Sex Work Regulations in Germany

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Survey: Prostitution – A Snapshot

Slogan of Frankfurt protest in June 2015, organised by Doña Carmen

Slogan of Frankfurt protest in June 2015, organised by Doña Carmen

V4S conducted a survey among sex workers in Germany

To coincide with the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, held annually on December 17th, Voice4Sexworkers* conducted a survey among sex workers in Germany, where the ruling coalition is working for two years already on a draft for a “Prostitutes Protection Law” (ProstSchG), said to protect sex workers from violence, coercion and exploitation. Manuela Schwesig, the Minister for Family Affairs, recently submitted a draft bill, which laid out plans how to control and regulate prostitution in Germany, although the actual goal of an EU directive was to create a law to fight human trafficking.

Since the prostitution debate in Germany is dominated by estimates and alleged facts – neither from reputable sources, nor based on verifiable evidence – Voice4Sexworkers wanted to find out what the current situation of sex workers in Germany actually looks like. More often than not, the media simply print two opposing opinions and then leave it at that. The actual mood among sex workers can hardly be derived from that. For many months, “experts” have been arguing over whether the law in its current form is necessary, but hardly anyone wonders about the opinions of those who will be directly affected by the law, or knows what needs they might have. It’s also quite difficult for outsiders to establish contact with sex workers, let alone gain their trust, especially if you don’t want to ask just one or two, but many sex workers about their opinions.

For that reason, Voice4Sexworkers started a survey among sex workers in December, which they could participate in anonymously until December 16th, 2015. Contrary to politicians, researchers or the media, Voice4Sexworkers was able to draw on a well-connected and large network, which demonstrably only sex workers have access to. Among other platforms, respondents were found on an online portal, where only sex workers can advertise their services. Voice4Sexworkers would like to thank all respondents for taking the time to participate in the survey.

Participation in the survey was completely anonymous and random. Therefore, respondents were able to respond freely and openly. As they survey wasn’t public and wasn’t publicly advertised either, the number of respondents was somewhat smaller, but in turn, this ensured that all participants were authentic and that no manipulation or falsification of data by non-sex workers was possible. Since not even Voice4Sexworkers knew the identity of the respondents, the responses offer an unfiltered insight into the world and lived realities of sex workers. Anyone questioning the credibility and correctness of this survey is welcome to contact Voice4Sexworkers and cite comparable surveys and specify their sources.

Contrary to existing and oft-cited studies, in which only members of certain groups were interviewed, e.g. drug users selling sex to finance their drug consumption or trafficked persons, this survey covers people across all work modes of sexual service provision. Their opinions and experiences are reflected in this survey, regardless if they are working on the street, at brothels, or as escorts. Intentionally, no group was excluded or treated or treated preferentially, because that would only have added to existing selective impressions from certain groups and not helped to show how the respective factors and circumstances affect sexual service providers in general.

Especially the responses to the question about what type of sex work they engaged in illustrate how respondents came from all areas and reflect the overall situation in Germany (percentage of the respective types of sexual service; distribution among the number of sex workers). Although the results confirmed their own experiences, even at Voice4Sexworkers, they were somewhat surprised how diversely a high number of sex workers operates and how wide-ranging the services are that they offer.

What didn’t surprise them was to learn that sex workers often don’t limit themselves to engage in a single type of sex work. Many switch back and forth between different types of services and offer services that are either the most profitable at a given time, or those that clients request, or those that are most practical for them due to private or other circumstances.

Other sex workers’ careers develop over time: some start by renting a room at a brothel but offer escort services or house calls later in life; others start out by working at apartment brothels but later switch to offer domina services because they developed a liking and the skills for it.

In that regard, Voice4Sexworkers’ survey offers facts that differ from the usual estimates. There isn’t the ONE typical sex worker, but just like in any other profession, people undergo a constant development and acquire skills while engaging in sex work. Or, as the survey also shows, some realise they aren’t suitable for the job or don’t like it, so that they want to change occupations as soon as possible.

However, the majority of respondents is engaged in sex work for the longer term and gathers experiences across different types of sex work, especially through contacts with their peers.

The other answers by the 69 respondents were not particularly surprising either, at least not for the members of Voice4Sexworkers, but merely confirmed what they and other sex workers have been saying all along.

With regards to the planned Prostitutes Protection Law, the following points are worth noting:

  • Sex workers are insufficiently informed about the ProstSchG. Many of them don’t even know enough about the existing prostitution law.
  • Only 4.3% favoured mandatory registrations, whereas 78.3% were against it.
  • Over half of the respondents (53.6%) expressed that they were afraid of having to out themselves as a result of mandatory registrations…
  • …which is probably why 44.9% have decided not to register with authorities and continue to work illegally, despite being threatened with fines.
  • As a result of the law, half of the respondents worry about the future and are afraid to lose their job.
  • Despite partially negative experiences with operators(65.4%), a majority is against statutory permission requirements for prostitution businesses (36.2%) and apartment brothels where two or more colleagues work together (68.1%).
  • The prevalent belief that sex workers experience violence and abuse predominantly from clients could not be confirmed. It raises all the more starkly the question whether sex workers really need a law to protect them…
  • …as the responses to the final question about their wishes illustrate. The gulf between sex workers’ actual needs and the planned regulations could hardly be any bigger.

But please read the entire result of the survey. The other figures and responses speak for themselves. (To pause the slide show, please hover over the image with your mouse and press the middle button.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

You can download the entire survey [in German] as excel file at Voice4Sexworkers. Alternatively, you can download the above graphics as pdf-file here.

Voices of sex workers

As part of the survey, respondents had the opportunity to leave an additional message. Some made use of that and left the following messages and opinions:

“The work with clients in itself is not the problem. Problematic are the conditions. Stigmatisation, the consequences of being outed/outing oneself, the helplessness when dealing with operators/lessors, and being afraid to call the police when you make negative experiences! They might then keep a record of you real name and, bam!, the stigma is engraved in your data.”

“It would be nice if people (the authorities) would simply ask first if one can work independently and wants to do it. The chaos surrounding registering a business and obtaining a tax code number should stop. There should be standardised regulations in all states.“

“I don’t have any problems with my clients but with the good citizens who outed me, ostracise me from society, and stigmatise me. With my CLIENTS I have no problems!”

“If this law will be adopted in its current form, it will create a parallel world again. Women who need the money will continue to work and then have to buy protection, which society is taking away from them through forced registrations and forced outing, from strong men… without the possibility to report exploitation, violence, coercion etc. to the police, because they would then have to admit that they illegally work in prostitution. Rights protect and empower us. If they are withheld, we are made into victims, especially of the rescue industry, which collects donations at our expense to finance itself and manifest its right to exist. This so-called help aims to deny our agency and right to self-determination, so that we’ll never be able to rid ourselves of the victim status they imposed on us and remain forever under their control.“

“Pity that the survey is only in German. That way, it will hardly be seen as scientifically credible…”

“I really wished there was more information, especially for colleagues who like to enter sex work, particularly foreign ones. Also more information for the public, so that our occupations gets out of the ‘dirty corner’ and more widely accepted.”

„I’m not afraid of a ban because in my opinion, that’s not compatible with Germany’s Basic Law. But even something like working ‘illegally’ will hardly apply to me as an escort, as long as it’s not forbidden to have private one-night stands. Whether or not money changes hands is only of interest for tax authorities – and if what I did was illegal, then the government can hardly levy taxes on it. It will also hardly be possible to prohibit having a private homepage or a blog with a contact form, where I offer dates – after all, I don’t have to publish a price list. But all that is of course a bad and burdensome game of hide-and-seek.

What I’m worried about is no the legal, but the societal persecution and discrimination. I don’t expect that a state of an employer protects me. I would never report sexual violence or rape anyway, even if I suffered them outside of sex work. Even experienced layers advise their daughters against it: the effort, the embarrassment of revealing it all in public, conviction and sentencing not being secure and often too low anyway. It’s not worth it. Besides, victims expose themselves to additional dangers, e.g. forced outing, public humiliation, blackmailing from officials, violence from the police. The only protection for me is an educated, emancipatory society.”

“It would be great if this survey would also exist in other languages! In Germany, many migrants are working in sex work, whose experiences would also be very important.”

“Since I do tantric work, I find it often difficult to see that as sex work. The working conditions for real tantric work are very different to those I learn about from sex workers. I see myself caught between the stools. Very uncomfortable. If only there wasn’t this headwind from politicians and society – because the job in itself is very satisfying, useful and fulfilling.”

“I like working in this job. It’s sophisticated and important.”

“Thank you for your work! Good that you are there. :)”

“I would like more protection for my job..!! And more understanding where to sleep, in the apartment where I work..!! How I can pay additional a hotel room and with a whore pass how can I be accepted at hotel???? Who helps me??”

“In the meantime, I’ve lost the belief that this government somehow wants to help us with the new law. On the contrary, they want to legitimise increased discrimination against us. These politicians want to demonise the voices of those women who live their sexuality independently and freely, and who refuse to let themselves be exploited for a pittance. These politicians want to see them yet again as demonised whores. We are not supposed to threaten the patriarchal, classist society. That’s why they don’t want to sit down together with us and make decisions over our heads.”

Voice4Sexworkers Header

*Voice4Sexworkers (V4S) is a project by sex workers and for sex workers, and for anyone else interested in sex work and sex workers’ rights. V4S provides sex workers, friends, supporters and clients the opportunity to publish their opinions and comments. To learn more about V4S, please click here.


This survey was originally published as “Umfrage: Prostitution – Eine Momentaufnahme” by Voice4Sexworkers. Translation: Matthias Lehmann, Research Project Germany. Every effort has been made to translate this article verbatim. As a result, the wording may appear unusual on some occasions.

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.

Swedish (Model) Logic

Swedish (Model) Logic - Translated from the German original by erzaehlmirnix

German original by Nadja Hermann. Translation by Matthias Lehmann. Posted with kind permission.
See also
Prostitutes Protection Law Logic and Sex Work Logic.

“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.

Prostitutes Protection Law Logic

ProstSchG Logic - translated from the original by erzaehlmirnix


German original by Nadja Hermann. Translation by Matthias Lehmann. Posted with kind permission.

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.

German sex worker organisation BesD responds to planned “Prostitutes Protection Law”

Logo of the Professional Association Erotic and Sexual Services (BesD)

Press release by the Professional Association Erotic and Sexual Services (BesD)

Berlin, September 11, 2015: The Professional Association Erotic and Sexual Services (BesD) criticises the draft bill by the Ministry for Family Affairs for a “Prostitutes Protection Law” in the strongest terms. In its response, the BesD concludes, “A law that pretends to aim at strengthening the right to self-determination of a group of people but then denies them the maturity to make their own decisions, attempts to paternalistically ‘protect’ them from those decision, needlessly interferes with their basic rights, and that, quasi in passing, also creates regulations to save society from this group of people, allegedly in need of protection, via arbitrarily expandable ordinances, such a law is worse than no law at all. The ‘Prostitution Protection Law’ should be rejected in its entirety.”

Instead, the association calls for a complete decriminalisation of sex work, as recently also demanded by Amnesty International, the acceptance of sexual service provision as a freelance occupation, mandatory registrations for brothels in accordance with the Trade Law [GewO], and the expansion of voluntary counselling services.


You can download the complete response by the BesD on the organisation‘s website. This resource is in German. Translation of the above press release by Matthias Lehmann.

Decriminalising sex work is necessary but not enough

Red Umbrellas Kosta CC2.0

“The demand to decriminalise sex work is a necessary step but it doesn’t go far enough.”

By Theodora Becker*

With its decision to issue a recommendation to governments on how to safeguard sex workers’ human rights, Amnesty International has caused outrage, because it includes the demand to decriminalise sex work. What this means is to abolish laws and regulations that either directly subject sex workers to prosecutions, arrests and fines, or criminalise the organisation, support and intermediation of sex work. [According to Amnesty’s draft policy on sex work,] third parties participating in transactional sex should only be penalised, if they exert force and pressure on or violence against sex workers. Clients, too, should not be penalised simply for being clients.

“Germany is not the role model for decriminalisation”

Among opponents of prostitution, this suggestion has caused outrage. They are of the opinion that it would promote pimps, human traffickers and other exploiters of prostitutes and enable them to avoid prosecution, while the poor prostitutes would be exposed to them all the more helpless. People like to refer to the German situation to decry what decriminalisation would lead to. However, there are several things to note. Germany is not the role model for decriminalisation that Amnesty has in mind. Prostitution in Germany is largely, but not completely decriminalised. The main relic of the old criminalising and regulatory regime are off limit ordinances, which allow cities and municipalities to prohibit prostitution in certain areas “for the protection of youth and public decency”. They use them plenty, and in a discriminatory manner, too. A new off limit zone in the city of Dortmund was recently justified with the argument that street prostitution had become too attractive for [female] sex workers from Romania and Bulgaria, and that the city no longer wanted to provide such a magnet for Eastern European migrants.

It is necessary to distinguish between decriminalisation and legalisation. Decriminalisation signifies the abolition of criminal laws and ordinances that [exclusively] deal with sex work in a discriminatory manner. Legalisation would be the implementation of certain legal regulations of sex work. Sex worker organisations around the world demand decriminalisation as a necessary first step. Amnesty remained consciously noncommittal with regards to a concrete model of legalisation but established minimum standards that such a model should fulfil. Once again, Germany is hardly a role model in that regard. The plans for the new “Prostitutes Protection Law” [#ProstSchG] include mandatory registrations for prostitutes, which are not only problematic in terms of data protection, but in addition, they are discriminating against sex workers, for whom the measure has no benefits. In addition, the access to social security and labour rights, which Amnesty both calls for, is also not always guaranteed in Germany, especially not for migrants. And the fight against stigmatisation, which Amnesty demands from governments, is also not really fought with dedication in Germany.

“Decriminalisation must include third parties”

That the decriminalisation must include third parties to protect the human rights of sex workers is obvious: in France, for example, even lessors of apartments, where people engage in sex work, are liable to prosecution. If sex workers would report such a lessor, for example for an unacceptably high rent, they would effectively find themselves working on the street. Only in a decriminalised setting would they be able to insist on fair conditions.

Amnesty does not just talk about the decriminalisation of sex work but about various other measures governments should take to contribute towards providing people, who only choose sex work due to a lack of alternatives, with more opportunities. Those include socio-political and anti-discriminatory measures. Amnesty acknowledges that poverty, a lack of education, discrimination, and restrictive migration policies are jointly responsible for people working as sex workers who would prefer not to. It would be nice if opponents of prostitution would also come to this realisation: instead of constantly pushing the narratives of pimp networks and organised crime, they could say a thing or two about the economic conditions that push people into prostitution – just as they push people into other precarious labour conditions. The entirely undifferentiated reaction to Amnesty’s resolution once more unmasked the position of [prostitution] abolitionists.

Amnesty Listened! - Image by @photogroffee


*Theodora Becker is a PhD candidate at the Free University Berlin and an activist with Hydra e.V., a meeting and counselling centre for sex workers. The German original of this article was first published at leftist weekly Jungle World. Translation by Matthias Lehmann, Research Project Germany. As in the translation, Theodora Becker used the terms “prostitute” and “sex worker” interchangeably in her original text.

Photo (top): “Parapluies” by Kosta | Cropped from the original and used under Creative Commons 2.0 license. Image (bottom): @photogroffee

“Sex workers have the same rights as everyone else” – Press Release by Voice4Sexworkers

Voice4Sexworkers Header

Amnesty International supports the human rights of sex workers and calls for the decriminalisation of sex work

Please click here to view the German original.

At the conclusion of its International Council Meeting in Dublin on August 11th, 2015, Amnesty International voted to henceforward support sex workers’ human rights and call for the decriminalisation of sex work.

Voice4Sexworkers, an NGO by and for sex workers, welcomes the long overdue decision by Amnesty International, as the global sex workers’ rights movement has demanded the very same since decades already.

In Germany, for instance, abolishing the pimping law [§181a of the German Criminal Code] was already suggested in 1973, since labour exploitation and taking advantage of the plight of third parties are already prohibited in accordance with the human trafficking law [§233 of the Criminal Code].*

People who work in the sex trade are not helped by destroying its logistics and infrastructure or through wholesale prosecution of operators of prostitution venues. In many countries, e.g. in France and Sweden, it is already considered as pimping when two women share an apartment to work from. They are then charged and penalised for mutual pimping. Instead of being able to support one another, they are thus forced to work alone and under increased risks.

No Bad Whores Just Bad Laws (Source Unknown)

Decriminalisation does not mean to protect criminals or criminal networks. Those remain criminal under the existing criminal code that also applies to all other citizens. Rather, the objective is to abolish special laws that concern sex workers exclusively and make their work more dangerous. Other occupational groups are not controlled by the police in that fashion. In addition, special laws have a signal effect and lead to greater stigmatisation and discrimination against sex workers, which in turn affects their families and friends, too.

When criminal offences occur in the sex trade, the criminal code is sufficient to prosecute offenders, just as when they occur in any other trade. There is no need for special laws for the sex trade. The case numbers in the reports about human trafficking in Germany have consistently decreased, as evident in the reports by the Federal Crime Office [BKA].

Sex workers have the same right to free choice of employment as everyone else, and their choice must not result in being classified as criminals or in being subjected to controls at all hours without any suspicion of a crime being in progress.


*To avoid confusion: the call for the abolition of this paragraph is not tantamount to a call to legalise or decriminalise pimping but only to abolish special laws for sex workers, since exploitative labour practices in other occupations are all prosecuted under existing human trafficking law. Although the press release by Voice4Sexworkers amply explains this point, an additional clarification seemed necessary in light of countless misleading reports, incl. from well-respected media outlets, that Amnesty International‘s sex work policy was aiming to legalise pimping (see also below).

Original by Voice4Sexworkers. Translation by Matthias Lehmann. Published with kind permission.


“Let’s debunk the myths” – Video by Amnesty International

In an interview with Katie Nguyen of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Amnesty policy adviser Catherine Murphy explained:

“We have to be careful with words like pimp because people often interpret that to mean an exploitative third party and we would not be calling for the decriminalisation of an exploitative third party. What (the new policy) would mean is the decriminalisation of laws on consensual sex work. Exploitation or trafficking within sex work would still be criminal offences. So the the low level operational aspects of sex work such as working together for safety, renting premises, organising together… these things would no longer be criminal.”

Amnesty‘s video below explains how protecting the human rights of sex workers does not mean protecting pimps. Alternatively, you can read Amnesty‘s Q&A on the Policy to Protect Human Rights of Sex Workers.

“Red Light Research” – Interview by Malte Kollenberg

Research Project Korea

Sex workers and allies protest in front of the South Korean Constitutional Court. © 2015 Research Project Korea. All Rights Reserved.

Sex workers and allies protest in front of the South Korean Constitutional Court.
© 2015 Research Project Korea. All Rights Reserved.

Summary

In May, I accepted an interview request by Malte Kollenberg, a freelance journalist producing a series about Germans living in South Korea for KBS World Radio. After several negative experiences with the Korean media, it was refreshing to meet a sincere journalist willing to go the extra mile to communicate before, during and after our encounter to ensure that the subject of sex work would be dealt with appropriately.

Listen to the interview in German or read the translated transcript below.

Please note that the copyright for the interview recording lies with KBS World Radio and is not licenced under a Creative Commons License.

Interview

Introduction by Malte Kollenberg

Matthias Lehmann’s research deals with a stigmatised occupation. He currently works on his dissertation about sex work…

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