosecutorial practice added to this uncertainty. For example, the Public Prosecutor‘s Office in Munich in 2003 stated that “the one-sided stipulation of working hours by brothel operators is to be classed as so-called dirigiste pimping within the meaning of the aforementioned provisions and thus to be prosecuted” (cf. S oFFI K I , Section II.2.1.4.4). A decision by the Federal Court of Justice of 1 August 2003 (Federal Court of Justice, ref. 2 StR 186/03; Decision of the Federal Court of Justice 48,314 and NJW 2004, p. 81 ff.) created legal clarity by stating that the operator of a brothel may not stipulate the type and extent of prostitution to be engaged in. However, as long as a prostitute was voluntarily working in a brothel or brothel-like establishment, the mere fact that he/she was integrated into an organisational structure on account of the stipulating of fixed working hours, places of work and prices did not make it punishable (cf. also B.VIII.1 below, and Renzikowski §§ 83, 89).”


Translation by Matthias Lehmann. Research Project Germany. I would like to thank Dr. Frommel for her permission to translate her article, and Frans van Rossum for his excellent comments on the first drafts of this translation. Every effort has been made to translate this article verbatim. As a result, the wording may appear unusual on some occasions. The photos above did not appear in the original article. Footnote A1 was added for further clarification.

The German original of this article was first published as “Prostitution: Jenseits des Bevormundungsfeminismus” at NovoArgumente (November 24th, 2014). Please note that the copyright for this article lies with Dr. Monika Frommel and is not licensed under a Creative Commons License.


Further Reading

A law to protect society from an imaginary evil – Includes a full translation of the Key Issues Paper for a Law to Protect Those Working in Prostitution (Prostitutes Protection Law, ProstSchG)

“Moralising Law”: Reform Proposals for the German Prostitution Act – Interview with Fabienne Freymadl, Political Spokeswoman for the Professional Organisation for Erotic and Sexual Services (Berufsverband erotische und sexuelle Dienstleistungen, BesD)

More Rights For Victims of Human Trafficking – Interview with Heike Rabe, Policy Advisor at the German Institute for Human Rights (Deutsches Institut für Menschenrechte)

Lies & Truths about the German Prostitution Act – An Introduction for the Uninitiated

“I thought it was all different!” – Video highlights from a symposium about the German Prostitution Act in December 2013, where Dr. Frommel was among the panellists


December 17th Video Campaign by Voice4Sexworkers

December 17th – International Day To End Violence against Sex Workers

“This video is meant to symbolize and show the diversity in sex work. Talk TO us not just about us. #StigmaKills and thats why we are all fighting for more rights and against violence, criminalization and discrimination of sex workers all over the world.” – Voice4Sexworkers, a project by and for sex workers in Germany

“Originally conceptualized by Annie Sprinkle and initiated by the Sex Workers Outreach Project USA as a memorial and vigil for the victims of the Green River Killer in Seattle, Washington, the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers has empowered workers from cities around the world to come together and organize against discrimination and remember victims of violence. During the week of December 17th, sex worker rights organizations and their allies stage actions and vigils to raise awareness about violence that is commonly committed against sex workers.” – SWOP-USA

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Лъжи и истини за германския закон за проституцията

Please click here to read the English version of “Lies & Truths about the German Prostitution Act”. Se il vous plaît cliquez ici pour lire la version française de “Mensonges & Vérités autour de la Loi Allemande sur la Prostitution”. Clicca qui per leggere la versione italiana di “La Legge Tedesca sulla Prostituzione: Bugie e Verità”.

Въведение за незапознатите

Stamp from Deutsche Post AG from 2001, Pinocchio Source Wiki CommonsМитовете, които циркулират за германското законодателство за проституцията са идеален пример за това как когато повтаряш една лъжа многократно, тя започва да бъде приемана за „истина”. И тъй като противниците на проституцията и някои политици от други държави често използват Германия като пример за уж провала на легализацията на проституцията, списъкът по-долу разглежда някои от често срещаните твърдения за германския Закон за проституцията от 2002 година. Списъкът съвсем не е изчерпателен и информираните читатели няма да открият в него нищо ново. Единствената му цел е да предостави доказателства, които оборват погрешните представи и лъжите, които за съжаление твърде често се появяват в медиите и други източници.

Лъжа: Германия легализира проституцията през 2002 година.

Истина: Проституцията в Германия е легална през по-голямата част от 20ти век. Целта на Закона за проституцията от 2002 г. (ProstG) е да подобри юридическото и социалното положение на проституиращите и да премахне съществуващата дотогава представа за проституцията като нарушение на обществения ред. (more…)


“La Riforma della legge sulla prostituzione non protegge i lavoratori del sesso, vuole proteggere la società dalla prostituzione”- Intervista a Tanja dell’associazione lavoratori del sesso BesD

Sex workers protest in Nuremberg, August 2014. Photo by Voice4Sexworkers. All Rights Reserved.

“La vostra protezione è oppression” Nel mese di Agosto 2014, i lavoratori del sesso hanno protestato a Norimberga in Baviera, quando il Ministro della Famiglia Manuela Schwesig, principale promotore della riforma della legge sulla prostituzione in Germania, ha visitato un centro di consulenza per i lavoratori del sesso. Foto di Voice4Sexworkers

Questa intervista è di Arianna G. per la rivista Kaufmich, una pubblicazione per escort e clienti. Please click here to read the English version of “Interview with Tanja from sex worker association BesD”.

Tanja Sommer è escort e attivista per i diritti dei lavoratori del sesso

Ariane: Quanti anni hai e dove abiti?

Tanja: Ho vissuto in Baviera negli ultimi dieci anni, in una bella zona dell’Alto Palatinato, a Regensburg, per l’esattezza. Ho 53 anni, questa è la mia età reale, probabilmente non sono la escort più giovane, ma non posso lamentarmi di mancanza di interesse da parte degli uomini.

Ariane: Da quando lavori come escort?

Tanja: Ho fatto le mie prime esperienze otto anni e mezzo fa, e da otto anni sto lavorando in modo indipendente.

Ariane: Hai avuto esperienze con diversi tipi di lavoro sessuale?

Tanja: Anzitutto io sono curiosa, inoltre fin dall’inizio ho conosciuto via Internet altri colleghi, così ho potuto visitare e provare diversi luoghi di lavoro. Qualche volta ho anche scritto dei rapporti su quei luoghi. Ho iniziato in un salone di massaggio in un appartamento, ho fatto “outcalls” in case private e alberghi,ho lavorato come escort con il sito escortservice, poi ho lavorato in un appartamento che ho arredato insieme ad altre colleghe. Ad un certo punto ho voluto conoscere di persona quelli che avevo incontrato su Internet e così sono andata da loro per vedere come era il lavoro in altri contesti. Ho lavorato in una casa privata, la “Susie” a Pirmasens, che è ancora una delle più belle location che io abbia mai visto. Ci sono appartamenti condivisi da diverse colleghe e da una signora, oppure si possono affittare singoli appartamenti per conto proprio.

Volevo anche conoscere i club, dal momento che Nasti, un collega, stava lavorando in uno di questi, così sono andata più volte al Sakura a Böblingen, e una volta al Paradise di Leinfeld-Echterdingen [nei pressi di Stoccarda], una volta sono anche andata al famigerato Pussyclub a Fellbach. Per me è stato molto educativo . Attraverso i colloqui con le colleghe e le intuizioni che ho avuto, ho cambiato la mia opinione sui club a tariffa forfettaria. Ho anche dato un’occhiata ai Laufhäuser e ho affittato una camera. Nel corso del tempo ho trovato la mia nicchia, e ora sto lavorando quasi esclusivamente come escort o faccio outcalls negli alberghi. Quando sono a casa, i clienti possono farmi visita nel mio grazioso appartamento e passarci la notte. (more…)


“Prostitution law reform won’t protect sex workers but intends to protect society from prostitution” – Interview with Tanja from sex worker association BesD

Sex workers protest in Nuremberg, August 2014. Photo by Voice4Sexworkers. All Rights Reserved.

“Your protection is oppression” – In August 2014, sex workers protested in Nuremberg, Bavaria, as Family Minister Manuela Schwesig, chief proponent of toughening Germany’s prostitution law, visited a counselling centre for sex workers.  | Photo: Voice4Sexworkers

This interview was conducted by Ariane G. and published at Kaufmich magazine, a social network for escorts and their clients. Clicca qui per leggere la versione italiana di “Intervista a Tanja dell’associazione lavoratori del sesso BesD”. 

Tanja Sommer, Escort and Sex Workers’ Rights Activist

Ariane: How old are you and where do you live?

Tanja: I‘ve lived in Bavaria for the last ten years, in the metropolis of the beautiful Upper Palatinate (Oberpfalz), in Regensburg, to be exact. At 53, that’s my actual age, I am probably not the youngest escort anymore, but I can’t complain over any lack of interest from men.

Ariane: Since when do you work as an escort?

Tanja: I made my first experiences eight and a half years ago, and since eight years I am working independently.

Ariane: Do you have experiences with different types of sex work?

Tanja: Since I’m curious, and also because I’ve tried from the start to network with colleagues via the Internet, I visited and tried out different work places. Sometimes, I also wrote reports about them. I started at a massage parlour in an apartment, I did outcalls to private homes and hotels, worked as an escort via escortservice23, and then I worked on a daily basis at an apartment of es23, which I decorated together with other colleagues. At some point I wanted to get to know colleagues in person whom I had met over the Internet and so I drove to their work places to see how the work was in other settings. I worked at a private house, the “Susie” in Pirmasens, and that’s still one of the nicest locations I’ve ever seen. There are apartments shared by several colleagues and a madam, or you can also rent single apartments on your own.

I also wanted to get to know clubs, since Nasti, a colleague, was working in one, so I went several times to the Sakura in Böblingen, and once to the Paradise in Leinfeld-Echterdingen [near Stuttgart], and I also went to the “notorious” Pussyclub in Fellbach once. It was very educational for me. Through the talks with my colleagues there and the insights I got, I changed my opinion about flat rate clubs. I’ve also taken a look at Laufhäuser [walk through brothels] and rented a room there. But over time, I found my own niche, and now I am almost exclusively working as an escort or do outcalls at hotels. When I’m at home, clients can visit me at my nice apartment or stay overnight.

Ariane: Since when are you involved in the sex workers’ rights movement?

Tanja: It started around 2007. At first, I was a moderator at sexworker.at [an online forum by and for sex workers in German-speaking countries] and then in forums for clients.

Ariane: Why did you get involved?

Tanja: When I notice that things aren’t right, I can’t keep my mouth shut, and I don’t just talk but try to really change things. Providing sexual services was a big chance for me to work independently and successfully on my own terms, and it allowed me to work with a flexible schedule. There were frequent misunderstanding between colleagues and clients, and there were arguments and certain social interactions that I found unacceptable. That’s why I tried to allow people insights into my and our world and everyday experiences, and I think it made a real impact. I have always stood by my colleagues, when I felt they were treated unfairly and couldn’t defend themselves. Already back in 2007, I felt that things started to change for the worse, and it was my opinion that if we don’t join forces to establish our own rules, then we will end up getting regulated from above. But that would happen through people who have no insights and no connection to our work and therefore can’t empathise with us.

I tried time and time again to raise awareness for that among my colleagues but it fell on deaf ears. The responses I got were always, “nothing’s going to change”; “I don’t know why you’re so worried”; “that’s so typical German, you want rules for everything”. To be honest, I am not happy that tim proved me right, but I am very glad that in the meantime, many colleagues have come to agree with me and start to stand up for their rights, even if it’s just with a passive membership at the Trade Association erotic and sexual Services [BesD]. Finally we got a voice, and we are being listened to, even if it means an incredible amount of work and personal commitment, as I know all too well as one of the board members.

The Government’s Prostitution Law Reform Proposals

Ariane: What is your opinion about the proposals for the reform of the Prostitution Act laid out in the key issue paper?

Tanja: I fear that it’s only the tip of the iceberg, because a key issue paper is nothing but a preliminary statement about which points the ruling parties are already in agreement and do not wish to discuss any further. In my opinion, the public and the media should pay very close attention, as otherwise nobody will take notice when it comes to the actual bill proposal, and then it will just get rubberstamped in the parliament. I can’t shake the feeling that there’s more in store for us, which they haven’t even mentioned yet. Many points fail to take our everyday work experience into account, and contrary to what politicians loudly proclaim, they won’t do anything to protect us but will only serve to render our work impossible.

“Mandatory registration” and “mandatory notification” – they intentionally use terms that the average Jane and Joe know and accept as good. That’s why they don’t think about it and eagerly shout “Yes, that’s good, everybody has to do that anyway”. This isn’t the same, however, as citizens or self-employed people having to register with authorities. It actually attempts to make sex workers the first workers engaged in a legal occupation that have to register with the police of their home town. They promise to protect our data but my personal experience tells me that that isn’t even happening today!

We are also supposed to receive a “whore pass”, which we will then have to present to inspectors, operators, police officers and clients. Mandatory notification also doesn’t mean to give notice to tax authorities, because that is already mandatory. In the future, we are supposed to give notice to the local police station whenever we leave our home town to work elsewhere, announce where we plan to work next, give notice to the police at the new location when we arrive and inform them how long we intend to stay, and then report back once we are back home. The way it is planned now this would apply for all sexual service providers, regardless if they are escorts, street-based sex workers, work at a Laufhaus [walk through brothel], club or any other venue. We could go through all the points of the key issues paper in that way, but I suppose it would go beyond the scope of this interview.

Ariane: Could you get used to that? What do you criticise?

Tanja: No, I cannot get used to that. Apart from the prohibition of advertising unsafe practices like AO [‘Alles ohne’: ‘everything without (condom)’], the reform won’t serve to protect us, as is claimed, but intends to expand the rights of the police and to protect society from prostitution. The intention is to curb prostitution. There’s no differentiation made between visible prostitution and that which occurs in private, and no attention is paid to the different needs that arise from them. They create obstacles that will make it impossible for many of us to work legally, which in turn will criminalise those who simply cannot afford to register without having to fear consequences, e.g. single mothers or women who have a main job elsewhere, and so they will be forced to work without protection or quit.

These measures will foster the very circumstances they are supposed to prevent. They will create a parallel universe where you have to pay for your protection, including protection from the police, and they will create dependencies that no woman wants. What really annoys me is how human trafficking is understood as exclusively occurring in the context of sex work, and that prostitution regulation is expected to fight human trafficking. In other industries, exploitation is tacitly accepted and even promoted: in care, agriculture, industry, temporary employment, 1-Euro-Jobs, low-wage labour and so on.

Reform proposals by sex workers

Ariane: What would be the ideal legal situation to regulate sex work?

Tanja: First of all, sex work must be decriminalised, and then more needs to be done to further destigmatise our work. Sex work has to be accepted as a freelance occupation, and there’s a need for a nuanced view of the different types of sex work to find regulations that serve to improve the work and living conditions of sex workers in their respective circumstances. Off-limit zones must be abolished and only be discussed as pragmatic solutions if there are problems with visible prostitution, and local residents, sex workers, operators and politicians have to be involved in those discussions.

There might be a possibility for contractual employment at flat rate clubs, massage parlours, at agencies and perhaps where sexual assistance is concerned, but it shouldn’t be mandatory. Sexual service providers must have the right to decide whether they wish to enter a contractual employment or prefer to work as freelancers. In all other types of sex work, contractual employments are impossible without impeding the mobility of sex workers and forcing them to remain at one location, even if they don’t want to. In addition, any future law needs to be a federal law that the federal states [Bundesländer] are required to fully implement. Otherwise, we’ll see more of the arbitrariness of the authorities in each of the states. Just look at Munich: the city refused from the very start to implement the Prostitution Act of 2002 and declared 97% of the city as off-limit zone.

Sex workers must be involved as experts in negotiations over any expansion of the Prostitution Act. The different concepts need to be clearly defined in advance so that everyone is working on the same basis. The federal government must provide funds to expand free health consultations for sexually active people – not just for sex workers and clients, but anyone who frequently changes sex partners.

Roundtables must be established regularly in all federal states and involve experts. Occupational counselling for newcomers and programmes for job reorientation must receive funding, too. As the hurdles to enter statutory health insurance schemes are too high for most freelancers, I advocate for the introduction of a social welfare office for freelancers to enable them to get health and pension insurance. There’s a long and difficult path ahead of us but that shouldn’t dissuade us from pursuing and shaping it.

Ariane: Thank you very much for the interview. I wish you a lot of strength for the tasks ahead.


Tanja Sommer is a sex worker and a board member of German sex worker organisation Trade Association erotic and sexual Services (BesD). She tweets at @TanjaBesD and can be reached via email at tanja[at]berufsverband-sexarbeit.de. You can follow the BesD on Twitter and Facebook. Ariane G. is a former sex worker and an advocate for sex workers’ rights. She tweets at @hauptstadtdiva. Voice4Sexworkers is a project by and for sex workers and anyone interest to learn more about sex work. You can follow V4S on Twitter and Facebook. Translation by Matthias Lehmann. Some links were added. Click here to view the German original.


“There are already trade laws in place to take action against exploitation” – Interview with Theo from sex worker association Hydra e.V.

Sex worker protest in Berlin - Photo by Hydra e.V.Sex workers at the 2014 “Freedom Not Fear” demonstration in Berlin | Photo: BesD + Hydra e.V.

This interview was conducted by Ariane G. and published at Kaufmich magazine, a social network for escorts and their clients.

Statutory permission

Ariane: Statutory permissions are planned to be designed in accordance with other statutory permissions under trade law. Why do you hold a general obligation to notify as sufficient?

Theo: Politicians want to push through the highest possible requirements. But there are already trade laws in place to take action against exorbitant rents and exploitation. There’s no need for statutory permission requirements. For apartments, where only a small number of [sexual service] providers work together, it would presumably be very difficult to satisfy stringent requirements.

Working conditions

Ariane: From the point of view of sex worker organisations, what would contribute to improving working conditions?

Theo: We are currently working on proposals. The Professional Association [erotic and sexual Services, BesD] is developing proposals suited to the different types of work places where sex work takes place. The question is how to make those conditions legally binding and where to enshrine occupational safety measures.

Prohibition of flat rate and gang bang sex

Ariane: Why prohibit flat rate and gang bang sex and what are the arguments? Why do people think that those forms endanger or nullify one’s right to sexual self-determination? What is the opinion of sex worker organisations about this?

Theo: Sex workers don’t hold a unified view on this subject matter. I know of colleagues, where the flat rate model can well be positive. First of all, it’s a different payment model, where sex workers aren’t paid per customer but per day, and that is not coercive per se. In this respect, prohibiting it was populist and doesn’t serve to improve working conditions. Of course breaks have to be guaranteed and operators must not be allowed to dictate that a sex worker has to service all customers. However, no labour rights standards have been established. Sex workers usually work on a self-employed basis, which makes sense since [sex work] is a highly individual service provision, which is where there is and must be only a limited right of direction [Weisungsrecht].

Mandatory condom use

Ariane: Where do you stand on the proposal to prohibit advertising unprotected sex and promote safer sex?

Theo: At the Professional Association [BesD], there’s a certain amount of sympathy for a prohibition of such adverts to counter such developments in AO [“everything without”] portals. A law prescribing mandatory condom use, however, would be absurd since there’s no way to control it. We are firmly rejecting this. [Sex] education is more meaning- and respectful. It is a challenge, however, to reach those sex workers, who only work over the internet, with such services. So far, there are mainly outreach programmes and services offered by health authorities, which don’t quite manage to reach those people. There are no ready-made concepts for that yet.

Ariane: At Kaufmich, we already try to promote safer sex practices by introducing the Safer Sex Button [on escorts’ profile pages]. How can awareness be raised that using condoms for oral sex is also part of practicing safer sex?

Theo: Even if safer sex was enforced on Kaufmich via prohibiting adverts [for unsafe practices], closed forums will continue to exist, where one can exchange information about service providers who work unsafely. It’s important to educate people about which practices carry what type of risks. Sex workers should make informed decisions for themselves.

Forced registration

Ariane: The municipal registration of sex workers across all sectors and segments of the industry is also part of the key issues paper. Which authority – maybe even the police? – is supposed to control sex workers? What do you think about the stigmatising special treatment, which could be used to create comprehensive motion profiles of sex workers?

Theo: We expect that many colleagues won’t get registered, especially those, that haven’t outed themselves. The risks that come along with [forced registration] are difficult to gauge. The protection of such sensitive data is not guaranteed. Many will probably work illegally. In Austria, there is a police registration and a majority of sex workers is registered, especially migrants probably because they are afraid to be deported otherwise. Austrian sex workers look for a niche where they can work. It remains to be seen in how far the stamp has negative consequences later, when they want to stop sex work.


Theo is chairwoman of the board of sex worker association Hydra e.V. You can follow Hydra on Facebook. Ariane G. is a former sex worker and an advocate for sex workers’ rights. She tweets at @hauptstadtdiva. Translation by Matthias Lehmann. Click here to view the German original.


Il Ministro Barbara Steffens: “Non si può vietare la prostituzione – Rafforzare i diritti dei lavoratori del sesso”

Roundtable Prostitution hands over Final Report © MGEPA NRW 2014Claudia Zimmermann-Schwartz (a destra), Presidente della Tavola Rotonda sulla prostituzione in Nord Reno-Westfalia (NRW), consegna la Relazione Finale al Ministro Barbara Steffens (a sinistra).
© MGEPA NRW 2014 [Il Nord Reno-Westfalia è lo Stato più popoloso della Germania e il quarto per estensione.]

Please click here to read the English version of “Roundtable Prostitution presents Final Report”.

La Tavola Rotonda sulla Prostituzione ha presentato la Relazione Finale

Comunicato Stampa

Il Ministero della Salute, Cura,Uguaglianza e Terza Eta’ (MGEPA) del Nord Reno-Westfalia ha annunciato:

Con la consegna della Relazione Finale al Ministro Barbara Steffens, la “Tavola Rotonda sulla Prostituzione in Nord Reno-Westfalia” ha concluso il suo mandato. In quasi 100 pagine, il Rapporto documenta un’analisi completa della materia e riassume le posizioni su questioni politicamente controverse. Il Rapporto fa luce sulle diverse forme di prostituzione e presta particolare attenzione ai cambiamenti dinamici del mercato.

Un quadro senza precedenti a livello nazionale

“Non si può proibire la prostituzione e la prostituzione non è un lavoro come un altro. Coloro che vogliono svolgere questo lavoro devono essere in grado di farlo in condizioni costituzionali e umane”, ha dichiarato il ministro Steffens l’8 ottobre 2014 dopo aver ricevuto il Rapporto. “In un modo senza precedenti a livello nazionale, la Tavola Rotonda sulla Prostituzione ha raccolto un enorme patrimonio di conoscenze che fornirà un prezioso impulso, non solo per l’attuale dibattito sulla riforma della legge sulla prostituzione. Una cosa è chiara: i problemi esistenti non saranno risolti dalla stigmatizzazione e dai divieti. E’ necessaria, invece, un’analisi differenziata”, ha aggiunto Steffens.

“Innumerevoli miti, luoghi comuni e pregiudizi sulla prostituzione, che tutti abbiamo nella nostra testa, ostacolano un approccio imparziale alla materia. Seguendo la Tavola Rotonda abbiamo cominciato ad esserne consapevoli”, ha detto Claudia Zimmermann-Schwartz, presidente della Tavola Rotonda. “Inizialmente, alla presenza del Capo del Dipartimento per gli Affari delle Donne, non è stato facile ascoltare gli operatori di bordelli o anche solo invitare i clienti [dei lavoratori del sesso] per le sessioni. Ma il nostro obiettivo era quello di condurre un dibattito etico basato sulla conoscenza, e di parlare con la gente del mondo della prostituzione,e non su di loro”, ha aggiunto Zimmermann-Schwartz .

14 sessioni e oltre 70 esperti

La Tavola Rotonda è nata a seguito di una delibera del Governo dello Stato [del Nord Reno-Vestfalia], adottata il 14 dicembre 2010. Nel corso di 14 sessioni sono stati ascoltati oltre 70 esperti. Il quadro era composto da personale dei ministeri competenti, dei centri di consulenza,dai Consigli locali e da due prostitute. (more…)


Minister Barbara Steffens: “One cannot prohibit prostitution – Strengthening sex workers’ rights”

Roundtable Prostitution hands over Final Report © MGEPA NRW 2014Claudia 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) +++

Press Release

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.

[1] The Roundtable Prostition. Final Report – Mandate, Challenges and Outcomes [English] (new)

[2] The Roundtable Prostition. Final Report – Mandate, Challenges and Outcomes [German]

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.


La Legge Tedesca sulla Prostituzione: Bugie e Verità

Please click here to read the English version of “Lies & Truths about the German Prostitution Act”. Se il vous plaît cliquez ici pour lire la version française de “Mensonges & Vérités autour de la Loi Allemande sur la Prostitution”. Моля, кликнете тук, за да прочетете българската версия на “лъжи и истини за германския закон за проституцията”.

Un’introduzione per chi non lo sapesse

Stamp from Deutsche Post AG from 2001, Pinocchio Source Wiki CommonsI miti che circolano intorno alla legge sulla prostituzione tedesca sono un perfetto esempio di come le bugie e le falsità vengano accettate come “verità” quando siano continuamente ripetute. Tenuto conto che vari politici e attivisti anti-prostituzione in molti paesi spesso citano la Germania come esempio di fallimento della legalizzazione del lavoro sessuale, esamineremo qui alcune di queste più comuni false affermazioni. L’elenco non vuole essere esaustivo e i bene informati non vi troveranno nulla di nuovo. Il suo unico scopo è quello di ribadire le contraddizioni che si generano dalle idee sbagliate, che purtroppo continuano ad essere sistematicamente ripetute dai media.

Bugia: Il lavoro sessuale è stato legalizzato in Germania nel 2002.

Verità: Il lavoro sessuale è stato in condizione di legalità in Germania per la maggior parte del XX° secolo. L’obiettivo della legge sulla prostituzione del 2002 (ProstG) era quello di migliorare i diritti sociali e giuridici dei lavoratori del sesso. Con la riforma è stata inoltre abolita la nozione preesistente per la quale la prostituzione costituiva una violazione della pubblica moralità. (more…)


Mensonges & Vérités autour de la Loi Allemande sur la Prostitution

Please click here to read the English version of “Lies & Truths about the German Prostitution Act”. Clicca qui per leggere la versione italiana di “La Legge Tedesca sulla Prostituzione: Bugie e Verità”. Моля, кликнете тук, за да прочетете българската версия на “лъжи и истини за германския закон за проституцията”.

Une introduction pour les non-initiés

Stamp from Deutsche Post AG from 2001, Pinocchio Source Wiki CommonsLes mythes qui circulent sur ​​la législation allemande sur la prostitution sont un parfait exemple de la façon dont les mensonges et les idées fausses deviennent acceptées comme des «vérités», si seulement elles se répètent assez souvent. Puisque les acteurs politiques et les militants anti-prostitution de nombreux pays citent fréquemment l’Allemagne comme un exemple où la légalisation du travail du sexe a prétendument échoué, la liste suivante se penchera sur certaines des affirmations communes faites au sujet de la loi allemande sur la prostitution de 2002. La liste est en aucun cas exhaustive et les lecteurs bien informés ne trouveront rien de nouveau. Son seul but est de réaffirmer les preuves pour contredire les idées reçues, qui trouvent malheureusement leur chemin dans d’innombrables rapports de médias encore et encore.

Mensonge: Le travail du sexe a été légalisé en Allemagne en 2002.

Vérité: Le travail du sexe a été légal en Allemagne pour la plupart du 20e siècle. L’objectif de la loi sur la prostitution de 2002 (ProstG) était d’améliorer les droits sociaux et juridiques des travailleurSEs du sexe. Elle a également supprimé la notion préexistante que la prostitution constituait une violation aux mœurs publiques. (more…)


Lies & Truths about the German Prostitution Act

An Introduction for the Uninitiated

Stamp from Deutsche Post AG from 2001, Pinocchio Source Wiki CommonsThe myths that circulate about German prostitution legislation are a perfect example of how lies and misconceptions become accepted as “truths” if only they are repeated often enough. Since political actors and anti-prostitution activists in many countries frequently cite Germany as an example where the legalisation of sex work has allegedly failed, the following list will look at some of the common claims made about the German Prostitution Act of 2002. The list is by no means exhaustive and well-informed readers will find nothing new in it. Its sole purpose is to reiterate evidence to contradict the common misconceptions, which sadly find their way into countless media reports time and time again.

+++ Please note: This article is about the Prostitution Act (ProstG) of 2002. For information about the so-called “Prostitutes Protection Act” (ProstSchG) of 2017, please read the briefing paper “Professed Protection, Pointless Provisions – Overview of the German Prostitutes Protection Act” by the International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe (ICRSE).  +++

Lie: Sex work was legalised in Germany in 2002.

Truth: Sex work was legal in Germany for most of the 20th century. The goal of the Prostitution Act of 2002 (ProstG) was to improve the social and legal rights of sex workers. It also removed the previously existing notion that prostitution constituted a violation of public mores.

Lie: Pimping is legal in Germany.

Truth: The exploitation of sex workers and pimping, i.e. “controlling prostitution” (Zuhälterei), are illegal in Germany under Section 180a and 181a of the German Criminal Code (StGB) and punishable by imprisonment of up to three and five years respectively.

+++ Please note: The above lie was added later and is not included in versions of this article in other languages. +++

Lie: The Prostitution Act gives brothel operators the right to determine (Weisungsrecht) which clients sex workers must accept and what sexual practices sex workers must perform.

Truth: Brothel operators only have a restricted right of direction (managerial authority; eingeschränktes Weisungsrecht) which allows them to assign the work place or schedule only.

Lie: Only 44 sex workers in Germany are registered with the national insurance scheme.

Truth: The German government’s evaluation report showed that 86.9% of the sex workers who participated in the survey had health insurance. While a lesser number paid old-age pension contributions, this was connected to factors like the length of time sex workers intended to stay in the industry or individuals’ needs for security.

And where those ’44’ are concerned: as the evaluation report by the German government outlined, sex workers consider as main obstacles the uncertainty whether or not labour contracts would actually provide any social and material benefits for them, and to what extent they might be faced with unexpected disadvantages. Only a very small proportion definitely wanted a contract of employment, but the majority more or less rejected the idea of a contract. They feared that if they concluded a contract of employment, they would lose their sexual autonomy as well as their ability to themselves determine when and where they want to work. Other obstacles were the fear that they would lose their anonymity and the negative social consequences that would possibly arise if their line of work was revealed. Thus, sex workers do not disclose their occupation to insurance companies or authorities but instead register with other occupations.

Lie: Job Centres can force job seekers to take up sex work.

Truth: Conditions for taking on “reasonable work” do not mean that the unemployed will be placed in jobs or measures to integrate them in prostitution. Media reports suggesting otherwise are incorrect.

Lie: Human trafficking for sexual exploitation has increased since the adoption of the Prostitution Act.

Truth: Despite greater activities by the police, the annually compiled situation reports by the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) show no significant increase in the number of persons trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation that would indicate an expansion of the phenomenon as a result of the prostitution law taking effect.

In the year 2003, one year after the adoption of the Prostitution Act, the BKA registered altogether 1,235 persons presumed to have been trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation, an isolated spike in numbers compared to previous and following years. Ever since 2004, the annual average is 654: 926 cases (2000), 987 (2001), 811 (2002), 1,235 (2003), 972 (2004), 642 (2005), 775 (2006), 689 (2007), 676 (2008), 710 (2009), 610 (2010), 640 (2011), 612 (2012), 542 (2013), 557 (2014), and 416 in 2015.

Persons presumed to have been trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation

Persons presumed to have been trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation
Source: Situation Reports by the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), 2000-2015

Although figures fluctuate from year to year, it still represents a certifiable decline of over 66% since 2003. As the government already stated in 2013, from a quantitative viewpoint, the risk potential of human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation in Germany is limited. What did increase, however, is the number of media reports about human trafficking, and thus the impression that the phenomenon itself increased. In this context, one should also note the police’s high clearance rates of crimes against sexual self-determination (rape and sexual coercion) and against life (murder and manslaughter), the former consistently above 80%, the latter around 95% or higher (BKA data from 2008 to 2015).

+++ Please note: The above paragraphs have been updated to include the most recent available data. Versions of this article in other languages do not include this update. +++

Lie: The German Prostitution Act has failed.

Truth: The Prostitution Act of 2002 has not been evenly implemented in Germany’s federal states and more often than not is circumvented by using by-laws. As Rebecca Pates states, “the [Prostitution Act] might in fact have the distinction of being the only federal law intentionally not implemented by Germany’s public administration”. A law that isn’t implemented cannot fail. QED.


Please note: there is certainly further evidence to counter the above claims. For the purpose of this rather general introduction, sources were limited to the government’s evaluation report, the annual reports by the Federal Crime Office, one academic article, and one blog article. Please leave a comment below if you wish to know more about any of the above or any additional points.


Se il vous plaît cliquez ici pour lire la version française de “Mensonges & Vérités autour de la Loi Allemande sur la Prostitution”. Clicca qui per leggere la versione italiana di “La Legge Tedesca sulla Prostituzione: Bugie e Verità”. Моля, кликнете тук, за да прочетете българската версия на “лъжи и истини за германския закон за проституцията”.


Recommended Reading

Roundtable Prostitution presents Final Report

Interview with Heike Rabe, Policy Advisor at the German Institute for Human Rights


Black is the new Red*

Subject of dispute: Brothel in Dachau (Photo: dpa)

Subject of dispute: Brothel in Dachau (Photo: dpa)

The below is a summary of an article by Benjamin Emonts that appeared in German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, provided here as an update to the previous post Cities lose legal battles against prostitution businesses. (*Black is the customary colour of Germany’s two main conservative parties, the Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social Union.)

Conservatives involved in construction of brothel in Dachau

For several months, questions were raised over the construction of a nudist club (FKK-Club) in East Dachau, Bavaria, which will include rooms where sex workers can offer sexual services. It has now come to light that local Conservative politicians and elected representatives from the Christian Social Union (CSU) are in fact involved in its construction: developer and acting city councillor Wolfgang Moll; electrician and previous city councillor Helmut Erhorn; and architect and CSU candidate for the city council Heidi Lewald. Their involvement became known after repeated requests by deputy mayor Kai Kühnel over missing project signs at the site. Although they have now been mounted, they remain out of sight at a hidden entrance door of the brothel at Ohmstraße 5.

Architect Heidi Lewald confirmed to Süddeutsche Zeitung that she knew all along that the building was going to be used as a brothel. “It was just another job”, she said, before she abruptly ended the telephone conversation.

Previous CSU city councillor Helmut Erhorn said, “What’s wrong with it? In my view, the building will be terrific: a beautiful sauna area, a whirlpool to relax – it’s gonna be the most beautiful establishment in Dachau, if they let us build it.”

In light of the ongoing public debate about the brothel, it remains unclear why the local politicians didn’t make their stakes in the project known earlier. According to Helmut Erhorn, the city knew about the brothel even before he and his partners did. “The city knew from the very beginning what was going to be built there.”

According to deputy mayor Kai Kühnel, he had requested information about the alleged construction of the brothel several times during meetings of the planning and building committee, in the presence of city councillor Wolfgang Moll.

Moll told the Süddeutsche Zeitung: “The speculations circled around the construction of a [new] brothel spanning several thousand square metres. That is why I didn’t make the connection to the site at Ohmstraße 5.” The construction was “just another job”, he said, which was approved by the city. “I am not obliged to shout it from the rooftops. The red light milieu is a sensitive subject. I am aware that one needs to be careful with the subject in our commune.”

The reconstruction of the existing brothel at Ohmstraße 5 was approved by the city of Dachau, confirms the city’s head of urban development Michael Simon, who, like Moll, didn’t believe the discussions were connected to the construction at Ohmstraße 5 but with a project of a much larger magnitude. He felt, that no further discussions were necessary.

Dachau fights against brothels

The city of Dachau, however, just fought a legal battle against the constructors of the building, as it feared that the operators could use more than the five approved rooms for prostitution. The city is concerned that this could lead to a “trading down effect” for the entire business area, where six brothels exist already.

Subsequently, the city tried to demand that the operators were only permitted to use the five approved rooms for prostitution. The administrative court rejected the demand, as it found that the city was not permitted to use planning laws to dictate how many rooms the operators may or may not use for prostitution.

Deputy mayor Kai Kühnel commented: “Everybody has to make a decision how to earn their money.” He described the fact that as many as three politicians from the Christian Social Union were involved in the project as “a little amusing”. Christa Keimel, faction leader of the local chapter of the Social Democrats, felt the story left an aftertaste. “The involvement of the CSU amazes me somewhat.”

So far, the local chapter of the CSU hasn’t discussed the fact that three of its members are involved in the construction of a brothel. That could still change, however. Local chairman Tobias Stephan commented, if members felt the need for it, the matter could be discussed.


Guest Post: “The Talking Whore”

Reflections about Sex Work, Solidarity and Political Efficacy

After the Conference “Fantasies That Matter – Images of Sex Work in Media and Art”

I am a sex worker from Berlin and for the last two years, I’ve been an active participant in the sex workers’ rights movement. Fighting against the tightening of Germany’s prostitution legislation, which thankfully was relatively liberal so far, is crucial for me. On the weekend from August 8-10, I attended the conference “Fantasies That Matter – Images of Sex Work in Media and Art”, part of the International Summer Festival at Kampnagel in Hamburg.

As a sex worker activist, I am particularly concerned with and unhappy about the presence and lopsidedness of the prostitution myths, which are reproduced by the media. Ever since I began to engage in political work, I realised that the methodical dissemination of horror scenarios about sexual services is the main obstacle to my political goals. The public as well as the political actors, with whom we negotiate, including those who are progressive, seem to be entirely fact-resistant when faced with rational arguments, because an emotionally charged myth, exclusively fed by propaganda lies, has replaced factual analyses.

That is why I was very glad when I learnt about the “Fantasies That Matter” event. Last year, I participated and co-organised various political events by sex workers; I’m a member of the newly founded professional organisation for sex workers; I previously managed a network for sex workers myself; and I also attend a regular get-together of sex workers in Berlin. Sex worker-only spaces are essential and irreplaceable.

Images of Sex Work in Media and Art

The conference “Fantasies That Matter” was a continuation of the initiative of Missy Magazine, which greatly contributed to a more differentiated journalistic examination of the subject throughout the last year. The organisers managed to put together a cultural-scientific, political, and artistic event and embed it into the summer festival at Kampnagel, a renowned venue for cultural, dance, and theatre events. For a whole weekend, the focus was given to images of sex work in media and art.

The conference marked the first time that dominant discourses about sex work were examined in this way in a public, cultural-scientific setting. The organisers had widely distributed their invitations and the conference pass was free of charge, to reach the widest possible audience. The plan worked and the diverse members of the audience took the opportunity to question their own fantasies and projections about sex work.

I was especially grateful for the opportunity to experience pioneers of the sex workers’ rights movement live and get to know them. The memory of the encounters with Annie Sprinkle and Carol Leigh will stay with me for a long time.

In addition, there were further sex workers present on stage, delivering both speeches and performances. Some of the speeches were a little cumbersome and quite a bit distant from my own reality as a sex worker. Then again, it was the very subject of this event to look at the images that exist of my occupation, which often have little or nothing at all to do with reality.

The fact that the event was almost entirely held in English wasn’t ideal, as some of the contributions and debates were so complex, that even those with a good command of the English language had difficulties to catch it all.

Nevertheless: the conference was extremely informative and gave me new perspectives on the fatal, argumentative link between human trafficking and prostitution that is material to current debates.

The myth of the whore who gets abducted against her will – she’s almost always female – disqualifies her as an agent whose decisions need to be respected. One of the purposes of the so-called “rescue industry” is to deport people back to their native countries – “in their very best interest”.

The whore who speaks for herself, on the other hand, and who doesn’t submit to the victim discourse, is taboo. She is ignored because it is assumed that she is traumatised, abused, unable to judge the circumstances she’s in, she lies, or she’s been bribed or blackmailed by the imaginary pimp lobby. She is losing her status as a human being. If she doesn’t want to be saved, she loses her right of support. She is dangerous for those who oppose prostitution because she could point out that that sex workers are by no means all female or that she considers other measures as important to solve real existing problems, e.g. poverty, legal discrimination, stigmatisation, uncertain residence status, and many more. The talking whore who points out that prohibitions take away the basis of her livelihood without offering a better alternative must not exist. Her demands and her existence threaten the very foundation of bourgeois morality and order.

“Fantasies That Matter” provided plenty of information and good arguments that reminded me again of the nature of the propaganda machine which we are dealing with, and how the political discourse about sex work is embedded into the political order of gender, race, ethnicity and migration policies. I am glad and very grateful for the work of people who have made it their profession to deconstruct these myths.

The work of Annie Sprinkle, for example, is absolutely irreplaceable for the motivation and vision of my own type of sex work. The creative energy with which she lives, performs and spreads her feminist, sex-positive agenda, and how she links radical political activism with art, humour and passion, is time and again a source of inspiration and positive strength for me.

She vividly demonstrated again how very essential solidarity and a broad political basis are for the fight for sex workers’ rights. Among other things, Annie reported how web masters, decorators, people who book sex workers’ appointments and anyone else involved in any promotion of prostitutionrisk jail time in the US, and how there were cases where very high bails were set and these people had to spend time in jail while awaiting bail money. As a German sex worker, I find it almost unconceivable. It made it clear to me, how many cultural differences there are in the movement that I’m a part of, and how much more important it therefore is to demonstrate global solidarity with the whores’ movement.

Annie’s call for general solidarity and for the demystification of the term “sex worker” was met with broad approval from the audience.

At the closing discussion on the final day of the conference, some of my colleagues took the stage, demonstrating with their creative, performative act at this quite theoretical event how to appropriate the discourse – superb!

Only when as many of us as possible speak up and make themselves visible will our diversity ever be perceived.

Aftertaste

After the conference, a massive wave of criticism swept through different blogs and Twitter feeds, which quickly turned into a shitstorm. Although I deem some of the criticism as important and consider it worth discussing, I find the atmosphere in those debates entirely inappropriate, untenable, and destructive.

Therefore, I like to address some of the points of contentions that appeared both during the final discussion and afterwards on social media sites.

Who can call themselves a “whore“? Sex worker – an identity?

The concluding panel discussion sparked a lively debate about the question whether or not it would be appropriate if people called themselves “whore” if they weren’t in fact sex workers themselves.

The debate was triggered by Annie Sprinkle’s call for as many people as possible to demonstrate their solidarity with sex workers who are imprisoned and threatened with repression, and to refer to themselves publicly as “whores”.

The critics, who unfortunately also hit below the belt, feel they need to maintain a sharp division here, and they go as far as to deny Annie Sprinkle her identity as a “real” sex worker. Annie Sprinkle worked for over 20 years in the sex industry and was imprisoned as a result of that. She is now working as an artist using explicit content, and because of that, she is not only threatened with further imprisonment, but also experiences hostility and even murder threats, as her work touches upon deeply ingrained moral taboos.

I can of course understand the argument that there is a difference between experiencing discrimination, violence and persecution because of working as a sex worker, and “simply” feeling and acting in solidarity. I also have no interest in seeing the term “sex worker” become the sort of fashionable or lifestyle term as is by now the case with the term “queer”.

Nevertheless, I believe that in focusing the political debate on maintaining the exclusivity of the term “sex worker”, one loses sight of the political goals of the sex worker movements, and doesn’t support them but weakens them.

By means of an example, I will once again explain how I understand Annie’s appeal and why it makes sense to me.

The conference was an initiative by Missy Magazine, the only German feminist publication that continuously defends the rights for sex workers. As a result, the magazine has lost subscribers, just like anyone in Germany who speaks out in favour of sex workers’ rights instantly loses their legitimacy to call themselves feminists due to the monopoly position of a “vulgar feminism” in Germany that is absolutely hostile to prostitution. In the United States, Missy’s work in solidarity with whores might even be considered as promoting prostitution and result in criminal prosecution. For Annie Sprinkle, this means that their work falls under her expanded definition of the term “sex work”. Therefore, the Missy women were “media whores”.

I also consider conceptualising the term “sex worker” too narrowly as problematic since it is very fragile, for various reasons.

Sex work on its own is not an identity but an occupation, which in most cases, people engage in temporarily. Strictly speaking, people thus permanently acquire and lose that status again.

Many who engage in sex work wouldn’t even call themselves sex workers. They would also not have come to this conference or attend one of the self-organised sex worker conferences. Shying away from labelling oneself a sex worker is deeply connected to the stigma that remains attached to sex work, even in Germany, over ten years after the Prostitution Act has come into force.

I am still hitting brick walls and make myself unpopular here, because I ask tantric masseurs and masseuses to declare themselves to be in solidarity with sex workers and join their movement. There’s a lot of reservation, however, because tantrics don’t wish to be mentioned in the same breath with “common prostitutes”.

In addition, the extent of the stigma follows the usual axes of discrimination: gender, ethnicity, nationality, residence status, age, class, wealth, and beauty, to name just a few.

People of colour with a German passport will make different experiences in a tantric massage parlour than their white counterparts, and both will make different experiences if they worked in a sauna club close to the Czech border. In turn, people without residence permits might not even be able to earn a lot of money in both places but work underground and without protection. But all of them would make entirely different experiences if they worked in countries where selling sexual services is criminalised.

Moreover: what are these sexual services anyway? Does it require penetrative sex? We have come to recognise webcam models, porn actors, strip dancers or erotic masseurs and masseuses as sex workers. In my own work, penetration plays only a minor role, but it falls nevertheless under the Prostitution Act and I consider myself a sex worker. What about the people who predominantly work with sexual energy, lead tantric workshops, or provide sexual assistance? We already know socially recognised occupations that deal with sexuality. In Annie’s view, people in those professions are also sex workers and I share her view.

Which notion of sexuality can a possible definition be based upon? Do we conform to definitions set out in the relevant local legislation? Or shouldn’t we acknowledge that the intensity of the prostitution debate indicates how strong the reactionary force is to maintain control over sexual and reproductive practices and to limit them?

How can we, given how diverse we are, still speak of “we”, and who are “we”?

The experience of the sex work stigma is the foundation of our sex worker community. I believe that if we understand ourselves as a political movement that agitates against this stigma, then it’s crucial to create critical awareness about that in our communities. The more people out themselves and identify as “whores”, the sooner it will become apparent, that sex work exists in the midst of our societies – not at the margins!

Sex workers and clients go to the baker’s, raise children, have relationships and pay taxes. They got friends, lovers, siblings and parents.

It must be evident how diverse “we” are and that the stigma affects some more than others, for various reasons. But I believe what we need above all is solidarity.

The relationship between „allies“ and sex workers – Why solidarity with sex workers is important for everybody

In the internal discussions following the conference the question was raised over the relationships between so-called “allies” and sex workers. The tone in some of these debates really angered me.

If we, as a political movement, do not recognise racism, sexism or the sex work stigma as problems that affect society at large, then a sufficient political force able to make an impact on our societies will never materialise.

Marginalised communities exist at the fringes of societies, but their “problem” affects everyone.

Everyone has the right to explore that, to fight that, to write about that, and to make it the subject of their artistic work!

Moreover, every person who discusses sex work publicly and in a differentiated manner runs the risk of being ostracised, and in some countries they might even get arrested. I can agree or disagree with journalists, I can contradict their assumptions or question their positions. But the reprehension of the so-called “allies” and the speculation about their motives in the debates following the conference seems hair-raising to me.

It can’t be that we silence and deny each other the legitimacy to speak. That is the same kind of censorship that is imposed on us externally. It is a matter of being heard and being visible, especially because we have different things to say.

Research about sex work that doesn’t include sex workers is certainly without foundation. Needless to say, at this conference about images of sex work in media and art, many sex workers were invited and present.

Disrespectful attacks against Carol Leigh, Annie Sprinkle and the initiators of the conference only benefit the enemies of sex work. I appeal to you to not waste any energy on pulling apart our own ranks, because currently, decisions are made that affect the lives of sex workers (and their allies) without including them in any way, not only in the German parliament but also in many other countries.

In this very moment, „whores“ in Germany are losing their status as civil citizens and will soon be forced to register with authorities. I find this alarming and our fighting spirit should be directed against that.

That is why I join in with Annie and Carol and call for: Whore solidarity worldwide.


Kristina Marlen works as a tantric dominatrix in Berlin. She majored in law and physiotherapy before she decided to focus on sex work. She gives sessions and teaches workshops about explorative sexuality. She defines herself as queer. Besides this, she’s a dancer, singer, and performer.

Translation by Matthias Lehmann. Research Project Germany. Every effort has been made to translate this interview verbatim. As a result, the wording may appear unusual on some occasions. A German version of this article is available here.


Cities lose legal battles against prostitution businesses

1537 Braunschweiger Monogrammist Bordellszene Brothel scene (1537 Brunswick Monogrammist, Source: Gemäldegalerie Berlin)

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.


A law to protect society from an imaginary evil

“It's

“It’s not my occupation that’s the problem but your bourgeois morality.“

Sex worker on International Whores’ Day in Berlin. © Matt Lemon Photography. All Rights Reserved. This photo was taken upon request by Hydra e.V. and published with permission of the person depicted therein.

About this text

The below is a translation of a key issues paper for a law claiming to “protect prostitutes”, which would apparently function as a supplementary law to the German Prostitution Act of 2002 (ProstG). Translation by Matthias Lehmann. Research Project Germany. Every effort has been made to translate the complex legal language in such a way, that the translation remained virtually verbatim while also being intelligible. All footnotes are author’s notes. Where a verbatim translation proved difficult, the German original is provided as footnote. Squared parentheses in the text and further footnotes include additional clarifications and comments. Click here to download the original version of the document in German. Any questions, comments or suggested edits are welcome.

A law to protect society from an imaginary evil

In my personal view, the underlying spirit of this bill appears to be the perception of sex work as a social evil the government cannot rid society of and feels therefore obligated to impose regulations on it to such an extent where completely adhering to them is rendered virtually impossible, which in turn will enable law enforcement agencies to persecute sex workers and operators of prostitution businesses. Hence, the title of this bill is utterly misleading and an insult to sex workers fighting for equal rights under the law.

In its current form, the bill will not protect sex workers, but instead it aims to protect society from the imaginary evil of prostitution. In doing so, the bill adds to the existing stigma attached to sex work and the violence resulting from it. I therefore condemn this bill in the strongest possible terms. Detailed analyses of these alarming changes to the German prostitution legislation shall be added as soon as they are available.

Key Issues Paper for a Law to Protect Those Working in Prostitution (Prostitutes Protection Law, ProstSchG) [1]

Status: August 14th, 2014

With the introduction of the Prostitution Act of 2002 (ProstG) by the Red-Green federal government [2] it was clarified that agreements between prostitutes and their clients are no longer considered immoral and therefore no longer void under civil law. This aimed to remedy legal disadvantages for those concerned [3], such as the exclusion from the social insurance system. The evaluation of the law in 2007 [4] as well as field reports have shown, however, that the expectations associated with the prostitution law were only partially fulfilled. Therefore, legal measures have to be taken to better protect those working in prostitution, to strengthen their right of self-determination, and to fight crimes in prostitution as well as human trafficking, violence against and exploitation of prostitutes, and procurement. [5] The Prostitutes Protection Law is supposed to achieve this.

Aims of the Law

The law pursues the goals

  • to strengthen the right of self-determination of people in prostitution
  • to create specific legal foundations to safeguard contractual working conditions and to protect the health of those working in prostitution
  • to improve the regulatory instruments to monitor commercial prostitution [6]
  • to improve the legal certainty for legally exercised prostitution
  • to exclude and eliminate dangerous manifestations of prostitution and those forms of prostitution that are socially intolerable or harmful to minors
  • to fight crimes in prostitution as well as human trafficking, violence against and exploitation of prostitutes, and procurement.

Scope of Application

The law’s scope of application is intended to include

  • all manifestations of prostitution; prostitution encompasses the commercial provision of sexual services. Sexual services are sexual acts with present persons in exchange for remuneration.
  • all business that facilitate the provision of sexual contacts in return for payment (brothels and brothel-like businesses) [7]; this includes especially brothels, brothel-like businesses, as well as apartment prostitution and vehicles used for prostitution
  • commercial agencies facilitating sexual contacts in return for payment between third parties (prostitution agencies, escort services)
  • commercial events aiming to provide opportunities for sexual encounters in return for payment (prostitution events)

The respective definitions of terms will follow in the bill.

Concessions for Brothels and other Venues offering Sexual Services [8-10]

In the future, operating a brothel will only then be permissible if the responsible authorities have issued a concession [statutory permission requirement]. Such concessions shall also govern the commercial facilitation of sexual contacts in return for payment between third parties. The prerequisites for granting such concessions will be tailored to the different business models. [11]

The concessions and the related prerequisites and legal consequences shall be developed in accordance to the models of other commercial concessions. An exemption from concessions shall apply if a single person is using an apartment for her or his own work as a prostitute (apartment prostitution by the owner of the apartment). [12]

In the course of the wording of the bill it will be examined how to include an option to extend statutory permission requirements via ordinances (e.g.  in accordance to § 33g GewO) [13] to additional forms of commercial provisions of sexual services, taking into account new developments in the area of sexual services (e.g. via the internet).

A transitional regime must be established for brothels already in existence.

Statutory permission requirements shall not apply for the occupation as prostitute.

Prerequisites for the Issuance of Concessions

The following minimum prerequisites shall govern the issuance of concessions:

  • Reliability Check [14]

Concessions are to be denied when facts justify the assumption that operators do not possess the required reliability. The reliability check and other personal prerequisites shall be developed in accordance with common standards used in the Trade Regulation Act (i.e. that especially prior criminal convictions justify assumptions of unreliability).

Reliability checks shall extend to any deputies of the operators and any persons entrusted with management tasks. Where necessary, it shall be made possible to impose employment bans on unreliable persons.

  • Prohibition of prostitution businesses whose operational concepts endanger prostitutes’ right of self-determination

Operational concepts of prostitution which due to their nature raise fears of endangering the right of self-determination or health of prostitutes or other persons, or noticeably abet the exploitation of prostitutes, will be prohibited by law. No concessions can be issued for corresponding prostitution businesses or prostitution events; they are to be forbidden, as soon as they become known. This applies e.g. for flat rate brothels and rape gang bang parties. [15]

  • Minimum requirements

Concessions must only be issued if spatial, hygienic, as well as health and safety conditions are fulfilled, necessary for the protection of prostitutes, employees, guests as well as third persons, and if the plans are in accordance with building regulations. The essential requirements are to be written into law.

In order to gather initial experiences with the implementation of statutory permission requirements, it is planned to allow for differentiated and gradual standards according to respective business types, both where minimum requirements and the implementation regulations via ordinances are concerned (by the federal states or the federation, possibly with consent of the Federal Council [16], see e.g. § 33f GewO).

  • Requirements for business standards; requirements for the protection of employees, other persons active there and third parties, as well as youth and the general public

Concessions can be linked, even retroactively, to requirements for the protection of prostitutes, employees and third parties, as well as to protect youth and local residents. If needed, it shall be possible to adopt corresponding requirements and directives, even for forms of prostitution that do not require concessions (e.g. apartment prostitution by the owner of the apartment; see above [17])

  • Limitations of concessions; regular controls of requirements; withdrawal and revocation of concessions

Concessions can be furnished with limitations. Authorities shall be obligated to monitor the maintenance of statutory permission requirements regularly. Any event of subsequent unreliability shall lead to the withdrawal and revocation of concessions. Withdrawals and revocations shall also be possible in the event of essential changes of businesses or violations of obligations.

Obligations of Operators

The following particular obligations of operators shall be regulated:

  • Presenting the necessary documents for concessions, including business concepts and evidence of contracts to be agreed upon with prostitutes (a contractual basis is necessary even if they are to act as self-employed persons on the premises), e.g. to effectively fight usury in connection to room letting. [18]
  • Duty to report persons working in the business as prostitutes (registration and de-registration)
  • Verifying the registration of prostitutes who are to take up work (see below under registration)
  • Prohibiting the presence of minors during business hours
  • Informing guests and prostitutes about safe sex practices
  • Providing condoms
  • Supplying information and granting access to documents as well as to premises to responsible authorities (see also under review and monitoring by authorities)
  • Enabling prostitutes’ access to health and social counselling services of their choice
  • Complying with statutory and official requirements

Duty of notification and registration for prostitutes

A duty of notification and registration for prostitutes shall be introduced (each time they take up commercial prostitution in a municipality). A verification document will be introduced for prostitutes who registered with the responsible authorities, which can then be produced e.g. to brothel operators and authorities, and where necessary to clients. The conception of the law will take into account the justified interest of the persons required to register to have their personality rights and data protected.

The registration shall at the very least be linked to informing prostitutes about existing offers for health and social counselling services, compulsory health insurance, as well as the legal status of prostitutes.


“Infection PROTECTION Law, Emissions PROTECTION Law, Prostitutes PROTECTION Law...do you get it know who is supposed to be protected from whom?” Translation of a tweet by Voice4Sexworkers, a blog by and for sex workers. “Prostitutes PROTECTION Law, Infections PROTECTION Law, Emissions PROTECTION Law, …
Do you get it now who is supposed to be protected from whom?”


Prohibition to advertise unprotected intercourse; other advertising restrictions

Direct and disguised forms of advertising risky sexual behaviour in return for payment, especially unprotected sexual intercourse, as well as advertising commercial offers providing opportunities for unprotected sexual contacts shall be prohibited by law.

Review and monitoring by authorities; powers of authorities

To fulfil their tasks, the rights and duties for responsible authorities to review and monitor [prostitution businesses] shall be regulated, including the right to inspect and enter [premises] (e.g. in accordance to §§ 29 ff. GewO).

The responsible authorities implementing this law are to be determined by the federal states.

The powers granted to state authorities and the police by other federal or state regulations remain unaffected.

Prohibiting the pursuit of business activities; sanctions

In the event of breaches of obligations by business owners, regulatory measures (directives, requirements, withdrawals of concessions) are planned to enforce compliance with requirements and to prevent dangers, which may go as far as to prohibit the pursuit of business activities due to unreliability in accordance to the regulatory framework of the GewO. Where applicable, it shall also be regulated, which breaches of obligations can be punished as administrative offences.

Legal relationship between prostitutes and operators

The boundary between endangering the sexual self-determination of prostitutes to a degree worthy of punishment and admissible guidelines as part of contractual relationships between prostitutes and brothel operators shall be regulated by law. The legal framework still requires agreements with the [Ministry for Justice and Consumer Protection] BMJV, particularly with regards to any overlaps with existing criminal law.

As a basic principle, it shall remain possible to engage in prostitution both in a self-employed capacity and in an employment relationship liable to insurance deductions. Directions that interfere with or endanger the sexual self-determination of prostitutes remain inadmissible.

Currently, prostitution occurs, at least formally, almost entirely as a form of self-employment, and in brothels the contractual relationships between operators and prostitutes are frequently not determined by labour contracts. Nonetheless, prostitutes are more often than not largely integrated into predetermined operational processes. Such cases appear to constitute fictitious self-employments. Brothel operators shall then remain liable, where applicable in accordance to § 266a StGB [19] (Withholding and misappropriation of remuneration), for the failure to pay [insurance] contributions.

Municipal development and control instruments shall remain in force without limitation [20]

The existing tools on a municipal level to control and develop areas where prostitution is permitted shall remain unaffected on the basis of off-limit zone ordinances according to Art. 297 EGStGB [21], as well as stipulations of building regulations and planning permissions.

Independent matter subject to regulation outside the GewO

To realise the described legislative initiative (as new principle law [22]), an independent law shall be created outside the GewO (Law to Protect Those Working in Prostitution, Prostitutes Protection Law, ProstSchG); where applicable, necessary amendmends of existing laws can be undertaken via additional articles in an omnibus bill. [23]

On the basis of a preliminary assessment, the new law does not require the approval of the Bundesrat. [24]

Entry into force

The law shall be published in the Federal Gazette [25] no later than June 1st, 2015, and in light of the regulations defining the areas of responsibility, which must then be produced, come into force in the federal states on January 1st, 2016.

Evaluation

An evaluation of the law after three years shall be written into the law.


Further reading

“Moralising Law”: Reform Proposals for the German Prostitution Act – Interview with Fabienne Freymadl, Political Spokeswomen for the Professional Organisation for Erotic and Sexual Services (Berufsverband erotische und sexuelle Dienstleistungen, BesD)

More Rights For Victims of Human Trafficking – Interview with Heike Rabe, Policy Advisor at the German Institute for Human Rights (Deutsches Institut für Menschenrechte)

A sham of the “forced coalition” – Human Trafficking and Prostitution in the Coalition Agreement

Facts and Figures about the German Prostitution Act – Summary of Expert Symposium in Berlin


Footnotes

[1] Original: „Gesetz zum Schutz der in der Prostitution Tätigen/Prostituiertenschutzgesetz (ProstSchG)“; Germany’s current prostitution law is called „Prostitutionsgesetz (ProstG)“
[2] the then ruling coalition of Social Democrats and the Greens
[3] The concerned here refers to sex workers, not their clients.
[4] Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth “Report by the Federal Government on the Impact of the Act Regulating the Legal Situation of Prostitutes (Prostitution Act)” 2007 URL: http://www.bmfsfj.de/RedaktionBMFSFJ/Broschuerenstelle/Pdf-Anlagen/bericht-der-br-zum-prostg-englisch,property=pdf,bereich=bmfsfj,sprache=en,rwb=true.pdf
[5] Alternative translation: “pimping”
[6] Original: “gewerblich ausgeübte Prostitution”
[7] Original: “Prostitutionsstätten”
[8] Literal translation: statutory permission requirement
[9] Please note that brothel is used here and for the rest of the document to translate “Prostitutionsstätten”, which means brothels as well as brothel-like businesses.
[10] Original: “Angebote sexueller Dienstleistungen”
[11] Original: “Gewerbeausprägungen“
[12] It is important to note that this passage is ambiguous. “Inhaber” can refer either to registered proprietors or occupants of apartments.
[13] GewO: Trade Regulation Act
[14] Alternative translation: “trustworthiness”; likewise, where this document mentions “unreliability” or “unreliable”, the alternative translation would be “untrustworthiness” or “untrustworthy”.
[15] It is important to note that this passage seems to suggests that gang bang parties constitute rape. In the BDSM scene, the term “rape gang bang party” describes gang bang sex where the participating sex worker pretends to be raped. Regardless of one’s personal view on such practices, this does not constitute rape.
[16] Upper House of the German Parliament
[17] See footnote 11; It is important to note that this passage seems to leave sex workers working in apartments defenceless as it appears to open the door for arbitrary interpretations of the law by local authorities.
[18] This passage may refer to hotels, apartments, private rooms and so-called Laufhäuser where sex workers can rent rooms and then solicit clients, and where they do not share their income with the owners of such premises outside the rent due for the use of the respective rooms.
[19] StGB: Criminal Code
[20] Original: “Kommunale Gestaltungs‐ und Steuerungsinstrumente bleiben uneingeschränkt bestehen“
[21] Introductory Law to the Criminal Code
[22] Original: “Stammgesetz”
[23] Original: “Änderungen bestehender Gesetze können im Wege einer Ausgestaltung als Artikelgesetz in zusätzlichen Artikeln geregelt werden.“
[24] It is important to note that his passage indicates that the government plans to bypass the Upper House of the German Parliament, a hurdle the previous bill, submitted by the former ruling coalition of Conservatives and Liberals, failed to pass.
[25] Bundesgesetzblatt


“Moralising Law”: Reform Proposals for the German Prostitution Act

Sex workers protest in front of German parliament in June 2013. Source: BesD

Sex workers protest in front of German parliament in June 2013. Source: BesD

Interview with Fabienne Freymadl, Political Spokeswomen for the Professional Organisation for Erotic and Sexual Services (Berufsverband erotische und sexuelle Dienstleistungen, BesD)

In an effort to curb “forced prostitution”*, the ruling coalition of Conservatives and Social Democrats has agreed on basic principles to reform the German Prostitution Act of 2002. In an interview by Barbara Dribbusch for German daily die tageszeitung, Fabienne Freymadl, political spokeswoman for sex worker organisation BesD, warns against a moralising law and explains why the reforms will harm sex workers* and fail to accomplish their alleged goal.

Please note that the copyright for this interview lies with taz.de and is not licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Ban on Flat Rate Sex and Gang Bang Parties

In the future, sex workers will have to register with the authorities, the owners of brothels will have to submit to reliability checks, and flat rate sex and gang bang parties are going to be outlawed. These measures are part of the planned reform of Germany’s Prostitution Act, which members of the ruling coalition agreed upon on Thursday. Sex workers, however, reject the plans.

Manuela Schwesig, Federal Minister for Family Affairs (Social Democrats), declared that the new regulations meant that for the first time, there would be “clear rules for legal prostitution in Germany that will protect the women”.

Social Democrats (SPD) and Conservatives (CDU/CSU) still negotiate on other items, including a minimum age for sex workers of 21. Conservatives want to raise the minimum age for sex workers from 18 to 21.

Among the already agreed items is the introduction of binding obligations for sex workers to register. Sex workers will then have to register and deregister with municipal authorities. Federal states will have to decide which local authority will be responsible, said a spokeswoman of the Federal Ministry for Women. [This is actually the same as the Ministry for Family Affairs. The full name of the ministry is ‘Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth’. A/N]

A law demanding mandatory registration would harm the women, criticised Fabienne Freymadl, political spokeswoman of the Professional Organisation for Erotic and Sexual Services (BesD), where sex workers in Germany are organised.

Rights Not Rescue! - Matt Lemon Photography. All Rights Reserved.

Rights Not Rescue! – Source: Matt Lemon Photography. All Rights Reserved.

Fear of mandatory registration

Especially sex workers who work on a part-time basis do not want to register due to the risk that their data may be passed on to third parties and women could be outed for their stigmatised profession, said Freymadl. If women experienced assaults, they could henceforward not report them to the police anymore, if they weren’t registered with the authorities.

The BesD is also critical of the planned “statutory permission requirements” and “reliability checks” for brothel owners. According to the new regulations, brothel owners with criminal records can be barred from operating brothels. However, an exemption from the statutory permission requirements is planned, if individual persons sell sex in private apartments.

It remained unclear, however, what actually was defined as “brothel”, said Freymadl. An apartment rented by three women to use for sex work could potentially be labelled as a brothel, too.

Outlawing flat rate sex and so-called gang bang parties showed how moralising the debate actually was, the association’s spokeswoman added. Outlawing certain business models and practices, which the public perceived as particularly demeaning, contributed nothing to fight “forced prostitution”, since criminals wouldn’t heed such bans anyway.

Flat rate offers are a “publicity ploy”

So-called flat rate sex meant that men paid a flat fee and could then stay several hours at a brothel and have sex as many times as they wanted to. But that’s just a “publicity ploy”, said Freymadl. Usually, those men managed only one or two sexual encounters that led to an orgasm. Most men couldn’t go on after that. This business model had the advantage for women in the brothel that they could better plan what income to expect, compared to each customer paying for each sexual encounter separately.

So-called gang bang parties also evoked a false impression among the public, according to the association’s spokeswoman. At gang bang parties, a sex worker has oral, vaginal or anal sex with several men simultaneously, and with that, sex workers earned a relatively high amount of money in a relatively short amount of time. The public considers this practice as demeaning for women.

But if such encounters were voluntary, they represented merely a particular practice, emphasised Freymadl. It wouldn’t make sense to limit the complexity in the business to fight “forced prostitution”, which fundamentally, and independent from whatever practice, represented a grave human rights violation and a criminal offence.

Sex work as Freelance Occupation

The trade association of sex workers demands to recognise sex work as a normal freelance occupation and by doing so, to abolish the prohibition of sex work in off-limit zones.

The remaining points of contention regarding the reform of the prostitution law are to be clarified in the early fall. The plan of the Conservatives to punish customers of “forced prostitutes” remains controversial. Critics fear that even less customers would then provide tip-offs to the police about “forced prostitution”, should they involuntarily encounter such women.


BesD Logo The Professional Organisation for Erotic and Sexual Services (Berufsverband erotische und sexuelle Dienstleistungen, BesD) is a registered organisation with its headquarters in Berlin.

The organisation pursues the aims of: improving the working and living conditions of sex workers, providing information and explanations about the different aspects of sex work, imparting a realistic picture of sex work and acting against the discrimination and criminalisation of those who are involved in sex work. Click here to learn more.


The interview was conducted by Barbara Dribbusch for taz.de, a left-leaning German daily. Please note that the copyright for this interview lies with taz.de and is not licensed under a Creative Commons License. The photos above did not appear in the original article.

Translation by Matthias Lehmann. Research Project Germany. Every effort has been made to translate this interview verbatim. As a result, the wording may appear unusual on some occasions.

*Terminology

While it could be argued that the terms “prostitution” and “whore” carry a different connotation in German, they were replaced with the terms “sex work” and “sex worker” for this translation, apart from the quote by Manuela Schwesig and the name of the law.  

Since the term “forced prostitution” is contested, this author usually puts it into quotation marks. For this translation, they were added although they did not appear in the original text.

“Forced prostitution doesn’t exist. Prostitution is a voluntary sexual service provision that is based on the premise of mutual consent between adult contractual partners. Without this consent, it is not prostitution but forced sexuality, i.e. sexualised violence.” Press Release by the Federal Task Force Law and Prostitution, March 14th, 2005


Fantasies That Matter

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About this slideshow

The above photos and the video below are impressions from the Fantasies That Matter: Images of Sex Work in Media and Art conference, which took place August 8-10, 2014 at Kampnagel in Hamburg. Due to concerns for sex workers’ privacy and anonymity on the one hand and the low light settings in the auditorium on the other, the above are mostly images of the “headliners” of the event. By no means does this represent an attempt to deliberately exclude any of the sex workers who spoke during the conference.

Please take particular notice of the image containing sex workers’ feedback to the organisers and instructions for people aiming to support sex workers. Please continue reading the articles by current and former sex workers quoted below, as well as by Mithu Sanyal, Annie Sprinkle and Verena Reygers, and check Twitter for tweets using the hashtag #fantasiesthatmatter which include quotes from the speakers and thoughts from sex workers and others in the audience.

Articles by current or former sex workers

Reflections on ‘Fantasies That Matter’ by Fornicatrix

There’s no denying good intentions are important, but what’s crucial are the actions of self-appointed allies who can end up silencing those they wish to amplify, hiding those they try to visibilise or simply unintentionally taking up too much space in a conversation where sex workers are already squeezed to the sides.

Let’s turn this into an opportunity to have an ongoing discussion about sex work, representation, identity, performance art, feminism, allyship and the countless other conversational starting points that this unforgettable conference gave us.

Be Careful With Your Hand, You Don’t Want it Bitten Off – Annie Sprinkle, Fantasies That Matter, Sex Work, and Erasure of People of Color by Peech

Conference after conference happens and personality after personality is elevated to having these super large platforms where they can speak, and there is a glaring absence of color when it comes to sex work.

Name me one person of color – and I’m not even talking about just Black people – one person of color woman, man, cis, trans, I don’t care, fat, skinny, ugly, pretty, tall, short, I don’t care. Name me one person of color who is or has been a sex worker who is a go-to personality to speak on sex work. Nobody. 

And that absence is deafening… to me. And I don’t understand particularly why that’s not a problem for more sex workers. That there is absolutely no diversity in the community as it is represented to our larger society and world. That, really and truly, we’re simply reinforcing that when you think of: a sex worker, a prostitute, a cam model, a phone sex operator, whatever, when you think of those people, you think of a white person – and it’s always a white woman.

Injustices that Matter: Reclaiming space from Allies at ‘Fantasies that Matter: Images of Sex Work in Media and Art’ (and beyond) by Eithne Crow

It’s essential to ask yourself why you’re identifying yourself as an ally, and to realise that there is no such thing as conditional allyship: if you won’t tolerate criticism or take direction, or if you require gratitude, niceties, or honorary membership from the people you’re supporting, you’re doing it wrong.

If you won’t move beyond acknowledging your power to doing something about the injustice of it, you’re not an ally. And if you indicate that you intend to withdraw your support because you feel undervalued, then I suggest you go elsewhere, because you are putting your own interests before those of the people you’re supporting, and anyone who’s more interested in the feel-good factor of ‘helping’ than actually improving the lives of others is not a loss to any liberation movement.

“The Talking Whore” Reflections about Sex Work, Solidarity and Political Efficacy by Kristina Marlen

The experience of the sex work stigma is the foundation of our sex worker community. I believe that if we understand ourselves as a political movement that agitates against this stigma, then it’s crucial to create critical awareness about that in our communities. The more people out themselves and identify as “whores”, the sooner it will become apparent, that sex work exists in the midst of our societies – not at the margins!

Sex workers and clients go to the baker’s, raise children, have relationships and pay taxes. They got friends, lovers, siblings and parents. It must be evident how diverse “we” are and that the stigma affects some more than others, for various reasons. But I believe what we need above all is solidarity.

Commentary by Mithu Sanyal

Excerpt from a comment by Mithu Sanyal, one of the panellists of the conference. Please click here to read her entire comment.

One of the critiques is that there weren’t enough people of color on the panel. Well, the point is, Germany is different from America, for example in so far as the Others here aren’t visibly black. They are Greek like Margarita, the organizer of the conference who has spend the last years watching her country going to pieces. They are Spanish like María do Mar Castro Varela , who was on the panel together with Maiz. Or they are mixed race like me, Indian and Polish. Yes, there was only one trans person on the stage, but believe me, that wasn’t for want of trying on the organizers part.

The situation is a very specific one in Germany at the moment and that is important to know. In Germany we are trying to stop the government making sex work illegal again. That was the reason fort his particular conference and that was the reason why there were sex workers and lawyers and academics on the panels. These ware all people fighting for our rights at the moment and when you look at the German newspapers they are doing a great job. Politicians listen to us. At the end of the year we will find out. That is when they decide about a new law.

Reflections on Hamburg by Annie Sprinkle

On August 19th, Annie Sprinkle published her reflections on Hamburg via Facebook. Click here to read them (no Facebook account necessary).

In retrospect, I am reminded that when it comes to “sex work,” definitions, herstories, labor issues, and problems vary a lot from country to country and person to person. I empathize with the struggle that sex workers on the front lines of the “war on whores” face today. If there is any chance of winning this war, both lovers and fighters are needed. I do wish ALL of you every success. My heart goes out to the working whores on the front lines. Take exquisite care of your selves, and each other. And please, by all means, make more art and fantasies that matter.”

“Von der Rolle” by Verena Reygers 

Commentary by Verena Reygers [in German] who participated in the ‘Ritual of Whores’. Verena Reygers is a Hamburg-based journalist and a regular contributor to Missy Magazine. Her commentary appeared in German weekly newspaper der freitag.

A project like Fantasies That Matter was deliberately held in an art space, and art is an appropriate tool to convey topics and criticism to audiences that are not part of the respective political discussions. A best case scenario will amplify the vigour to pursue the goals of those who are concerned. Or, as Annie Sprinkle says, ‘Sex work doesn’t just concern a small group of practitioners, it concerns us all.’



Video above published with kind permission by Annie Sprinkle © 2014 Matt Lemon Photography. The conference was organised by Missy Magazine in collaboration with Hamburg International Summer Festival at Kampnagel.

Photos: © Matt Lemon Photography. All Rights Reserved.


Plus de droits pour les victimes de la traite des êtres humains

UN Member States appraise Global Action Plan to combat human trafficking. Photo: United Nations

Les États membres de l’ONU évaluent le plan d’action mondial de lutte contre la traite des êtres humains. Photo: Nations Unies. Photo: Mark Garten/ONU

Please click here to read the English version of “More Rights For Victims of Human Trafficking”.

Entretien avec Heike Rabe, conseillère politique à l’Institut allemand pour les droits humains (Deutsches Institut für Menschenrechte)

L’ONU appelle à une lutte mondiale contre la traite des êtres humains. En Allemagne, l’accent est mis sur la prostitution forcée.* Dans une interview réalisée par Ute Welty pour le service des actualités allemandes de tagesschau.de, l’avocate Heike Rabe déplore le manque de données fiables. Elle ne pense pas grand bien des intentions pour resserrer la loi sur la prostitution.

S’il vous plaît notez que le droit d’auteur pour cette interview est avec tagesschau.de et qu’elle n’est pas soumise à une licence Creative Commons.

Qui est victime de traite des êtres humains? Est-ce principalement le problème de ce qu’on appelle la prostitution forcée?

Lorsque l’on parle de traite des êtres humains aux fins d’exploitation sexuelle, il est à noter que le pourcentage de femmes en provenance des pays de l’UE est en augmentation. C’est parce que l’UE ne cesse de croître. Ce sont souvent des femmes qui viennent soit en Allemagne par leurs propres moyens pour une variété d’entièrement différentes raisons ou qui sont amenées en Allemagne. Certaines de ces femmes ne veulent pas travailler dans la prostitution, d’autres rencontrent des conditions de travail indignes. L’Allemagne est un pays de destination et de transit pour la traite des personnes.

Quand il s’agit de traite des êtres humains, l’attention des médias se concentre particulièrement sur ​​le sujet de la prostitution forcée. Est-ce que cela correspond aux faits?

Non, les vérités qui sont diffusées par les médias ne sont pas des vérités vérifiables empiriquement. Il n’existe aucune preuve que l’Allemagne est le plus grand bordel de l’Europe. Il n’existe aucune preuve que les prostituées sont également toujours victimes de la traite humaine. Et il n’y a aucune preuve que la loi sur la prostitution de l’année 2002 est à blâmer pour cela. Le fait est, cependant: que les mesures qui sont examinées en ce qui concerne la révision imminente de cette loi restreignent les droits des prostituées. Ils comprennent, par exemple, des contrôles sanitaires obligatoires.

«Transfert de la prostitution dans la vie économique»

À votre avis, quelle devrait être la révision à accomplir?

Je crois que c’est un défi de taille pour une loi sur la prostitution d’avoir à lutter contre la traite des êtres humains. Initialement, la loi sur la prostitution de 2002 visait à améliorer les conditions de travail, et par l’intermédiaire d’une retraite et de droits à l’assurance sociale, une protection sociale des prostituées qui ont décidé volontairement ce travail. À mon avis, il est nécessaire de poursuivre ce processus: un transfert complet de la prostitution dans la vie économique, sur un pied d’égalité avec d’autres domaines d’activité.

Les victimes de la traite des êtres humains en Allemagne

Victims of Human Trafficking in Germany 2008-2012

Les rapports annuels par le Bureau pénal fédéral (BKA) parlent de victimes. Comme l’explique Rabe, cependant, les chiffres représentent en fait des enquêtes préliminaires dont les résultats ne sont pas connus.

Suite à une enquête menée par le groupe parlementaire du Parti de gauche, le gouvernement fédéral a annoncé que l’année dernière, 625 personnes ont été victimes de traite des êtres humains aux fins d’exploitation sexuelle; une légère augmentation par rapport à 2012. Quelle est l’importance de ce chiffre?

Ce chiffre provient du rapport de l’Office pénal fédéral qui est établi annuellement et basé sur les statistiques de la police. Par conséquent, il ne représente pas les cas avérés, mais les victimes potentielles, dont les cas ont été étudiés. Ces enquêtes sont menées par la police, puis remis au bureau du procureur et les tribunaux. Par conséquent, le rapport ne donne aucune information quant à savoir si une enquête a mené à une charge ou même une condamnation.

En outre, la traite humaine est une «infraction dite de contrôle ». La police découvre une traite des êtres humains que lorsque leurs experts sont à la recherche de celle-ci. Ceux touchés en général ne contactent pas les autorités par eux-mêmes. Nous ne pouvons même pas supposer qu’il y a vraiment un nombre élevé de cas non déclarés. Cela ne signifie pas, cependant, que la situation ne serait pas dramatique. Nous ne savons tout simplement pas.

“La traite des êtres humains est une violation des droits humains”

Est-ce que la traite des êtres humains aux fins d’exploitation sexuelle implique toujours de la prostitution forcée?

J’évite d’utiliser le terme de «prostitution forcée», parce qu’en Allemagne, la prostitution est un métier qu’on peut poursuivre légalement et comme emploi salarié – comme pour d’autres employeurs et employés. La traite des êtres humains aux fins d’exploitation sexuelle est une violation des droits humains. Elle se produit lorsque l’intégrité sexuelle des femmes est bafouée et qu’elles ne peuvent pas se libérer d’une situation désespérée. Mais quand les prostituées sont «juste» mal payées, cela constitue une exploitation dans la prostitution. Cette différenciation est importante, pour que les lois, les règlements et les mesures soient efficaces.

Journée internationale de protestation contre la violence faite aux travailleurs du sexe. Photo: Marek Foeller.  Tous les droits sont réservés.

Protestation mondiale pour mettre fin à la violence contre les travailleuses du sexe. Photo: Marek Foeller. Tous les droits sont réservés.

Toute prostituée n’est pas une victime de la traite humaine. Néanmoins, il est prévu de renforcer la loi sur la prostitution pour lutter contre la traite des êtres humains.

En ce qui concerne la traite des personnes, quels domaines considérez-vous comme tout autant problématique, mais pas discuté de manière adéquate?

La traite des êtres humains aux fins d’exploitation par le travail, par exemple, fait partie du Code criminel depuis 2005. Mais les structures pour la combattre sont encore tout simplement absentes. En ce qui concerne l’exploitation sexuelle, il existe des réseaux dans presque tous les États fédéraux, où les ONG et les organismes gouvernementaux coopèrent. Le «Groupe de travail fédéral / Länder sur la traite humaine» joue un rôle similaire au niveau fédéral. Mais ces groupes ne traitent pas de la question de l’exploitation du travail.

«Où va l’argent?»

La traite des êtres humains est une grande entreprise à l’échelle mondiale, dont on dit qu’elle génère jusqu’à 40 milliards de dollars par an. Pensez-vous que ce chiffre est réaliste?

Il est difficile de vérifier ce montant. Je ne peux pas vérifier non plus les marges incroyablement élevées de profit qui sont mentionnés dans le cadre de la traite des personnes. Les comparaisons sont toujours faites avec les bénéfices d’armes ou le trafic de drogue. Je me demande où va tout cet argent. Lorsque les personnes touchées font valoir leurs droits devant les tribunaux, de recevoir une compensation, des dommages-intérêts pour les souffrances et douleurs, ou la perte de salaire, alors il n’y a soudainement plus d’argent.

De temps en temps, des femmes dans de telles procédures se voient accordés quelques milliers d’euros. Ce n’est rien par rapport à ce qu’elles devraient légalement avoir droit, si elles ont fourni des services à des clients pendant des années ou ont été victimes de viols pendant des années. La lutte contre la traite des êtres humains doit donc également considérer les aspects de propriété. Les autorités répressives pourraient par exemple obtenir ou confisquer les avoirs provenant d’activités criminelles.

«Améliorer la protection des victimes»

Cela signifie que, ce qui se passe en ce moment n’est pas suffisant?

Je peux imaginer diverses mesures qui vont au-delà de la simple application de la loi. La protection des victimes, par exemple, n’est pas assez bien développée. Les femmes qui ne sont pas de l’UE et qui n’ont pas un permis de séjour régulier doivent généralement quitter l’Allemagne immédiatement, si elles sont ramassées dans un bordel ou dans la rue.

Elles ne sont autorisées à rester, que si et aussi longtemps qu’elles coopèrent et témoignent contre les délinquants dans les procédures pénales. Cependant, cela peut prendre deux, trois ans, jusqu’à ce qu’un procès conclut. Pendant ce temps, les femmes sont laissées sans aucune perspective, sans emploi, et sans leur famille, pour ensuite, après la fin du procès, devoir partir de toute façon. Dites-moi, qui chercherait l’aide des autorités appliquant la loi dans une telle situation?

Heike Rabe, Policy Adviser at the German Institute for Human Rights. Photo: German Institute for Human Rights/S. PietschmannHeike Rabe

Heike Rabe est une avocate qualifiée et depuis 2009 associée de recherche à l’Institut allemand pour les droits humains. De 2009 à la mi-2013, elle a dirigé le projet «Le travail forcé aujourd’hui – Autonomisation des personnes victimes de la traite». Depuis début 2014, elle se concentre sur l’accès à la justice pour les victimes de la traite des êtres humains et de la violence fondée sur le sexe.

Photo: Institut allemand pour les droits humains/S. Pietschmann


L’interview a été réalisée par Ute Welty pour tagesschau.de, un service d’actualités par l’ARD, un réseau de télévision de service public allemand. S’il vous plaît notez que le droit d’auteur pour cette interview est avec tagesschau.de et n’est pas soumis à une licence Creative Commons.

Traduction par Matthias Lehmann (anglais) et Thierry Schaffauser (français). Tous les efforts ont été faits pour traduire cette interview in extenso. En conséquence, le libellé peut paraître insolite à certaines occasions. Les photos ci-dessus ne figurent pas dans l’article original.

*La prostitution forcée

Puisque le terme «prostitution forcée» est contesté, l’auteur le met habituellement entre guillemets. Pour cette traduction, ils sont ajoutés là où ils apparaissent dans le texte original.

«La prostitution forcée n’existe pas. La prostitution est une prestation de service sexuel volontaire qui repose sur le principe du consentement mutuel entre les partenaires contractuels adultes. Sans cette autorisation, il n’y a pas de prostitution mais de la sexualité forcée, à savoir de la violence sexuelle.» Communiqué de presse du Task Force fédéral sur la loi et la prostitution, le 14 Mars, 2005

 


More Rights For Victims of Human Trafficking

UN Member States appraise Global Action Plan to combat human trafficking. Photo: United Nations

UN Member States appraise Global Action Plan to combat human trafficking. Photo: Mark Garten/UN

Se il vous plaît cliquez ici pour lire la version française de “Plus de droits pour les victimes de la traite des êtres humains”.

Interview with Heike Rabe, Policy Advisor at the German Institute for Human Rights (Deutsches Institut für Menschenrechte)

The UN calls for a global fight against human trafficking. In Germany, the focus lies on forced prostitution.* In an interview by Ute Welty for German news service tagesschau.de, lawyer Heike Rabe laments the lack of reliable data. She doesn’t think much of plans to tighten the prostitution law.

Please note that the copyright for this interview lies with tagesschau.de and is not licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Who falls victim to human trafficking? Is it predominantly a matter of so-called forced prostitution?

Where human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation is concerned, it is noticeable that the percentage of women coming from EU countries is increasing. That’s because the EU is steadily growing. These are often women who either come to Germany under their own steam for a variety of entirely different motives or who are brought to Germany. Some of these women don’t want to work in prostitution, others encounter undignified working conditions. Germany is a destination and transit country for human trafficking.

When it comes to human trafficking, the media’s attention is particularly focused on the subject of forced prostitution. Does this correspond with the facts?

No. The truths that are broadcast by the media aren’t empirically verifiable truths. There is no evidence that Germany is the biggest brothel of Europe. There is no evidence that prostitutes are also always victims of human trafficking. And there is also no evidence that the Prostitution Act of 2002 is to blame for that. Fact is, however: the measures that are discussed with regards to the pending revision of that law curtail the rights of prostitutes. They include, for example, mandatory health checks.

“Transfer of prostitution into economic life”

In your opinion, what should the revision accomplish?

I believe it’s a tall order for a prostitution law having to fight human trafficking. Initially, the Prostitution Act of 2002 was aiming to improve the working conditions, and via pension and social insurance entitlements the social welfare of prostitutes who voluntarily decided for this job. In my opinion, it is necessary to continue this process: a complete transfer of prostitution into economic life, on equal terms with other fields of activity.

Victims of Human Trafficking in Germany 2008-2012

Annual reports by the Federal Criminal Office (BKA) speak of victims. As Rabe explains, however, the figures actually represent preliminary investigations whose outcomes are unknown.

Following an enquiry by the parliamentary group of the Left Party, the federal government announced that last year, 625 people became victims of human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation; a slight increase compared to 2012. How significant is this figure?

This figure comes from the report of the Federal Criminal Office that is compiled annually and based on police statistics. Hence, it does not represent proven cases but potential victims, whose cases were investigated. Such investigations are conducted by the police and then handed over to the public prosecutor’s office and the courts. The report therefore does not provide any information about whether an investigation led to a charge or even a conviction.

Furthermore, human trafficking is a so-called “control offence”. The police uncover human trafficking only when their experts are looking for it. Those affected usually do not contact authorities on their own. We cannot even assume that there really is a high number of unreported cases. That doesn’t mean, however, that the situation might not be dramatic. We simply don’t know it.

“Human trafficking is a human rights violation

Does human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation always involve forced prostitution?

I avoid using the term “forced prostitution”, because in Germany, prostitution is a profession one can pursue legally and as dependent employment – just like with other employers and employees, too. Human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation is a human rights violation. It occurs when women’s sexual integrity is harmed and they cannot free themselves from a helpless situation. But when prostitutes are “just” badly paid, it constitutes exploitation in prostitution. This differentiation is important, in order for laws, regulations and measures to be effective.

International Day of Protest to End Violence against Sex Workers. Photo: Marek Foeller

Global protest to end violence against sex workers. Photo: Marek Foeller. All Rights Reserved.

Not every prostitute is a victim of human trafficking. Nevertheless, it is planned to tighten the Prostitution Act to fight human trafficking.

With regards to human trafficking, what domains do you consider as similarly problematic but not adequately discussed?

Human trafficking for the purpose of labour exploitation, for instance, is part of the criminal code since 2005. But structures to fight it are still simply missing. With regards to sexual exploitation, there are networks in almost every federal state, where NGOs and government agencies cooperate. The “Federal/Länder Working Group Human Trafficking” fulfils a similar role on the federal level. But those groups do not deal with the subject of labour exploitation.

“Where does the money go to?”

Human trafficking is a big business on global scale, said to generate up to 40 billion dollars per year. Do you think this figure is realistic?

It’s difficult to verify this amount. Nor can I verify the unbelievably high profit margins that are mentioned in connection with human trafficking. Comparisons are always made with the profits of arms or drug trafficking. I just wonder where all the money goes to. When those affected enforce their claims in court, to receive compensation, damages for pain and suffering, or lost wages, then there’s suddenly no money left anymore.

From time to time, women in such proceedings are awarded a few thousand euros. That’s nothing compared to what they are legally entitled to, if they provided services to clients for years or were victims of rape for years. Fighting human trafficking must therefore also consider property aspects. Law enforcement authorities could for example secure or confiscate assets generated from criminal activities.

“Further enhance victim protection”

That means, what’s happening right now isn’t sufficient?

I can imagine various measures that go beyond mere law enforcement. Victim protection, for example, isn’t developed well enough. Women who aren’t from the EU and do not have a regular residence permit usually have to leave Germany immediately, if they are picked up at a brothel or on the street.

They are only allowed to stay, if and for as long they cooperate and testify against the offenders in criminal proceedings. However, it can take two, three years until a trial concludes. During this time, the women are left without any prospects, any job, and without their family, only to then, after the trial is over, having to leave anyway. You tell me, who would seek help from law enforcement authorities in such a situation?

Heike Rabe, Policy Adviser at the German Institute for Human Rights. Photo: German Institute for Human Rights/S. PietschmannAbout Heike Rabe

Heike Rabe is a fully qualified lawyer and since 2009 a research associate at the German Institute for Human Rights. From 2009 to mid-2013, she led the project “Forced labour today – Empowering trafficked persons”. Since the beginning of 2014, she focuses on access to justice for victims of human trafficking and gender-based violence.

Photo: German Institute for Human Rights/S. Pietschmann


The interview was conducted by Ute Welty for tagesschau.de, a news service by the German public-service television network ARD. Please note that the copyright for this interview lies with tagesschau.de and is not licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Translation by Matthias Lehmann. Research Project Germany. Every effort has been made to translate this interview verbatim. As a result, the wording may appear unusual on some occasions. The photos above did not appear in the original article.

*Forced Prostitution

Since the term “forced prostitution“ is contested, this author usually puts it into quotation marks. For this translation, they are added only where they appear in the original text.

“Forced prostitution doesn’t exist. Prostitution is a voluntary sexual service provision that is based on the premise of mutual consent between adult contractual partners. Without this consent, it is not prostitution but forced sexuality, i.e. sexualised violence.” Press Release by the Federal Task Force Law and Prostitution, March 14th, 2005


A sham of the “forced coalition”

This article first appeared on Research Project Korea in December 2013. As this blog deals with the subject of prostitution regulation in Germany exclusively, I reposted it here to illustrate the outset of the plans of the current ruling coalition of Conservatives and Social Democrats to revise the Prostitution Act of 2002, as laid out in their coalition agreement.Coalition Agreement CDU CSU SPD

Human Trafficking and Prostitution in the coalition agreement

As the fight against „forced prostitution”, or rather human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation* has received much attention by the media and the general public in Germany for quite some time, the subject has now also become an element of the coalition negotiations between the Conservatives (CDU/CSU) and Social Democrats (SPD).

Earlier this year, a law to fight human trafficking and control brothels, introduced by the ruling coalition of Conservatives and Liberals, had failed to pass the Bundesrat, the upper house of the German parliament, as “it didn’t satisfy the declared goal to reduce or rather fight human trafficking as well as to enable the necessary control of brothels (official statement of the Bundesrat), nor did it meet the fundamental concerns of experts.

The coalition agreement between the CDU/CSU (the Conservatives) and SPD (the Social Democrats) suggests that the Conservatives remain unwilling to revise the law as advised by the Bundesrat, whereas the Social Democrats, who passed the German Prostitution Act of 2002 together with the Greens, appear to have given up their resistance and now support the plans of the Conservatives, when only in September, they voted against them at the Bundesrat.

The coalition agreement includes the follow passage about the subject “Human Trafficking, Brothels”.

We want to better protect women from human trafficking and forced prostitution and punish the perpetrators more consistently. In the future, criminal convictions shall no longer collapse due to a lack of victims’ testimonies. In consideration of their contributions to investigations and criminal proceedings and of their personal situations, we will improve victims’ rights of residence and provide them with intensive support, care and counselling.

Furthermore, we will comprehensively revise the Prostitution Act with regards to the regulation of prostitution and improve the legal authority of the police to control brothels. We will take action not only against human traffickers, but also against those who knowingly and willingly take advantage of the plight of victims of human trafficking and forced prostitution and abuse them with sexual acts. In the fight against human trafficking, a stronger focus will be placed on labour exploitation. (Translation by Matthias Lehmann, Please see original text here.)

While at first glance, this may sound as if Angela Merkel was keeping her promise to dedicate some extra attention to the subject, the passage actually holds a number of flaws, which will be illustrated below.

1. Gender bias

“We want to better protect women from human trafficking and forced prostitution”

Male and transgender sex workers are not mentioned, although particularly the latter are disproportionately affected by violent assaults.

More often than not, trans*women have to rely on sex work since the job market doesn’t offer them sufficient alternatives to make a living. Faced with violence, street-based migrant sex workers are faced with particular difficulties, because they cannot turn to the police. All in all, they are even less visible and noticeable than other trans* women. [Source: Gays & Lesbians from Turkey, GLADT e.V.]

2a. No unlimited right of residence for victims of human trafficking

In consideration of their contributions to investigations and criminal proceedings and of their personal situations, we will improve victims’ rights of residence and provide them with intensive support, care and counselling.”

One of the few aspects prostitution proponents and opponents agree upon is that victims of sexual exploitation should be granted an unlimited right of residence regardless of their court testimonies against human traffickers. Quote from the referral to the arbitration panel by the Bundesrat:

Another important component to effectively fight human trafficking is to strengthen victims of human trafficking. The law excluded this part. The framework of his right of residence needs to accommodate the particular needs of the situations in which the persons concerned are in. Limitations to the right of residence, for example, must not prevent the participation in witness protection programmes.

Although the coalition agreement doesn’t exclude the right of residence entirely, the wording remains vague to such an extent, that a real reform is hardly to be expected. The question of the compensation of victims also remains open, since the funding and feasibility of the intensive support, care and counselling are not addressed.

2b. Irrelevance of the testimonies of victims of human trafficking

“In the future, criminal convictions shall no longer collapse due to a lack of victims’ testimonies.”

One of the most dangerous ideas is the proposition to ignore the testimonies of alleged or actual victims of human trafficking during criminal proceedings. While the frustration of law enforcement officers over the difficulty to obtain evidence is comprehensible, the solution can’t be to disregard the testimony or the refusal to give testimony of victims of human trafficking.

This would mean that the testimony of law enforcement officers and third parties would outweigh the testimony of the victims themselves. In light of the xenophobic hypothesis by anti-prostitution activists that poverty in the countries of origin alone is sufficient proof of coercion where migrant sex workers are concerned, it is to be feared that detectives like Helmut Sporer from the criminal investigation department in Augsburg, and others like him, would simply dismiss the testimonies of sex workers.

Sporer, who among other things demands a registration law for prostitutes and the reintroduction of mandatory health checks, shares the view of feminist and anti-prostitution activist Alice Schwarzer, that around 90 per cent of all women in prostitution work “under coercion or due to hardships, or pretend to do it voluntarily”. Judging from this statement, Sporer denies the ability of 90 per cent of all sex workers in Germany to make decisions according to their free will. Combined with the plans to ignore the testimonies of alleged victims of human trafficking in the future, this mentality poses great risks for the situation of self-determined sex workers.

3. Misrepresentation of the control of brothels

“Furthermore, we will comprehensively revise the Prostitution Act with regards to the regulation of prostitution and improve the legal authority of the police to control brothels.”

Despite claims to the contrary from the Conservatives and some Social Democrats, there are already control mechanisms in place and they are extensively used, too.

In the state of Berlin, tax fraud and criminal investigation officers can control any brothel without cause at any given time, as the squad leaders of the ‘AG Rotlicht’ (Task Force “Red Light”) of the criminal investigation department in Berlin confirm.

At a recent panel discussion organised by Alice Schwarzer in Berlin, social worker Sabine Constabel reported that in Stuttgart, all sex workers are monitored and recorded. In its 2012 report Human Trafficking for the Purpose of Sexual Exploitation, the State Office of Criminal Investigations in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) mentioned that despite the high density of controls in NRW, the number of victims of human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation had declined. As the report points out, there is no identifiable effect of the Prostitution Act on the situation of victims of human trafficking.

Therefore, the claim that the police is lacking the legal authority to control brothels is incorrect where Berlin, Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia is concerned. In fact, the legal authority of the police, which is regulated differently on a state level, remained unaffected by the Prostitution Act. When anti-prostitution activists make claims to the contrary, they are either poorly informed or deny this fact intentionally, whereas politicians utilise the subject to cut a good figure in front of their citizens.

4. Obstruction of the fight against „forced prostitution“

“We will take action not only against human traffickers, but also against those who knowingly and willingly take advantage of the plight of victims of human trafficking and forced prostitution and abuse them with sexual acts.”

The above mentioned frustration of law enforcement officers over the difficulty to obtain evidence is as comprehensible as the general intention to punish those who knowingly take advantage of the plight of victims of human trafficking. In practice, prove of this knowledge is difficult to not at all possible to obtain, and this passage in the coalition agreement leaves this question unanswered.

It is to be feared that clients of sex workers will shy away from cooperating with the police, should there be uncertainty over whether or not they could face punishment if they were to report suspicions. As in my previous article, I would like to cite Pye Jacobsson, a sex worker and spokesperson for Rose Alliance, an organisation by and for sex and erotic workers in Sweden.

“In the sex industry there are people that are being abused, that are suffering, that are trafficking victims etc. But the normal way for the police to find out is not from sex workers, it’s from clients. Because there are clients who are actually not assholes, they will say ‘this doesn’t look good’, they will call the police. And of course now they don’t call the police anymore, because if they call the police they will be accused of a crime.” (To view the interview, please click here.)

5. Lack of definitions

“In the fight against human trafficking, a stronger focus will be placed on labour exploitation.”

Since the passage is titled “Human Trafficking, Brothels”, the coalition agreement here does not appear to refer to labour exploitation in general, but to human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation exclusively. One can assume that the above sentence hints at so-called flatrate brothels, about which Undine de Revière, sex worker and spokesperson for the Trade Association Erotic and Sexual Services (BesD) in Germany, states the following.

Generally, we favour maintaining the diversity of work places and work modes of sex workers. I know women who like to work exactly like that – because they don’t want to be bothered with client acquisition, because they value the fixed daily income, and because their earnings are often not worse but sometimes even better there. And, to say it directly: at first glance, the flatrate stuff sounds, let’s say, overstraining. But it’s predominantly an advertising ploy. Those customers pay once and then want to do it ten times, but can only do it twice. But of course there are women who are unable to cope with it, and who do not want such working conditions and find them terrible.

The exact plans of the looming coalition of Conservatives and Social Democrats where a regulation or ban of flatrate brothels are concerned remain nebulous, as so many aspects in this passage of the coalition agreement.

Conclusion: A sham of the “forced coalition”

Just as the law to fight human trafficking and control brothels by the coalition of Conservatives and Liberals, which failed to pass the Bundesrat, the plans of the prospective “forced coalition” of Conservatives and Social Democrats fail to lay the foundations to effectively fight human trafficking and provide protection as well as an unlimited right of residence for victims of human trafficking. Furthermore, there is again a lack of definitions, definitions, definitions.

The question of the funding for the planned measures remains open, just as the question how to prove it when someone knowingly and willingly takes advantage of the plight of victims of human trafficking and “forced prostitution. This proposition to no longer take the testimonies of alleged victims of human trafficking into account is particularly alarming, as it opens the door for paternalistic law enforcement officers to disempower and infantalize self-determined sex workers and migrants. In light of Helmut Sporer’s advocacy to reintroduce mandatory health checks for sex workers, it seems possible that forcing sex workers into mandatory “rehabilitation programmes” may be next.

This sham by the CDU/CSU and SPD indicates a fundamental misjudgement of the subject matters, caused by the continued disregard of the opinions of experts, sex workers and other affected parties. Judging from this coalition agreement, one thing is certain: these plans will neither help to effectively fight human trafficking, nor will they provide an effective protection for victims of human trafficking. Instead, an erosion of sex workers’ and migrants’ rights is to be feared.

In closing, I would like to pass the word to the aforementioned Undine de Rivière.

As if the hastily composed law right before the parliament’s summer break wasn’t enough, we are yet again faced with a smorgasbord of discriminating and counterproductive symbolic politics that aims to satisfy the public pressure created fuelled by sensational media and hate campaigns as quickly as possible. For the second time within the space of a few months the chance is squandered to work in an objective and considerate way and together with those affected on practical solutions for the actual problems in the industry.


*Forced Prostitution

Since the term “forced prostitution“ is contested, it is here put into quotation marks.

“Forced prostitution doesn’t exist. Prostitution is a voluntary sexual service provision that is based on the premise of mutual consent between adult contractual partners. Without this consent, it is not prostitution but forced sexuality, i.e. sexualised violence.” Press Release by the Federal Task Force Law and Prostitution, March 14th, 2005

About this translation

While I always try to provide as many English language sources as possible, most of the links in the above article lead to German language sources. Please use a translation website or post any questions you might have in the contact form below.


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