Sex Work Regulations in Germany

Government

Vorgeblicher Schutz, Vergebliche Maßnahmen: Überblick über Deutschland’s neues Prostituiertenschutzgesetz (ProstSchg)

Zwangsregistrierung - Nicht mit uns! Sex worker protest in Berlin against the ProstSchG © 2015 Emy Fem

Sexarbeiter*innen und Unterstützer*innen demonstrieren gegen das ProstSchG vor dem Bundesfamilienministerium © 2015 Emy Fem

ICRSE präsentiert Briefing Paper über
neues deutsches ‘Prostituiertenschutzgesetz’

[English-language version here]

Anlässlich des Internationalen Hurentags, der an jedem 2. Juni der Besetzung der Saint-Nizier-Kirche im franzöischen Lyon im Jahr 1975 durch 100 Sexarbeiterinnen feierlich gedenkt, präsentiert das Internationale Komitee für die Rechte von Sexarbeiter*innen in Europa (ICRSE) ein Briefing Paper mit dem Titel „Vorgeblicher Schutz, Vergebliche Maßnahmen: Überblick über das Prostituiertenschutzgesetz (ProstSchg)“.

ICRSE ProstSchG Briefing Paper Cover [German]Das Briefing Paper wurde vom ICRSE in Zusammenarbeit mit Hydra e.V. und dem Berufsverband erotische und sexuelle Dienstleistungen (BesD) e.V. mit dem Ziel entwickelt, sowohl politischen Entscheidungsträger*innen als auch Sexarbeiter*innen und ihren Unterstützer*innen eine Analyse des neuen deutschen „Prostituiertenschutzgesetzes“ und dessen erwarteten Auswirkungen auf Sexarbeiter*innen anzubieten, sowie Empfehlungen der Gemeinschaft von Sexarbeiter*innen zu unterbreiten.

Wie darin erklärt, hegt das ICRSE ernsthafte Bedenken hinsichtlich der Art und Weise, mit der das „Prostituiertenschutzgesetz“ die Grundrechte von Sexarbeiter*innen untergräbt. So beschränken die Anmeldepflicht und die Möglichkeiten, Anordnungen gegenüber Sexarbeiter*innen zu erlassen, das Recht auf freie Berufswahl, und die weitreichenden Überwachungsmöglichkeiten, die das ProstSchG den Behörden gegenüber Sexarbeiter*innen einräumt, verletzen das Grundrecht auf Unverletzlichkeit der Wohnung. Besonders schwer wiegt die Speicherung persönlicher Daten in Verbindung mit Informationen zum Sexualleben einer Person, denn sie verletzt das Grundrecht auf informationelle Selbstbestimmung und die Richtlinie des Europäischen Parlaments zum „Schutz natürlicher Personen bei der Verarbeitung personenbezogener Daten“. In Anbetracht der Tatsache, dass ein absolut sicherer Datenschutz unmöglich gewährleistet werden kann, ist die zukünftige Datenerhebung damit höchst problematisch.

Fazit

Das „Prostituiertenschutzgesetz“ ist in der Form, in der es am 1. Juli 2017 in Kraft treten wird, nur vorgeblich ein Gesetz zum Schutz von Sexarbeiter*innen und die darin enthaltenen Maßnahmen sind vergeblich, um Sexarbeiter*innen auf der einen Seite und Betroffene von Menschenhandel auf der anderen nachhaltig zu unterstützen. Stattdessen werden insbesondere in Wohnungen gemeinsam arbeitende Sexarbeiter*innen sowie migrantische, transidente, und anderweitig spezifisch vulnerable Sexarbeiter*innen von diesem Gesetz in die Illegalität gedrängt. Wo Schutz draufsteht, ist daher in großen Teilen schlicht ein Gesetz zur Verdrängung der Sexarbeit enthalten.

Wir laden Sexarbeiter*innen und politische Entscheidungsträger*innen dazu ein, das Briefing Paper aufmerksam zu lesen und die Empfehlungen der Gemeinschaft von Sexarbeiter*innen zu beachten.

Download

Bitte hier klicken, um die deutsche Version herunterzuladen.
Bitte hier klicken, um die englische Version herunterzuladen.

Impressum

Autorinnen: Angela Herter and Emy Fem
Co-Autor und Lektor: Matthias Lehmann (Research Project Germany)
Übersetzung: Ursula Probst
Design: Aleksandra Haduch
Fotos: Matthias Lehmann und Emy Fem

ICRSE ProstSchG Briefing Paper Quotes [German]


Dieser Artikel wurde zuerst am 31. Mai 2017 in englischer Sprache unter dem Titel “Sex Workers’ Rights Day: ICRSE launches Briefing Paper on Germany’s new ‘Prostitutes Protection Act’” auf der Website des Internationalen Komitees für die Rechte von Sexarbeiter*innen in Europa (ICRSE) veröffentlicht. Reproduziert mit freundlicher Genehmigung.


Prostitution: Trade Supervision instead of Repression

Cul-de-sac -- Photo by StockSnap CC0 Public Domain

The plans for the “Prostitutes Protection Law” have reached a cul-de-sac, explains Criminal Law Professor Dr. Monika Frommel. Rather than patronising sex workers with criminal and police laws, they should be protected from exploitative brothel operators by using the trade law.

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.

Why do politicians fail yet again [1] to adequately regulate prostitution during this legislative period? The goal of a reform should be to control brothel operators as effectively as possible. But instead, a draft bill has been created that will achieve the opposite: the strict and bureaucratic monitoring of sex workers. Brothel operators, on the other hand, have little to be afraid of.

Instead of “protection” from exploitation, the draft bill, modified several times and unlikely to draw a consensus, includes the duty to register and undergo health checks for those individually engaging in this line of work (it was once called “Bockschein”). [A1] Health authorities are supposed to be responsible for those health checks but they can neither provide comprehensive advice nor offer affordable HIV prevention. If one dictates mandatory health checks carrying potential sanctions anyway, one creates an entirely useless Normenfalle [lit. trap of norms; numerous regulations that are impossible to abide by at all times, which in turn renders them permanently criticisable and sanctionable; translator’s note]. The new provisions concerning police powers are unreasonable anyway. What’s missing is the tailwind for an adequate reform. Headwind there is plenty, however, for example from the fringes of the women’s movement, once interested in emancipation [but now arguing that] buying sex should be banned, clients of “forced prostitutes” should be punished, 90 percent of prostitutes were victims of human trafficking, and prostitution constituted an attack on “women’s dignity” – hard to believe that women who regard themselves as emancipated engage in such proxy battles. [A2] So far, they haven’t gotten their way, but they’ve nevertheless caused damage.

“Economically weak independent entrepreneurs exist not only in this line of work”

It’s simply absurd to prosecute exploitation – as hitherto – via the bizarre detour of making claims about human trafficking, a criminal offence whose legal definition has up until recently been regularly expanded at the instigation of the EU. Everybody involved has known for years that this leads nowhere and cannot lead anywhere. So why then repeat in the future what had not been thought through in the past already but was only ideologically motivated? The ideology is known: human trafficking is always forced labour, prostitution is almost always forced prostitution (apart from a few exotics). How do politicians for women’s affairs get to this simple equation? Many people work under economic constraints. (Apart from extreme exceptions) Brothel operators and third parties force nobody into prostitution. Economically weak independent entrepreneurs exist not only in this line of work. From that perspective, providing sexual services is a job like any other. A “Prostitutes Protection Law” could make sense. What doesn’t make sense is to speak about “coercion” and “voluntariness” exclusively in the context of prostitution but not in other lines of work, where poorly qualified workers are also being exploited. Not the work itself is harmful but the unchecked economical necessity to serve too many clients in order to be able to afford too high rental fees and extra costs. What is now planned complicates the work of those engaged in sex work without providing any benefits for them.

If legislators were interested in a rational, long-term solution and not in phoney, moralising debates, what would be the goal of an effective regulation under the trade law? Technically, brothels would be classified as commercial enterprises requiring permissions from licensing authorities. This would depend on the constantly verifiable compliance with minimum requirements. Experienced authorities could respond flexibly whenever operators would fall short of the specified minimum standards. Those who work there (independently) could examine the files at the trade office and check if the fees deducted for operational costs are in fact realistic, just as tenants have the right to control such matters and have tenants associations who support them in that. Why shouldn’t that be possible at brothels?

“The planned Prostitutes Protection Law relies too heavily on the police”

Only if the trade supervisory board cooperated with those working there would there be a chance to recognise if and where exploitation occurs – which is actually liable to prosecution in accordance with §180a StGB [German Criminal Code; tn] (Exploitation of Prostitutes); but if the responsible trade supervisory board isn’t furnished with the relevant powers, it cannot be proven. Instead of the currently empty threat of criminal proceedings, several more flexible legal instruments could be used. If operators would not fulfil their requirements, one could bar them and their representatives (or straw men) from any further activity in this industry.

Therefore, trade supervision would be the solution, but faced with diffuse resistance [2], the Ministry of Women’s Affairs could not prevail, and it hadn’t planned anyway to discuss the subject earnestly. Viewed in this light, nobody’s surprised that the Prostitutes Protection Law, planned in 2014, continues to rely all too heavily on the police and for that reason has ended in a cul-de-sac. Under the terms of this law, sex workers would have to register with authorities, otherwise they would commit an administrative offence. They would also have to regularly repeat this procedure, and every time they would work at a new location, which is frequently the case, they would have to register anew. In addition, they would always have to carry with them a certificate documenting their timely attendance of mandatory health checks (at the health authorities). What kind of protection is that supposed to achieve?

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] In 2014, there still seemed to be hope. See Monika Frommel „Gelingt es in dieser Legislaturperiode, die Prostitution angemessen zu regulieren?“ in: Kritische Justiz 1/2015, pp. 96–109.

[2] This resistance has persisted since 2002. In 2014, even state governments ruled by coalitions of Social Democrats and Greens clearly signalled that they were not ready to agree to controls by the trade supervisory board.

[A1] Bockschein was a colloquial term for a public health certificate, which sex workers had to produce until 2000. The name derives from the Bock, the gynaecological examination chair.

[A2] Since one reader felt it was unclear whether Dr. Frommel was arguing that buying sex should be banned or quoting prostitution abolitionists, the insertion “[but now arguing that]” was made here.


Translation by Matthias Lehmann. Research Project Germany. I would like to thank Dr. Frommel for her permission to translate and publish her article. Every effort has been made to translate this article verbatim. As a result, the wording may appear unusual on some occasions. The photo above did not appear in the original article. Photo: “Cul-de-sac” By StockSnap CC0 Public Domain. Footnote A1 was added for further clarification.

The German original of this article was first published as “Prostitution: Gewerberecht statt Gängelung” at NovoArgumente (January 25th, 2016). Please note that the copyright for this article lies with Dr. Monika Frommel and is not licensed under a Creative Commons License.


Further Reading

Prostitution: Beyond an infantilising feminism – A translation of an earlier article by Dr. Frommel

“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


The “Dortmund Model” – Hardly a good example of sex work regulation

Off-limit + tolerance zone Dortmund [cropped]

Off-limit and tolerance zone (in green) in Dortmund’s city centre (click to enlarge)

Last week, a local news outlet in Dortmund published an article that illustrated the gulf between sex workers and proponents of fully decriminalising sex work on the one hand, and even those politicians who oppose forced registrations of sex workers as part of the planned “Prostitutes Protection Law” on the other. The below is a translation of said article and a short commentary.

Prostitution Law: Discussion about Sanctions

The updated draft of a new prostitution law was the subject of a discussion between Sabine Poschmann, member of the German parliament (MdB) for the Social Democrats (SPD), and representatives of the Mitternachtsmission (Midnight Mission), a counselling centre for current and former sex workers as well as trafficked persons, which had previously strongly criticised the design of the draft bill. Where the MdB of Dortmund’s chapter of the Social Democrats and the staff of the counselling centre agreed was that in the updated draft, the Ministry of Family Affairs had taken some of the criticism into account and somewhat softened the tough regulations.

“However, wagging the moralist forefinger is still taking precedence over protecting and helping sex workers,” said Poschmann. She particularly criticised the planned mandatory counselling and forced registration for sex workers. “Unfortunately, our coalition partner shows little willingness to compromise,” Poschmann added. The representatives of the Mitternachtsmission expressed similar views. In their opinion, the current approach will push sex workers into illegality, as experiences in other EU countries had already shown. As Poschmann explained, however, the draft bill does also contain important points, including a ban on degrading practices, such as “flat rate sex”. North Rhine-Westphalia provided sex workers with a good range of assistance, but a precondition for their acceptance would be to create policies that dealt with the subject of prostitution constructively and didn’t stigmatise sex workers. According to Poschmann, Dortmund served as a good example for that. The “Dortmund Model” follows the principle to apply a unified approach of all authorities and support facilities dealing with prostitution. In further consultations about the prostitution law, all affected parties should be heard. This would include both sex workers and brothel operators.

Commentary: With friends like these…

What Poschmann (or at least this article) doesn’t tell you is that the alleged “good example” Dortmund sets includes a city-wide ban on street-based sex work and a complete ban on all forms of sex work in its city centre, with the exception of a single street where sex work businesses are permitted, since the existing law states that cities with 50,000 inhabitants or more must designate sex work tolerance zones within their city limits. In addition, although sex worker “Dany” had successfully challenged the city-wide ban of street-based sex work at the Gelsenkirchen Administrative Court, the City of Dortmund fought back and eventually had the previous ruling overturned earlier this year by the Higher Administrative Court of North Rhine-Westphalia in Münster.

And while Poschmann criticised the SPD’s coalition partner’s moralist forefinger-wagging, she did some wagging herself as she spoke favourably about banning what she considers degrading practices, although sex worker activists have repeatedly demanded to preserve the existing diversity in sex work. As Undine de Rivière, sex worker and press speaker of German sex worker organisation BesD, stated in an interview with Sueddeutsche Zeitung:

“We are categorically for the preservation of the diversity of work places and work modes in sex work. 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 secure daily income, because what they earn is often not worse but sometimes even better than elsewhere. And, to put it bluntly: at first glance, flat rate sex may sound overburdening. But more than anything it’s a promotional thing. The flat rate idea works because of male overconfidence. There are customers who pay once, want it ten times, but can only get it up twice.”

Finger-wagging aside, Poschmann’s rejection of forced registrations for sex workers is certainly laudable and it would be too harsh to say that with friends like her, one doesn’t need enemies. But lamenting the Conservatives’ unwillingness to compromise will amount to little more than lip service if Poschmann and her fellow party members will allow Minister for Family Affairs Manuela Schwesig (SPD) and the Conservatives (CDU) to push the “Prostitutes Protection Law” through parliament. The same goes for her talk of further consultations in which sex workers should be heard. The authors of the draft bill already had plenty of coffee and biscuits during talks with sex worker activists and other experts, yet the draft bill reads like a list of everything they argued against. As sex workers worldwide prepare for December 17th, the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, those working in Germany are increasingly worried about the new law and its impact on their health and safety, and as the year draws to a close, the time to change the bill is quickly running out.


The German original of this article was first published as “Prostitutionsgesetz: Diskussion über Sanktionen” by lokalkompass.de. Translation by Matthias Lehmann, Research Project Germany. The original article featured a different photo. Above: “Sperrbezirk Dortmund Innenstadt (alle Prostitutionsarten)” (Off-limit zone Dortmund city centre, all forms of sex work), cropped from the original. Source: City of Dortmund.


“Politically motivated despotism” | Statement by sex worker counselling centre Doña Carmen in response to the derecognition of its charitable status

Wegen Gemeinnützigkeit geschlossen. Photo by ImageParty (modified)

“Closed due to charitable status”

“Imagine if journalists asked us about our opinion about the planned ‘Prostitutes Protection Law’ and we had to say, “Sorry, we can’t talk about that, because our work must benefit the public.” – Franziska Funk, sex worker and member of Doña Carmen e.V.

Derecognition of Doña Carmen’s charitable status due to advocacy for the recognition of sex work as work

Please click here to read Doña Carmen’s statement in German.
Bitte klicken Sie hier, um die Erklärung Doña Carmens auf Deutsch zu lesen.

+++ Update +++ Following a petition by Constance journalist Dennis Riehle, the Hesse state parliament called on the state government to clarify why attac e.V. and Doña Carmen e.V. had their charitable statuses derecognised for engaging in political causes. The state government must now examine the legal situation. Riehle commented: “The petition was dealt with relatively quickly, which in my view indicates that the members of parliament share the concern that this matter, which can hardly be described as coincidental, requires clarification. The authorities will only be able to dispel the doubts if they produce valid arguments.” (Source: Dennis Riehle)

In September 2015, the Frankfurt tax office revoked the Gemeinnützigkeit (charitable status, lit. benefit to the public) of Doña Carmen, Association for the social and political rights of prostitutes, with immediate effect, and backdated its decision retroactively to 2011.

At first glance, the reasons appear contrived: “supporting women in prostitution in tax-related matters”; “offering guided tours through brothels” during the open night at Frankfurt’s station quarter (Bahnhofsviertelnacht). One can only shake one’s head.

But the core accusation levelled against Doña Carmen makes one’s ears prick up: the association is blamed for pursuing political goals, “continuously” and “in a non-neutral manner”, “by campaigning for political interests of prostitutes”. Explicitly, Doña Carmen is charged with engaging in “advocacy for the recognition of sex work as work”. Henceforth, the Frankfurt tax office no longer holds this as a charitable cause.

Gemeinnützigkeitas political weapon

The decision by the Frankfurt tax authority – should it become a legal precedent – is politically explosive since the “charitable status” (Gemeinnützigkeit) is used as a political weapon and the Charity Law (Gemeinnützigkeitsrecht) is being politicised in a reactionary manner. The goal here is to terminate a political consensus, in place for nearly 30 years, which recognises counselling centres for sex workers, which are normally set up as charitable organisations, as experts on the subject of sex work and as advocates for sex workers’ concerns.

Today, Doña Carmen is the target. And tomorrow?

The derecognition of the charitable status has serious repercussions for Doña Carmen with regards to the funding of the counselling centre’s work and causes major problems. Due to chronic underfunding, other counselling centres would experience the same problems. Today, Doña Carmen is being targeted. And tomorrow?

Other associations, e.g. Hydra e.V. in Berlin, Nitribitt e.V. in Bremen, Madonna e.V. in Bochum or Kassandra e.V. in Nuremberg, to name but a few, are all recognised as charitable, although structurally, their statutes are no different. On their websites, they also list political demands that are aimed at the recognition of sex work as work. Thus, if this is about the derecognition of the charitable status of counselling centres for sex workers, then the respective authorities should have no difficulties in proceeding, if they applied the standards of the Frankfurt tax office.

Blatant case of political despotism

The derecognition of Doña Carmen’s charitable status is a blatant case of political despotism and illustrates how these things develop:

Since 2001, Doña Carmen conducts guided tours through Frankfurt’s brothels. Since 2009, this also includes tours as part of the open night at Frankfurt’s station quarter (Bahnhofsviertelnacht). The tax office has been aware of all that for a long time, since the tours were listed in the activity reports presented for the recognition of the charitable status during previous years. Since Doña Carmen’s charitable status was recognised in the past despite the brothel tours, it indicates that it is not the practice of Doña Carmen that has changed but the views held by the Frankfurt tax authorities.

The same applies for engaging in advocacy for the recognition of sex work as work. Doña Carmen has uncompromisingly demanded this right ever since its establishment 18 years ago. Throughout all those years, the association’s charitable status has been reviewed repeatedly without any objections, on the basis of activity reports. Now, however, engaging in advocacy for the recognition of sex work as work has suddenly cost Doña Carmen its charitable status. This is, without a doubt, political despotism.

Timing is not coincidental

It is no coincidence that this derecognition of the charitable status happened at the very time when plans are made for a “Prostitutes Protection Law”, one of the most repressive legislative proposals against sex workers in German history. The federal government currently prepares to adopt a law, which would include the forced registration of sex workers, a measure last in place under the Nazis. In light of these circumstances, it’s nothing short of brazen to demand from counselling centres like Doña Carmen political “neutrality”. It’s probably not a coincidence either that those who have decisively campaigned for the rights of sex workers are targeted first.

Attack on sex workers’ rights

But mind you: the attack on counselling centres is actually one on sex workers. They are the target. Not only are their rights supposed to be eroded, but also their opportunity to access practical support. Therefore, the termination of the political consensus with regards to counselling centres will not be without effect for sex workers. In light of this reactionary development, the rights of sex workers have to be defended even more decisively and more specifically. Doña Carmen will continue to do so in the future. Authorities like the Frankfurt tax office will not bring us to our knees!

Request for donations

Doña Carmen is also in need of financial support and solidarity, however. We ask all those who value our work and commitment for donations, since our own resources won’t suffice to stem the costs for the pending litigation to regain the charitable status at the fiscal court.

Please note: Donations to Doña Carmen e.V. are currently not tax-deductible due to our officially certified advocacy “for political interests of prostitutes”, especially for the “recognition of sex work as work”. However, you can certainly receive written proof of your donation. For details on how to donate or contact us, please click here.

A PDF document containing a detailed analysis of the reasons given by the Frankfurt tax authorities for the derecognition of Doña Carmen’s charitable status can be downloaded on Doña Carmen’s website. This resource is in German.


Translation by Matthias Lehmann. Every effort has been made to translate this article verbatim. As a result, the wording may appear unusual on some occasions. Photo by Image Party (Creative Commons 0 License). Text superimposed.


Ministers from 4 states demand comprehensive overhaul of “Prostitutes Protection Law”

Ulle SchauwsUlle Schauws MdB (Member of the German Parliament), Green Party*

Wo Schutz drauf steht, muss Schutz drin sein*

*[lit. Where it says protection on the outside, protection must be included]

+++ Update: Click here to download the position paper as PDF. This resource is in German. +++

The Green Party believes that the “Prostitutes Protection Law”, submitted by Minister for Family Affairs Manuela Schwesig (Social Democrats), will be subject to approval by the Bundesrat, the upper house of the German parliament. The reason for that is that the Länder (states) are supposed to carry out mandatory health consultations for sex workers and will thus shoulder the financial burden of the law. “Federal laws containing duties for Länder to carry out such services require the approval by the Bundesrat”, writes Ulle Schauws, parliamentary spokeswoman for women’s affairs, in a position paper.

Schauws receives support from ministers Barbara Steffens, Irene Alt, Katharina Fegebank, and Anja Stahmann, who are responsible for prostitution-related matters Bremen, Hamburg, North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate. They criticise that the bill is expensive and bureaucratic, and required “states and municipalities to establish entirely new departments”. The predicted costs set out by the Ministry for Family Affairs were an underestimation. [Ulle Schauws and] the four ministers demand a comprehensive overhaul of the draft bill, also because it discriminated and stigmatised sex workers, e.g. through mandatory registrations.

Wo Schutz drauf steht, muss Schutz drin sein

Quotes from the Greens‘ position paper

Die Grünen Logo“What the BMFSFJ [Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth] presented after the tough negotations in the grand coalition, is a bill that continues the discrimination and stigmatisation of people engaging in prostitution and forces many of them into illegality.”

Die Grünen Logo“According to experts and [representatives of] prostitutes organisations, whom we have heard on this matter, most of this bill is headed into the wrong direction. The recent resolution by Amnesty International underscores yet again that the protection and human rights of prostitutes worldwide must be strengthened. The draft bill, however, considerably worsens the status quo for people engaged in prostitution. Instead of protecting them, it disproportionally puts pressure on prostitutes.”

Die Grünen Logo“Mandatory registrations are intended to particularly benefit victims of human trafficking. What the BMFSFJ ignores here are the experiences made in Austria. The mandatory registration ordinance for prostitutes, as currently used in Vienna, has shown that victims of human trafficking were in fact frequently registered but the authorities couldn’t recognise them. Would victims of human trafficking who are forced into prostitution but remain undetected despite (forced) registrations not believe their exploitation was legal? On the other hand, there are reasonable grounds to assume that a lot of prostitutes would not register and instead work illegally for fear of being forcibly outed, as has happened in Vienna.”

Die Grünen Logo“Within one and the same draft bill, the BMFSFJ conflates two separate regulatory areas, which should be dealt with in two laws: the regulation of occupations in prostitution and the criminal law dealing with human trafficking. The main problem with prosecution of human trafficking cases is victims’ fear to give testimony against their perpetrators. This willingness to give testimony would not at all be strengthened if the concerned persons must face the authorities in the course of registration procedures and are threatened with fines in case of non-compliance. Instead, we Greens demand a simpler procedure [for them] to attain the right of residence, to increase victims’ willingness to give testimony at the courts.”

Die Grünen Logo“All told, the draft is divorced from reality, inconsistent, and misses its actual goal. As a result of this so-called protection law, prostitutes would predominantly experience incapacitation and repression, instead of a strengthening and professionalisation of their occupation. We demand a law that takes the protection of people engaged in prostitution seriously and delivers what it promises. We call on the BMFSFJ to overhaul the draft bill with that in mind.“


*Image: Website of Ulle Schauws (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Germany License). Source: Green Party. Translation: Matthias Lehmann. Click here to download the position paper as PDF. This resource is in German.


“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: 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


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…)