“Forced registration – Not with us!” Sex workers and allies demonstrate against the ProstSchG in front of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs in Berlin © 2015 Emy Fem
ICRSE launches Briefing Paper on
Germany’s new ‘Prostitutes Protection Act’
[Deutsche Version hier]
To mark the International Sex Workers’ Day, celebrated each year on June 2nd to commemorate the occupation of the Saint-Nizier Church in Lyon, France, by 100 sex workers in 1975, ICRSE launches a briefing paper titled “Professed Protection, Pointless Provisions – Overview of the German Prostitutes Protection Act (Prostituiertenschutzgesetz – ProstSchG)”.
The briefing paper was developed by ICRSE in collaboration with Hydra e.V. and the Professional Association Erotic and Sexual Services (Berufsverband erotische und sexuelle Dienstleistungen, BesD e.V.). It aims to offer policy makers, sex workers, and sex workers’ allies an analysis of Germany’s new “Prostitutes Protection Act” and its expected impact on sex workers, and outline recommendations from the sex worker community.
As noted therein, ICRSE has serious concerns about the ways the “Prostitutes Protection Act” will significantly undermine many of sex workers’ fundamental rights. The mandatory registration of sex workers and the possibility of issuing administrative orders against them limit their right to freedom of vocational choice, and the extensive means of surveillance that the “Prostitutes Protection Act” affords the authorities infringes the constitutional right of the inviolability of the home. The recording of personal data in connection with information about persons’ sexual life is a particularly serious issue as it violates the fundamental right to informational self-determination and the directive of the European Parliament on “the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data”. Given the impossibility of providing absolute data protection, the upcoming collection of this personal information is highly problematic.
The “Prostitutes Protection Act”, in the form that it will come into effect on July 1, 2017, only pretends to be a law for the protection of sex workers. The regulations provided therein fail to support both sex workers and trafficked persons. Instead, the law will force sex workers into illegality, especially those working together at apartments as well as migrant, trans, and otherwise particularly vulnerable individuals in sex work. What is labelled as protection is in large parts simply a law aimed at repressing sex work.
We invite sex workers and policy makers to read the briefing paper and take note of the recommendations from the sex workers’ community.
Authors: Angela Herter and Emy Fem
Contributing Author and Copy Editor: Matthias Lehmann (Research Project Germany)
Translation: Ursula Probst
Design: Aleksandra Haduch
Photos: Matthias Lehmann and Emy Fem
This article was first published as “Sex Workers’ Rights Day: ICRSE launches Briefing Paper on Germany’s new ‘Prostitutes Protection Act’” on the website of the International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe (ICRSE) on May 31st, 2017. Republished with kind permission.
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.)
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 (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.
German original by Nadja Hermann. Translation by Matthias Lehmann. Posted with kind permission.
Two sex workers discuss the article “Aus der Deckung” (Out of hiding) by journalist Ann-Katrin Müller in German news magazine DER SPIEGEL.
Please click here to view the German original.
Here we go again
Apparently, journalist Ann-Katrin Müller drew no lessons from the fiasco of the SPIEGEL cover story “Unprotected: How Legalizing Prostitution Has Failed” (SPIEGEL 22/2013) or maybe she’s just aware of the power of the magazine for which she writes. To this day, the 2013 report is cited internationally by politicians and anti-prostitution activists as purported evidence for the claim that the German prostitution law had led to an increase in human trafficking, although the available data from the Federal Crime Office prove otherwise.
The SPIEGEL’s slogan is “Not afraid of the truth” but it still seems to take a while longer until readers will actually be allowed to learn it. After Müller’s article was published, three counterstatements appeared in no time, among them one from the Trade Association for Erotic and Sexual Services (BesD), an organisation of current and former sex workers founded in October 2013.
In the following interview, sex workers Melanie (from Voice4Sexworkers) and Fraences talk about the renewed misrepresentations by the SPIEGEL and the truths, which Ann-Katrin Müller is obviously afraid of.
Research Project Germany: What was your first reaction to the article?
Fraences: When I read the headline and someone’s comment, “Oh, that’s going to be fun”, I immediately thought, that’s not going to be fun at all, since it’s the SPIEGEL.
Melanie: I was speechless. At first, I didn’t take it all that serious because I didn’t know the entire article. But a little later, the first scanned copies arrived and I was just shocked. How can you lie like that and then sell the whole thing as “truth”? And how could anyone even agree to talk to the SPIEGEL again after everything that’s happened there in the past?
Fraences: People may believe that SPIEGEL cover story is old news now but politicians continue to use it to campaign against sex work. Both Uhl* in the Bundestag and parliamentarians in Canada have used that story as evidence while at the same time ignoring counterevidence provided by sex workers and researchers.
*Hans-Peter Uhl is member of the Conservative CDU/CSU faction in the German parliament and supports tightening Germany’s prostitution law.
RPG: Welche Punkte im Artikel von Ann-Katrin Müller seht Ihr als problematisch an?
Fraences: It starts from the very first sentence: “Dubious organisations … together with brothel operators”, followed by the description of Fabienne.* Both are intended to discredit sex workers and our organisations.
*Fabienne Freymadl is a sex worker and one of two political spokeswomen of the BesD.
Müller had claimed that Freymadl was wearing a transparent top and a black bra. In her reaction, Freymadl wrote: “I was wearing jeans and a sweater. I admire your imagination for thinking I had worn a transparent top. But that’s how things are in your profession. If the protagonist is well-behaved and boring, you invent a few juicy details.”
Melanie: The article is full of lies. If you take look at the demands of the BesD, you can see that Müller’s remarks are wrong. And anyway, whores have fought for many years for far more than what Müller’s summary alludes to. Last year, on the occasion of the International Whores’ Day, Voice4Sexworkers published an article by Fraences where she describes in great detail the demands of the whores’ movement of old and how many of them have been met so far.
Müller had claimed, “all three organisations” were of the opinion “that Germany needed as little regulation as possible”, and had added: “It seems that prostitutes’ organisations care about more than just the needs of whores.”
Fraences: Saying that all organisations have the same opinion and call for less regulation is simply fabricated. But Müller’s summaries and omissions are generally problematic. If one were to believe her, the laws concerning human trafficking were only about victims who are abducted and forced to work at brothels. But they are about so much more than that, and Müller therefore reinforces society’s false perceptions. No other trade is singled out and regulated by criminal law to prosecute crimes. By doing so, it suggests to both the public and reporters that prostitution is a trade permeated with organised crime, although official police statistics show that crimes in the sex industry have drastically decreased.
See §232 and §233 of the Criminal Code (StGB). Further articles concerning prostitution: Art. 297 Criminal Code Introduction Act (EStGB), §180a, §181a, §184f and §184g StGB, §119 und §120 of the Administrative Offences Act (OWiG), as well as §55 Abs. 2 Nr. 3. of the Residence Act (AufenthG).
It also annoys me how Schwesig* is portrayed, who, according to Müller, has no plans to outlaw prostitution like in Sweden. But the Swedish Model, which incidentally doesn’t work there either, would be impossible to implement in Germany, which is why Schwesig and others set focus on prostitution obstruction policies and deterrence. Through the reduction of legal work places they make life considerably harder for sex workers. The monopolisation in the prostitution business, which is already in progress, happens at the expense of our rights, just as it does in any other trade.
*Manuela Schwesig ist deputy party leader of the Social Democrats (SPD) and Federal Minister of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth.
RPG: What’s your opinion about the SPIEGEL’s claim that the UEGD* assisted the founding of the BesD and the claim by the UEGD that they provided moral support for sex workers?
Melanie: That’s the biggest nonsense I’ve ever heard. I still have that email from Rettig* in which he expressed his reservations with regards to supporting us, and he didn’t reply to any of my following emails. My initial question to him was about whether or not he was interested to get together to draw up quality and labour standards. He didn’t really appear to take us seriously. I’ve never met him and his statements aren’t particularly helpful either. After all, he’s also calling for statutory permission requirements for prostitution businesses, which is in stark contrast to our position.
*The UEGD is the German Employers’ Association of Erotic Companies, of which Holger Rettig is the chairman.
Fraences: Rettig’s proposal for a special act granting brothels permissions to operate is a copy of a proposal by a lawyer, developed on behalf of a brothel operator. It’s basically a copy of the Restaurant Code adapted for brothels. Rettig’s proposal is an exact copy. So much for his great inputs.
Rettig contributed nothing whatsoever to the founding of the BesD. He was simply present during the “1st Prostitution Days” in Frankfurt, when Johanna* and I called for a first coordination meeting form an association in order to organise opposition against a brothel permission law. Afterwards, I never heard from Rettig again, and the UEGD became rather quiet, too.
*Johanna Weber is a sex worker and one of two political spokeswomen of the BesD.
Melanie: Exactly, but to clarify that once and for all: Rettig had no part whatsoever in the founding of the BesD, and that wouldn’t have been possible anyway, since he has never worked as a sex worker. And last fall, he didn’t come to the Sexarbeitskongress (sex work convention) either, although he was invited and supposed to give a presentation.
RPG: Speaking of the Sexarbeitskongress. Could you respond to the claim that Eva Högl* was called a “Nazi” there? And what exactly happened during Manuela Schwesig’s visit in Nuremberg?
*Eva Högl is a member of the German parliament for the Social Democrats (SPD) and deputy leader its parliamentary group.
Fraences: I’m afraid I was outside when the commotion began, but I know that a representative of Doña Carmen simply reminded Högl that the last time, Germany had a law to register sex workers was under the Nazis, which is true. Sex worker weren’t even registered with the Bockschein under the Venereal Diseases Act of 1953.*
*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.
Melanie: At that moment, I was also a little shocked, but when that short dispute broke out between that man and Eva Högl, in which she furiously demanded for him to take back his accusation, there was actually great silence. Those who read Müller’s article, however, must think that a mob of sex workers from the BesD attacked Ms Högl, and that’s rubbish, because that man is neither a sex worker, nor is he a member of the BesD. Speaking of Eva Högl, I will never forget her remark back then that she wouldn’t need any history lessons and who would even care about those old stories.
RPG: I also read that Eva Högl said that day that “None of those is here today”, referring to those sex workers for whom the Prostitutes Protection Law was intended. What’s your reaction to that?
Fraences: Anger over such an ignorant and arrogant attitude. I really asked myself, is she that stupid or does she only pretend to be? And when the discussion circled around mandatory registration, she tried to explain to us as a lawyer that this was a normality for all citizens, and then she mentioned the obligatory social insurance and Pantel* threw in the obligation to register with residents’ registration offices and business registrations. I couldn’t believe they didn’t know the difference. And that sort of people is ruling our country! Unbelievable, really, but I’m actually not buying that they don’t really know the difference. On the contrary, I believe they concocted this as a “good argument” for those who aren’t familiar with the subject matter. Mandatory registration for sex workers means registering with the police! Whoever claims this to be a common civic duty is lying.
*Sylvia Pantel is a member of the German parliament for the Conservatives (CDU/CSU). She’s in favour of raising the minimum age for prostitution from 18 to 21 and introducing a statutory permission requirement for prostitution businesses as well as mandatory health checks for sex workers.
Melanie: Yeah, absolute fury. When Högl uttered that sentence, there was a massive outcry in the auditorium. They always turn things around as it pleases them. Sometimes we are prostitutes to appear as “victims” in statistics, other times we aren’t prostitutes, so that one can exclude us from the debate. Nobody in the auditorium called Högl a “Nazi”, and the spontaneous applause merely followed the statement of the representative of Doña Carmen that there had already been a law once, which forced sex workers to register, back in 1939. One should be allowed to state the truth, shouldn’t one? All in all I have to say that Högl’s statements and attitude at the Sexarbeitskongress were truly revealing.
RPG: And what happened at the protest in Nuremberg?
Melanie: The protest in Nuremberg was a very spontaneous one, organised in less than 24 hours. I consciously didn’t launch the appeal via the BesD but only talked to colleagues I knew personally. So, the whole even was organised by Voice4Sexworkers and not by anybody else. On the contrary, colleagues from the BesD actually sent me texts and emails that morning, telling me I should better cancel or tone down the protest.
In Nuremberg, we used big signs to point to the very law from 1939, and there are photos from that day. The word “Nazi” was neither on our signs, nor did we utter it verbally, and we absolutely did not compare Ms Schwesig to the Nazis. I think, if we had done so, the media would definitely have reported about it, because many of them were present.* Generally, I find these accusations of alleged Nazi comparisons disgusting. They are simply attempts to undermine our arguments and to divert from the actual issues.
*The SPIEGEL also reported about the protest and cited the slogans on the signs.
RPG: Müller writes that only a negligible number of sex workers is organised in trade associations and that one can hardly speak of a „lobby for all whores“. How do you respond to that claim?
Fraences: On the one hand, that’s true, unfortunately, but the BesD is still developing. In addition, the majority of sex workers simply wants to earn a living and be left alone. And from the very beginning, there was very little education about the law from the ministry. A booklet that Stefanie Klee* published is the only info material that the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs co-financed.
*Stephanie Klee is a sex worker and an activist fighting for sex workers’ rights since the 1970s. She’s a co-founder of the Federal Association for Sexual Services (BSD), not be confused with the BesD, where only current or former sex workers are organised.
The reason why migrant sex workers have only appeared sparingly with us up until now is what Klaus* also often points out, which is that there is very little education and integration of migrants. If they don’t fit into the “victim” pattern, they are excluded. The centre of most migrant sex workers’ lives is in their home countries, and they are often only here for several months or a few years in order to build a life back home with their savings.
*Klaus Fricke ist co-operator of Haus9 in Bremen, where sex workers can rent rooms to meet clients in, and a co-initiator of Project Ne-RO-In, which provides information for migrant sex workers.
Melanie: What also makes the work and recruitment so difficult for the BesD is quite simply the lack of funds for that, as well as for awareness-raising and outreach work. Most out there aren’t even aware of the current debate about a new law, let alone having heard of the trade association. They are still living in their little, “idyllic” world, unaware of the apocalypse that will soon befall the German Pay6 sector.
RPG: Speaking of Stefanie Klee. What commonalities and differences are there between the BesD and the BSD?
Fraences: Ever since its founding, the BSD is predominantly an association of operators. They are in favour of a special law granting brothels permissions to operate because they believe it will result in greater legal certainty.* I think that’s tricky because on the one hand, they are against the mandatory registration of sex workers, but on the other hand, statutory permission requirements would result in the obligation to register sex workers. Commonalities are for example our shared opposition of mandatory health checks, a law requiring condom usage, the prohibition of flatrate gangbang parties, special taxation, and special laws governing prostitution in the Criminal Code, in the Aliens Act, and in the respective police laws.
The bigger operators tend to favour a law requiring condom usage, even though some of them admit that they wouldn’t be able to control that anyway. Lobscheid from Pascha Cologne* doesn’t just call for a law requiring condom usage but also for mandatory health checks. He isn’t alone. Many operators are in favour of mandatory health checks, just as the clients.
*Armin Lobscheid ist the CEO of Europe’s biggest brothel, the Pascha in Cologne.
RPG: How do you generally rate media reports about sex work?
Melanie: I don’t usually like the term “Lügenpresse” (lying press) but where the SPIEGEL is concerned, the shoe fits sadly time and time again. Before I speak with the press, I rather use my own platforms, where our words aren’t twisted and the most important aspects aren’t omitted.
Fraences: When dealing with the press, one always needs to remember that they aren’t supporters of the fight for our rights and equal treatment with other occupations, but they simply want lurid stories, because articles about the everyday life of sex workers won’t increase their circulation. Most of the time, the media don’t really care about spreading information but only about shaping public opinion. The goal is to campaign for stricter controls and against prostitution.
RPG: Do you consider yourself as part of the “revolutionary basis”?*
*A phrase that appeared in the article
Melanie: Nah, that sounds condescending. We know very well what we are doing and we don’t need to justify ourselves to anyone.
RPG: Thank you very, very much that you took the time for this interview. I hope, you’ll meet some sincere journalists once in a while. They still exist.
Zwei Sexarbeiterinnen im Gespräch über den Artikel „Aus der Deckung“ der SPIEGEL-Journalistin Ann-Katrin Müller
Two sex workers discuss an article by journalist Ann-Katrin Müller in German news magazine DER SPIEGEL. Please click here for the English version.
Alle Jahre wieder
Die Journalistin Ann-Katrin Müller scheint aus dem Fiasko der SPIEGEL-Titelgeschichte „Bordell Deutschland“ (SPIEGEL 22/2013) keine Lehren gezogen zu haben, oder vielleicht weiß sie schlicht um die Macht des Magazins, für das sie schreibt. Bis heute wird der damalige SPIEGEL-Bericht international sowohl von Politiker*innen als auch von Prostitutionsgegner*innen als vermeintlicher Beweis dafür angeführt, dass die deutsche Prostitutionsgesetzgebung zu einem Anstieg des Menschenhandels geführt habe, obwohl die verfügbaren Zahlen des Bundeskriminalamts das Gegenteil belegen.
Der SPIEGEL wirbt mit dem Slogan „Keine Angst vor der Wahrheit“, doch bis die Leser*innen diese erfahren dürfen, scheint es noch eine Weile zu dauern. Nach der Veröffentlichung des Artikels erschienen schnell drei Gegendarstellungen, darunter auch eine vom Berufsverband erotische und sexuelle Dienstleistungen (BesD), in dem aktive und ehemalige Sexarbeiter*innen organisiert sind.
Im folgenden Interview erläutern die Sexarbeiterinnen Melanie (vom Projekt Voice4Sexworkers) und Fraences ihre Reaktion auf die neuerlichen Falschdarstellungen des SPIEGELs und die Wahrheiten, vor denen Ann-Katrin Müller offenbar Angst hat.
Research Project Germany: Was war Eure erste Reaktion auf den Artikel?
Fraences: Als ich die Überschrift las, und den Kommentar von jemandem, „Oh das wird lustig.“, dachte ich mir gleich, das wird bestimmt nicht lustig mit dem SPIEGEL.
Melanie: Ich war erst einmal sprachlos. Zuerst hab ich es gar nicht so ernst genommen, weil ich auch noch nicht den kompletten Artikel kannte. Aber kurze Zeit später trudelten die ersten gescannten Exemplare ein und ich war nur noch geschockt. Wie kann man nur so lügen und das ganze noch als „Wahrheit“ verkaufen? Und wie kann man sich überhaupt noch auf ein Gespräch mit dem SPIEGEL einlassen, nach allem was da schon vorgefallen ist?
Fraences: Auch wenn man denken mag, die damalige SPIEGEL-Titelgeschichte ist lange her, so wird sie doch noch immer von Politikern benutzt, um Stimmung gegen Sexarbeit zu machen. Sowohl der Uhl* im Bundestag als auch Parlamentarier in Kanada haben die Story als Beweis angeführt, aber gegenteilige Aussagen von Sexarbeiterinnen und Wissenschaftlern ignorieren sie.
*Hans-Peter Uhl ist Mitglied der Bundestagsfraktion der CDU/CSU und setzt sich für ein verschärftes Prostitutionsgesetz ein.
RPG: Welche Punkte im Artikel von Ann-Katrin Müller seht Ihr als problematisch an?
Fraences: Das fängt schon im ersten Satz an: „Dubiose Verbände … gemeinsam mit Bordellbetreibern“, und dann folgt die Beschreibung von Fabienne.* Beides dient nur dazu, Sexarbeiterinnen und unsere Organisationen zu diffamieren.
*Fabienne Freymadl ist Sexarbeiterin und eine der beiden politischen Sprecherinnen des BesD.
Müller behauptete, Freymadl hätte ein durchsichtiges Oberteil und darunter einen schwarzen BH getragen. In ihrer Reaktion schrieb Freymadl: „Ich trug Jeans und Pullover. Ich bewundere Ihre Imagination, dass Sie sich vorgestellt haben, ich trüge ein durchsichtiges Oberteil. Aber so ist das ja mit meinem Beruf, wenn Protagonisten brav und langweilig daherkommen, dann erfindet man ein paar pikante Details.“
Melanie: Der Artikel ist voller Lügen. Wer einen Blick auf die Forderungen des BesD wirft, kann sehen, dass Müllers Ausführungen nicht stimmen. Und überhaupt kämpfen die Hurenverbände schon seit langem für weitaus mehr als das, auf was Müller es zusammengekürzt hat. Über die umfassenden Forderungen der Hurenbewegung von damals, und was bis heute von ihnen umgesetzt wurde, hat Voice4Sexworkers am Welthurentag im vergangenen Jahr einen Beitrag von Fraences veröffentlicht.
Müller behauptete, „alle drei Verbände“ seien der Meinung, „dass Deutschland so wenig Regulierung wie möglich brauche“, und fügte an: „Offenbar geht es den Prostituiertenverbänden nicht nur um die Belange der Huren.“
Fraences: Dass alle Verbände gleicher Meinung seien und für weniger Regulierung einträten, ist schlicht erfunden. Aber Müllers Zusammenfassungen und Auslassungen sind generell problematisch. Wenn man Müller glauben würde, ginge es beim Menschenhandelsparagraphen nur um verschleppte Opfer, die gezwungen werden, in Bordellen anschaffen zu gehen. Doch der Paragraph umfasst viel mehr als das, und Müller verstärkt so die falschen Vorstellungen in der Gesellschaft. Kein anderes Gewerbe wird gesondert im Strafrecht geregelt, um Straftaten zu verfolgen. So wird in der öffentlichen Wahrnehmung und Berichterstattung der Anschein erweckt, das Prostitutionsgewerbe sei ein Hort organisierter Kriminalität, obwohl offizielle polizeiliche Kriminalstatistiken zeigen, dass Verbrechen im Prostitutionsgewerbe drastisch gesunken ist.
Siehe §232 und §233 des Strafgesetzbuchs (StGB). Weitere Paragraphen die Prostitution betreffend: Art. 297 Einführungsgesetzes zum Strafgesetzbuch (EStGB), §180a, §181a, §184f und §184g StGB, §119 und §120 des Ordnungswidrigkeitengesetzes (OWiG), sowie §55 Abs. 2 Nr. 3. des Aufenthaltsgesetzes (AufenthG)
Mich nervt auch, wie die Schwesig* dargestellt wird, die, laut Müller, keineswegs die Prostitution wie in Schweden verbieten will. Das Schwedische Modell, das übrigens auch dort nicht funktioniert, wäre in Deutschland eh nicht umzusetzen, deshalb setzen Schwesig und andere auf eine Prostitutionsverhinderungspolitik und auf Abschreckung. Durch die Reduzierung der legalen Arbeitsplätze wird Sexarbeiterinnen das Leben erheblich erschwert, denn die sich bereits anbahnende Monopolisierung in der Branche geht, wie in anderen Berufen, zu Lasten unserer Rechte.
*Manuela Schwesig ist stellvertretende Parteivorsitzende der SPD und Bundesministerin für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend.
RPG: Wie steht Ihr zu der Behauptung des SPIEGELs, der Unternehmerverband UEGD sei an der Gründung des BesD beteiligt gewesen, und zu der Behauptung des UEGD, Sexarbeiterinnen bei der Gründung moralisch unterstützt zu haben?
Melanie: Das ist der größte Quatsch, den ich je gehört habe. Ich selbst habe noch eine Email vom Rettig* vorliegen, in der er Vorbehalte äußerte, eine Unterstützung anbetreffend. Auf weitere Emails reagierte er nicht. Da ging es um eine Anfrage von mir an ihn vor ca. zwei Jahren, ob er Interesse daran hätte, sich mit uns zusammenzusetzen, um Qualitäts- und Arbeitsstandards auszuarbeiten. Er hat uns mehr oder weniger nicht ernst genommen. Gesehen hab ich ihn noch nie und sonderlich hilfreich sind seine Aussagen auch nicht. Er tritt ja auch für die Erlaubnispflicht ein, was im krassen Gegensatz zu unserer Einstellung steht.
*Holger Rettig ist Vorstandsvorsitzender des Bordellbetreiberverbands UEGD.
Fraences: Rettigs Bordellgenehmigungsentwurf ist eine Kopie des Entwurfs eines Anwalts, der im Auftrag eines Betreibers entstand, und der vom Gaststättengesetz abgeschrieben und dann für Bordellbetriebe umgestaltet wurde. Den hat Rettig eins zu eins übernommen. So weit zu seinen tollen Inputs.
Der Rettig hat überhaupt nichts zur Gründung des BesD beigetragen. Er war bei den 1. Prostitutionstagen in Frankfurt schlicht anwesend, als Johanna* und ich zu einem ersten Kooordinierungstreffen aufriefen, um einen Verband zu gründen und Widerstand gegen die Konzessionierung zu organsieren. Danach hab ich niemals wieder was von Rettig gehört und um den UEGD wurde es still.
*Johanna Weber ist Sexarbeiterin und eine der beiden politischen Sprecherinnen des BesD.
Melanie: Ja genau, aber um das noch mal klarzustellen, der Rettig war definitiv nicht bei der Gründung dabei, und das wäre eh nicht möglich gewesen, da er nie aktiver Sexarbeiter war. Zum Sexarbeitskongress im Herbst letzten Jahres, zu dem er eingeladen war und wo er referieren sollte, ist er auch nicht erschienen.
Diese Abbildung ist kein echter Spiegel-Titel. (Graphik: Matthias Lehmann)
RPG: Stichwort Sexarbeitskongress. Könnt Ihr Stellung nehmen zu der Behauptung, Eva Högl* sei dort als „Nazi“ beschimpft worden? Und was genau ist bei Manuela Schwesigs Besuch in Nürnberg vorgefallen?
*Eva Högl ist stellvertretende Fraktionsvorsitzende der SPD-Bundestagsfraktion und Mitglied des Deutschen Bundestages.
Fraences: Ich war leider gerade draußen, als der Stress losging, aber ich weiß, dass ein Vertreter von Doña Carmen die Högl daran erinnert hat, dass es eine Registrierung von Sexarbeiterinnen in Deutschland zuletzt unter den Nazis gab, was richtig ist. Noch nicht einmal mit dem Bockschein unter dem Geschlechtskrankheitengesetz von 1953 hat man Prostituierte registriert.*
Als Bockschein wurde das amtsärztliche Gesundheitszeugnis bezeichnet, das Sexarbeiter*innen bis zum Jahr 2000 regelmäßig vorweisen mussten. Die Bezeichnung ergab sich aus dem Bock, dem gynäkologischen Untersuchungsstuhl.
Melanie: Ich war in dem Moment auch ein wenig geschockt, aber als sich das kurze Streitgespräch zwischen dem Herrn von Doña Carmen und Eva Högl entwickelte, in dem sie ihn wutentbrannt aufforderte, seine Vorwürfe zurückzunehmen, herrschte eher großes Schweigen. Wer Müllers Artikel liest, muss aber denken, ein Mob von Sexarbeiterinnen des BesD hätte Frau Högl angegriffen, und das ist Quatsch, denn der Mann ist weder Sexarbeiter noch Mitglied beim BesD. Vergessen werde ich in dem Zusammenhang nie Eva Högls Aussage, sie bräuchte keine Geschichtsbücher und wen denn heute die Geschichten von damals interessieren würden.
RPG: Ich las auch, dass Eva Högl damals sagte, in dem sie sich auf die Sexarbeiter*innen bezog, für die das Prostituiertenschutzgesetz gedacht sei, “Keine von denen sitzt heute hier.” Was ist Eure Reaktion darauf?
Fraences: Wut über so eine ignorante und arrogante Einstellung. Ich habe mich echt gefragt, ist die so doof oder tut sie nur so? Und als es um die Erklärung der Meldepflicht ging, da wollte sie uns als Juristin erklären, dass diese für alle Bürger gelte, wobei sie dann die Sozialversicherungspflicht nannte, und die Pantel* die Meldepflicht beim Einwohnermeldeamt oder die Gewerbeanmeldung. Ich konnte das nicht fassen, dass die den Unterschied nicht wissen. Und solche Leute regieren unser Land! Das kann echt nicht wahr sein. Allerdings nehme ich denen nicht ab, dass die den Unterschied wirklich nicht wissen. Ich glaube vielmehr, dass sie sich das als „gutes Argument“ zurechtgelegt haben für diejenigen, die sich mit der Materie nicht auskennen. Bei der Registrierungspflicht für Sexarbeiter geht es um eine Anmeldung bei der Polizei! Wer behauptet, dass entspräche einer allgemeinen Bürgerpflicht, lügt.
*Sylvia Pantel ist Mitglied des Bundestags für die CDU/CSU-Fraktion. Pantel spricht sich für eine Anhebung des Mindestalters für Prostitution von 18 auf 21 Jahren aus sowie für die Einführung einer ordnungsbehördlichen Erlaubnispflicht von Prostitutionsstätten und verpflichtende Gesundheitsuntersuchungen für Sexarbeiter*innen.
Melanie: Ja, absolute Wut. Als die Högl den Satz brachte, ging ein großer Aufschrei durch den Saal. Die drehen es immer so wie sie es gerade brauchen. Mal sind wir die Prostituierten, um für „Opferzahlen“ herhalten zu dürfen, dann sind wir wieder keine Prostituierten, damit man uns aus der Diskussion ausschließen kann. Niemand im Saal hat die Högl als „Nazi“ beschimpft, und der Beifall, den es an einer Stelle gab, galt lediglich dem Satz des Vertreters von Doña Carmen, dass es 1939 eben schon einmal eine Meldepflicht für Sexarbeiterinnen gab. Das wird man doch wohl noch sagen dürfen? Insgesamt lassen ihre Aussagen und ihr Verhalten beim Sexarbeitskongress tief blicken.
RPG: Und was passierte bei der Protestaktion in Nürnberg?
Melanie: Die Aktion in Nürnberg war sehr spontan und wurde innerhalb von nicht einmal 24 Stunden organisiert. Bewusst hatte ich dafür nicht innerhalb des BesD aufgerufen, sondern nur mir bekannte Kolleginnen angesprochen. Das Ganze war also eine Aktion von Voice4Sexworkers und nicht von irgendjemand anderem. Im Gegenteil: von Kolleginnen des BesD erhielt ich an dem Morgen noch SMS und Emails, ich solle die Aktion doch lieber absagen oder abschwächen.
Wir haben in Nürnberg mit großen Schildern genau auf genau dieses Gesetz von 1939 hingewiesen. Davon gibt es auch Fotos. Das Wort „Nazi“ war weder auf unseren Schildern, noch fiel es verbal, und erst recht nicht haben wir Frau Schwesig mit Nazis verglichen. Ich denke, wenn dem so gewesen wäre, hätten die Medien damals sicher darüber berichtet, denn die waren in großer Zahl vor Ort.* Generell finde ich diese Nazi-Vergleichs-Vorwürfe gegen uns ätzend. Damit wird nur versucht, unsere Argumente zu entkräften und vom eigentlichen Thema abzulenken.
*Auch der SPIEGEL berichtete über den Protest und zitierte die Slogans auf den Schildern.
RPG: Müller schreibt, dass nur eine verschwindend geringe Anzahl von Sexarbeiter*innen in Verbänden organisiert sei und man „kaum von einer Interessenvertretung aller Huren“ sprechen könnte. Was ist Eure Reaktion zu dieser Behauptung?
Fraences: Auf der einen Seite stimmt das leider, aber der BesD ist ja auch im Aufbau. Hinzu kommt, dass der überwiegende Teil der Sexarbeiterinnen einfach in Ruhe ihr Geld verdienen will. Außerdem gab es vom Ministerium von jeher wenig Aufklärung über das Gesetz. Das einzige Infomaterial, das vom Bundesfamilienministerium mitfinanziert wurde, ist eine Broschüre, die Stefanie Klee* herausgebracht hat.
*Stephanie Klee ist Sexarbeiterin und Aktivistin, die sich seit Anfang der 1970er Jahre für die Rechte von Sexarbeiterinnen einsetzt. Sie ist Mitbegründerin des Bundesverbands Sexuelle Dienstleistungen (BSD), nicht zu verwechseln mit dem BesD, in dem ausschließlich aktive oder ehemalige Sexarbeiter*innen organisiert sind.
Dass migrantische Sexarbeiterinnen bei uns bisher nur wenig in Erscheinung getreten sind liegt auch daran, worauf Klaus* immer hinweist, dass es nämlich kaum Aufklärung und Einbindung von Migrantinnen gibt. Wenn sie nicht ins „Opferschema“ passen, werden sie ausgeschlossen. Die meisten migrantischen Sexarbeiterinnen haben ihren Lebensmittelpunkt in ihren Heimatländern und sind oft nur für einige Monate oder wenige Jahre hier, um sich mit ihren Ersparnissen später etwas daheim aufzubauen.
*Klaus Fricke ist Mitbetreiber des Haus9 in Bremen, in dem Sexarbeiter*innen Verrichtungszimmer mieten können, und Mitinitiator des Projekts Ne-RO-In, das Informationen für migrantische Sexarbeiter*innen anbietet.
Melanie: Was die Arbeit und die Mitgliederwerbung des BesD so schwer macht, ist schlicht und ergreifend auch, das die finanziellen Mittel sowohl dafür als auch für die Aufklärung und aufsuchende Arbeit fehlen. Die meisten da draußen haben noch gar nichts von der momentanen Diskussion über ein neues Gesetz mitbekommen, geschweige denn haben sie je vom Berufsverband gehört. Die leben immer noch in ihrer kleinen „heilen“ Welt und ahnen nicht, welche Apokalypse bald über die deutsche Pay6-Branche hereinbrechen wird.
RPG: Stichwort Stefanie Klee. Welche Gemeinsamkeiten und Unterschiede gibt es zwischen dem BesD und dem BSD?
Fraences: Der BSD ist schon seit seiner Gründung überwiegend ein Betreiberverband, der sich für die Konzessionierung ausspricht, weil sie sich dadurch mehr Rechtssicherheit versprechen.* Ich finde das schwierig, denn einerseits sprechen sie sich gegen die Meldepflicht von Sexarbeitern aus, aber eine Konzessionierung würde eine indirekte Meldepflicht nach sich ziehen. Gemeinsamkeiten sind beispielsweise vorhanden bei unserer Ablehnung von Zwangsuntersuchungen, einer Kondompflicht, einem Verbot von Flatrate-Gangbang-Parties, einer Sonderbesteuerung, und Sondergesetzen für die Prostitution im Strafrecht, Ausländerrecht und in den jeweiligen Polizeigesetzen.
*Siehe Gesetzesvorschläge des BSD
Die großen Betreiber sind eher für eine Kondompflicht, auch wenn sie teils zugeben, so etwas gar nicht kontrollieren zu können. Der Lobscheid vom Pascha Köln* hat sich nicht nur für eine Kondompflicht, sondern auch für Zwangsuntersuchungen ausgesprochen. Damit steht er nicht allein. Viele Betreiber sind für Zwangsuntersuchungen, genauso wie die Freier.
*Armin Lobscheid ist Geschäftsführer von Europas größtem Bordell, dem Pascha in Köln.
RPG: Wie würdet Ihr allgemein die Berichterstattung über Sexarbeit in den Medien beurteilen?
Melanie: Ich mag ja den Begriff „Lügenpresse“ nicht, aber beim SPIEGEL trifft er leider immer wieder zu. Bevor ich mit der Presse spreche, nutze ich lieber meine eigenen Medien, wo unsere Worte nicht verdreht werden und nicht die wichtigsten Aspekte weggelassen werden.
Fraences: Man muss gegenüber der Presse immer im Kopf behalten, dass sie keine Unterstützer sind im Kampf für unsere Rechte und eine Gleichstellung mit anderen Branchen, sondern dass sie einfach nur reißerische Themen haben wollen, weil Normalität in der Prostitution ihnen keine Auflagen bringt. Den Medien geht es meist nicht um Information, sondern um Meinungsbildung. Es soll Stimmung gemacht werden für mehr Kontrolle und gegen Prostitution.
RPG: Zählt Ihr Euch zur “revolutionären Basis”?
Melanie: Nö, das klingt abwertend. Wir wissen schon sehr genau, was wir tun, und müssen uns nicht vor irgendjemandem rechtfertigen.
RPG: Vielen, vielen Dank, dass Ihr Euch die Zeit für dieses Interview genommen habt. Ich hoffe, Ihr trefft auch manchmal auf ehrliche Journalist*innen. Es gibt sie noch.
“Your protection is oppression” – Further details about Germany’s looming Prostitutes Protection Law
“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:
- 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.
- Registrations must be renewed every two years. Proof of registration must be produced during controls conducted by the authorities.
- Proof of medical consultations, as listed under 1., must be presented every 12 months, otherwise the registration becomes void.
- Brothel operators are obligated to have proof of the medical consultations of prostitutes working on their premises on file.
- It shall be examined how and at what costs access to social counselling at counselling centres can be improved.
- 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.
- 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.
- Prostitutes under the age of 21 must renew their registrations annually and the proof of medical consultation must be presented every 6 months.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
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 law reform won’t protect sex workers but intends to protect society from prostitution” – Interview with Tanja from sex worker association BesD
“Your protection is oppression” – In August 2014, sex workers protested in Nuremberg, Bavaria, as Family Minister Manuela Schwesig, chief proponent of toughening Germany’s prostitution law, visited a counselling centre for sex workers. | Photo: Voice4Sexworkers
This interview was conducted by Ariane G. and published at Kaufmich magazine, a social network for escorts and their clients. Clicca qui per leggere la versione italiana di “Intervista a Tanja dell’associazione lavoratori del sesso BesD”.
Tanja Sommer, Escort and Sex Workers’ Rights Activist
Ariane: How old are you and where do you live?
Tanja: I‘ve lived in Bavaria for the last ten years, in the metropolis of the beautiful Upper Palatinate (Oberpfalz), in Regensburg, to be exact. At 53, that’s my actual age, I am probably not the youngest escort anymore, but I can’t complain over any lack of interest from men.
Ariane: Since when do you work as an escort?
Tanja: I made my first experiences eight and a half years ago, and since eight years I am working independently.
Ariane: Do you have experiences with different types of sex work?
Tanja: Since I’m curious, and also because I’ve tried from the start to network with colleagues via the Internet, I visited and tried out different work places. Sometimes, I also wrote reports about them. I started at a massage parlour in an apartment, I did outcalls to private homes and hotels, worked as an escort via escortservice23, and then I worked on a daily basis at an apartment of es23, which I decorated together with other colleagues. At some point I wanted to get to know colleagues in person whom I had met over the Internet and so I drove to their work places to see how the work was in other settings. I worked at a private house, the “Susie” in Pirmasens, and that’s still one of the nicest locations I’ve ever seen. There are apartments shared by several colleagues and a madam, or you can also rent single apartments on your own.
I also wanted to get to know clubs, since Nasti, a colleague, was working in one, so I went several times to the Sakura in Böblingen, and once to the Paradise in Leinfeld-Echterdingen [near Stuttgart], and I also went to the “notorious” Pussyclub in Fellbach once. It was very educational for me. Through the talks with my colleagues there and the insights I got, I changed my opinion about flat rate clubs. I’ve also taken a look at Laufhäuser [walk through brothels] and rented a room there. But over time, I found my own niche, and now I am almost exclusively working as an escort or do outcalls at hotels. When I’m at home, clients can visit me at my nice apartment or stay overnight.
Ariane: Since when are you involved in the sex workers’ rights movement?
Tanja: It started around 2007. At first, I was a moderator at sexworker.at [an online forum by and for sex workers in German-speaking countries] and then in forums for clients.
Ariane: Why did you get involved?
Tanja: When I notice that things aren’t right, I can’t keep my mouth shut, and I don’t just talk but try to really change things. Providing sexual services was a big chance for me to work independently and successfully on my own terms, and it allowed me to work with a flexible schedule. There were frequent misunderstanding between colleagues and clients, and there were arguments and certain social interactions that I found unacceptable. That’s why I tried to allow people insights into my and our world and everyday experiences, and I think it made a real impact. I have always stood by my colleagues, when I felt they were treated unfairly and couldn’t defend themselves. Already back in 2007, I felt that things started to change for the worse, and it was my opinion that if we don’t join forces to establish our own rules, then we will end up getting regulated from above. But that would happen through people who have no insights and no connection to our work and therefore can’t empathise with us.
I tried time and time again to raise awareness for that among my colleagues but it fell on deaf ears. The responses I got were always, “nothing’s going to change”; “I don’t know why you’re so worried”; “that’s so typical German, you want rules for everything”. To be honest, I am not happy that tim proved me right, but I am very glad that in the meantime, many colleagues have come to agree with me and start to stand up for their rights, even if it’s just with a passive membership at the Trade Association erotic and sexual Services [BesD]. Finally we got a voice, and we are being listened to, even if it means an incredible amount of work and personal commitment, as I know all too well as one of the board members.
The Government’s Prostitution Law Reform Proposals
Ariane: What is your opinion about the proposals for the reform of the Prostitution Act laid out in the key issue paper?
Tanja: I fear that it’s only the tip of the iceberg, because a key issue paper is nothing but a preliminary statement about which points the ruling parties are already in agreement and do not wish to discuss any further. In my opinion, the public and the media should pay very close attention, as otherwise nobody will take notice when it comes to the actual bill proposal, and then it will just get rubberstamped in the parliament. I can’t shake the feeling that there’s more in store for us, which they haven’t even mentioned yet. Many points fail to take our everyday work experience into account, and contrary to what politicians loudly proclaim, they won’t do anything to protect us but will only serve to render our work impossible.
“Mandatory registration” and “mandatory notification” – they intentionally use terms that the average Jane and Joe know and accept as good. That’s why they don’t think about it and eagerly shout “Yes, that’s good, everybody has to do that anyway”. This isn’t the same, however, as citizens or self-employed people having to register with authorities. It actually attempts to make sex workers the first workers engaged in a legal occupation that have to register with the police of their home town. They promise to protect our data but my personal experience tells me that that isn’t even happening today!
We are also supposed to receive a “whore pass”, which we will then have to present to inspectors, operators, police officers and clients. Mandatory notification also doesn’t mean to give notice to tax authorities, because that is already mandatory. In the future, we are supposed to give notice to the local police station whenever we leave our home town to work elsewhere, announce where we plan to work next, give notice to the police at the new location when we arrive and inform them how long we intend to stay, and then report back once we are back home. The way it is planned now this would apply for all sexual service providers, regardless if they are escorts, street-based sex workers, work at a Laufhaus [walk through brothel], club or any other venue. We could go through all the points of the key issues paper in that way, but I suppose it would go beyond the scope of this interview.
Ariane: Could you get used to that? What do you criticise?
Tanja: No, I cannot get used to that. Apart from the prohibition of advertising unsafe practices like AO [‘Alles ohne’: ‘everything without (condom)’], the reform won’t serve to protect us, as is claimed, but intends to expand the rights of the police and to protect society from prostitution. The intention is to curb prostitution. There’s no differentiation made between visible prostitution and that which occurs in private, and no attention is paid to the different needs that arise from them. They create obstacles that will make it impossible for many of us to work legally, which in turn will criminalise those who simply cannot afford to register without having to fear consequences, e.g. single mothers or women who have a main job elsewhere, and so they will be forced to work without protection or quit.
These measures will foster the very circumstances they are supposed to prevent. They will create a parallel universe where you have to pay for your protection, including protection from the police, and they will create dependencies that no woman wants. What really annoys me is how human trafficking is understood as exclusively occurring in the context of sex work, and that prostitution regulation is expected to fight human trafficking. In other industries, exploitation is tacitly accepted and even promoted: in care, agriculture, industry, temporary employment, 1-Euro-Jobs, low-wage labour and so on.
Reform proposals by sex workers
Ariane: What would be the ideal legal situation to regulate sex work?
Tanja: First of all, sex work must be decriminalised, and then more needs to be done to further destigmatise our work. Sex work has to be accepted as a freelance occupation, and there’s a need for a nuanced view of the different types of sex work to find regulations that serve to improve the work and living conditions of sex workers in their respective circumstances. Off-limit zones must be abolished and only be discussed as pragmatic solutions if there are problems with visible prostitution, and local residents, sex workers, operators and politicians have to be involved in those discussions.
There might be a possibility for contractual employment at flat rate clubs, massage parlours, at agencies and perhaps where sexual assistance is concerned, but it shouldn’t be mandatory. Sexual service providers must have the right to decide whether they wish to enter a contractual employment or prefer to work as freelancers. In all other types of sex work, contractual employments are impossible without impeding the mobility of sex workers and forcing them to remain at one location, even if they don’t want to. In addition, any future law needs to be a federal law that the federal states [Bundesländer] are required to fully implement. Otherwise, we’ll see more of the arbitrariness of the authorities in each of the states. Just look at Munich: the city refused from the very start to implement the Prostitution Act of 2002 and declared 97% of the city as off-limit zone.
Sex workers must be involved as experts in negotiations over any expansion of the Prostitution Act. The different concepts need to be clearly defined in advance so that everyone is working on the same basis. The federal government must provide funds to expand free health consultations for sexually active people – not just for sex workers and clients, but anyone who frequently changes sex partners.
Roundtables must be established regularly in all federal states and involve experts. Occupational counselling for newcomers and programmes for job reorientation must receive funding, too. As the hurdles to enter statutory health insurance schemes are too high for most freelancers, I advocate for the introduction of a social welfare office for freelancers to enable them to get health and pension insurance. There’s a long and difficult path ahead of us but that shouldn’t dissuade us from pursuing and shaping it.
Ariane: Thank you very much for the interview. I wish you a lot of strength for the tasks ahead.
Tanja Sommer is a sex worker and a board member of German sex worker organisation Trade Association erotic and sexual Services (BesD). She tweets at @TanjaBesD and can be reached via email at tanja[at]berufsverband-sexarbeit.de. You can follow the BesD on Twitter and Facebook. Ariane G. is a former sex worker and an advocate for sex workers’ rights. She tweets at @hauptstadtdiva. Voice4Sexworkers is a project by and for sex workers and anyone interest to learn more about sex work. You can follow V4S on Twitter and Facebook. Translation by Matthias Lehmann. Some links were added. Click here to view the German original.
“It’s not my occupation that’s the problem but your bourgeois morality.“
Sex worker on International Whores’ Day in Berlin. © Matt Lemon Photography. All Rights Reserved. This photo was taken upon request by Hydra e.V. and published with permission of the person depicted therein.
About this text
The below is a translation of a key issues paper for a law claiming to “protect prostitutes”, which would apparently function as a supplementary law to the German Prostitution Act of 2002 (ProstG). Translation by Matthias Lehmann. Research Project Germany. Every effort has been made to translate the complex legal language in such a way, that the translation remained virtually verbatim while also being intelligible. All footnotes are author’s notes. Where a verbatim translation proved difficult, the German original is provided as footnote. Squared parentheses in the text and further footnotes include additional clarifications and comments. Click here to download the original version of the document in German. Any questions, comments or suggested edits are welcome.
A law to protect society from an imaginary evil
In my personal view, the underlying spirit of this bill appears to be the perception of sex work as a social evil the government cannot rid society of and feels therefore obligated to impose regulations on it to such an extent where completely adhering to them is rendered virtually impossible, which in turn will enable law enforcement agencies to persecute sex workers and operators of prostitution businesses. Hence, the title of this bill is utterly misleading and an insult to sex workers fighting for equal rights under the law.
In its current form, the bill will not protect sex workers, but instead it aims to protect society from the imaginary evil of prostitution. In doing so, the bill adds to the existing stigma attached to sex work and the violence resulting from it. I therefore condemn this bill in the strongest possible terms. Detailed analyses of these alarming changes to the German prostitution legislation shall be added as soon as they are available.
Key Issues Paper for a Law to Protect Those Working in Prostitution (Prostitutes Protection Law, ProstSchG) 
Status: August 14th, 2014
With the introduction of the Prostitution Act of 2002 (ProstG) by the Red-Green federal government  it was clarified that agreements between prostitutes and their clients are no longer considered immoral and therefore no longer void under civil law. This aimed to remedy legal disadvantages for those concerned , such as the exclusion from the social insurance system. The evaluation of the law in 2007  as well as field reports have shown, however, that the expectations associated with the prostitution law were only partially fulfilled. Therefore, legal measures have to be taken to better protect those working in prostitution, to strengthen their right of self-determination, and to fight crimes in prostitution as well as human trafficking, violence against and exploitation of prostitutes, and procurement.  The Prostitutes Protection Law is supposed to achieve this.
Aims of the Law
The law pursues the goals
- to strengthen the right of self-determination of people in prostitution
- to create specific legal foundations to safeguard contractual working conditions and to protect the health of those working in prostitution
- to improve the regulatory instruments to monitor commercial prostitution 
- to improve the legal certainty for legally exercised prostitution
- to exclude and eliminate dangerous manifestations of prostitution and those forms of prostitution that are socially intolerable or harmful to minors
- to fight crimes in prostitution as well as human trafficking, violence against and exploitation of prostitutes, and procurement.
Scope of Application
The law’s scope of application is intended to include
- all manifestations of prostitution; prostitution encompasses the commercial provision of sexual services. Sexual services are sexual acts with present persons in exchange for remuneration.
- all business that facilitate the provision of sexual contacts in return for payment (brothels and brothel-like businesses) ; this includes especially brothels, brothel-like businesses, as well as apartment prostitution and vehicles used for prostitution
- commercial agencies facilitating sexual contacts in return for payment between third parties (prostitution agencies, escort services)
- commercial events aiming to provide opportunities for sexual encounters in return for payment (prostitution events)
The respective definitions of terms will follow in the bill.
Concessions for Brothels and other Venues offering Sexual Services [8-10]
In the future, operating a brothel will only then be permissible if the responsible authorities have issued a concession [statutory permission requirement]. Such concessions shall also govern the commercial facilitation of sexual contacts in return for payment between third parties. The prerequisites for granting such concessions will be tailored to the different business models. 
The concessions and the related prerequisites and legal consequences shall be developed in accordance to the models of other commercial concessions. An exemption from concessions shall apply if a single person is using an apartment for her or his own work as a prostitute (apartment prostitution by the owner of the apartment). 
In the course of the wording of the bill it will be examined how to include an option to extend statutory permission requirements via ordinances (e.g. in accordance to § 33g GewO)  to additional forms of commercial provisions of sexual services, taking into account new developments in the area of sexual services (e.g. via the internet).
A transitional regime must be established for brothels already in existence.
Statutory permission requirements shall not apply for the occupation as prostitute.
Prerequisites for the Issuance of Concessions
The following minimum prerequisites shall govern the issuance of concessions:
- Reliability Check 
Concessions are to be denied when facts justify the assumption that operators do not possess the required reliability. The reliability check and other personal prerequisites shall be developed in accordance with common standards used in the Trade Regulation Act (i.e. that especially prior criminal convictions justify assumptions of unreliability).
Reliability checks shall extend to any deputies of the operators and any persons entrusted with management tasks. Where necessary, it shall be made possible to impose employment bans on unreliable persons.
- Prohibition of prostitution businesses whose operational concepts endanger prostitutes’ right of self-determination
Operational concepts of prostitution which due to their nature raise fears of endangering the right of self-determination or health of prostitutes or other persons, or noticeably abet the exploitation of prostitutes, will be prohibited by law. No concessions can be issued for corresponding prostitution businesses or prostitution events; they are to be forbidden, as soon as they become known. This applies e.g. for flat rate brothels and rape gang bang parties. 
- Minimum requirements
Concessions must only be issued if spatial, hygienic, as well as health and safety conditions are fulfilled, necessary for the protection of prostitutes, employees, guests as well as third persons, and if the plans are in accordance with building regulations. The essential requirements are to be written into law.
In order to gather initial experiences with the implementation of statutory permission requirements, it is planned to allow for differentiated and gradual standards according to respective business types, both where minimum requirements and the implementation regulations via ordinances are concerned (by the federal states or the federation, possibly with consent of the Federal Council , see e.g. § 33f GewO).
- Requirements for business standards; requirements for the protection of employees, other persons active there and third parties, as well as youth and the general public
Concessions can be linked, even retroactively, to requirements for the protection of prostitutes, employees and third parties, as well as to protect youth and local residents. If needed, it shall be possible to adopt corresponding requirements and directives, even for forms of prostitution that do not require concessions (e.g. apartment prostitution by the owner of the apartment; see above )
- Limitations of concessions; regular controls of requirements; withdrawal and revocation of concessions
Concessions can be furnished with limitations. Authorities shall be obligated to monitor the maintenance of statutory permission requirements regularly. Any event of subsequent unreliability shall lead to the withdrawal and revocation of concessions. Withdrawals and revocations shall also be possible in the event of essential changes of businesses or violations of obligations.
Obligations of Operators
The following particular obligations of operators shall be regulated:
- Presenting the necessary documents for concessions, including business concepts and evidence of contracts to be agreed upon with prostitutes (a contractual basis is necessary even if they are to act as self-employed persons on the premises), e.g. to effectively fight usury in connection to room letting. 
- Duty to report persons working in the business as prostitutes (registration and de-registration)
- Verifying the registration of prostitutes who are to take up work (see below under registration)
- Prohibiting the presence of minors during business hours
- Informing guests and prostitutes about safe sex practices
- Providing condoms
- Supplying information and granting access to documents as well as to premises to responsible authorities (see also under review and monitoring by authorities)
- Enabling prostitutes’ access to health and social counselling services of their choice
- Complying with statutory and official requirements
Duty of notification and registration for prostitutes
A duty of notification and registration for prostitutes shall be introduced (each time they take up commercial prostitution in a municipality). A verification document will be introduced for prostitutes who registered with the responsible authorities, which can then be produced e.g. to brothel operators and authorities, and where necessary to clients. The conception of the law will take into account the justified interest of the persons required to register to have their personality rights and data protected.
The registration shall at the very least be linked to informing prostitutes about existing offers for health and social counselling services, compulsory health insurance, as well as the legal status of prostitutes.
Prohibition to advertise unprotected intercourse; other advertising restrictions
Direct and disguised forms of advertising risky sexual behaviour in return for payment, especially unprotected sexual intercourse, as well as advertising commercial offers providing opportunities for unprotected sexual contacts shall be prohibited by law.
Review and monitoring by authorities; powers of authorities
To fulfil their tasks, the rights and duties for responsible authorities to review and monitor [prostitution businesses] shall be regulated, including the right to inspect and enter [premises] (e.g. in accordance to §§ 29 ff. GewO).
The responsible authorities implementing this law are to be determined by the federal states.
The powers granted to state authorities and the police by other federal or state regulations remain unaffected.
Prohibiting the pursuit of business activities; sanctions
In the event of breaches of obligations by business owners, regulatory measures (directives, requirements, withdrawals of concessions) are planned to enforce compliance with requirements and to prevent dangers, which may go as far as to prohibit the pursuit of business activities due to unreliability in accordance to the regulatory framework of the GewO. Where applicable, it shall also be regulated, which breaches of obligations can be punished as administrative offences.
Legal relationship between prostitutes and operators
The boundary between endangering the sexual self-determination of prostitutes to a degree worthy of punishment and admissible guidelines as part of contractual relationships between prostitutes and brothel operators shall be regulated by law. The legal framework still requires agreements with the [Ministry for Justice and Consumer Protection] BMJV, particularly with regards to any overlaps with existing criminal law.
As a basic principle, it shall remain possible to engage in prostitution both in a self-employed capacity and in an employment relationship liable to insurance deductions. Directions that interfere with or endanger the sexual self-determination of prostitutes remain inadmissible.
Currently, prostitution occurs, at least formally, almost entirely as a form of self-employment, and in brothels the contractual relationships between operators and prostitutes are frequently not determined by labour contracts. Nonetheless, prostitutes are more often than not largely integrated into predetermined operational processes. Such cases appear to constitute fictitious self-employments. Brothel operators shall then remain liable, where applicable in accordance to § 266a StGB  (Withholding and misappropriation of remuneration), for the failure to pay [insurance] contributions.
Municipal development and control instruments shall remain in force without limitation 
The existing tools on a municipal level to control and develop areas where prostitution is permitted shall remain unaffected on the basis of off-limit zone ordinances according to Art. 297 EGStGB , as well as stipulations of building regulations and planning permissions.
Independent matter subject to regulation outside the GewO
To realise the described legislative initiative (as new principle law ), an independent law shall be created outside the GewO (Law to Protect Those Working in Prostitution, Prostitutes Protection Law, ProstSchG); where applicable, necessary amendmends of existing laws can be undertaken via additional articles in an omnibus bill. 
On the basis of a preliminary assessment, the new law does not require the approval of the Bundesrat. 
Entry into force
The law shall be published in the Federal Gazette  no later than June 1st, 2015, and in light of the regulations defining the areas of responsibility, which must then be produced, come into force in the federal states on January 1st, 2016.
An evaluation of the law after three years shall be written into the law.
“Moralising Law”: Reform Proposals for the German Prostitution Act – Interview with Fabienne Freymadl, Political Spokeswomen for the Professional Organisation for Erotic and Sexual Services (Berufsverband erotische und sexuelle Dienstleistungen, BesD)
More Rights For Victims of Human Trafficking – Interview with Heike Rabe, Policy Advisor at the German Institute for Human Rights (Deutsches Institut für Menschenrechte)
A sham of the “forced coalition” – Human Trafficking and Prostitution in the Coalition Agreement
Facts and Figures about the German Prostitution Act – Summary of Expert Symposium in Berlin
 Original: „Gesetz zum Schutz der in der Prostitution Tätigen/Prostituiertenschutzgesetz (ProstSchG)“; Germany’s current prostitution law is called „Prostitutionsgesetz (ProstG)“
 the then ruling coalition of Social Democrats and the Greens
 The concerned here refers to sex workers, not their clients.
 Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth “Report by the Federal Government on the Impact of the Act Regulating the Legal Situation of Prostitutes (Prostitution Act)” 2007 URL: http://www.bmfsfj.de/RedaktionBMFSFJ/Broschuerenstelle/Pdf-Anlagen/bericht-der-br-zum-prostg-englisch,property=pdf,bereich=bmfsfj,sprache=en,rwb=true.pdf
 Alternative translation: “pimping”
 Original: “gewerblich ausgeübte Prostitution”
 Original: “Prostitutionsstätten”
 Literal translation: statutory permission requirement
 Please note that brothel is used here and for the rest of the document to translate “Prostitutionsstätten”, which means brothels as well as brothel-like businesses.
 Original: “Angebote sexueller Dienstleistungen”
 Original: “Gewerbeausprägungen“
 It is important to note that this passage is ambiguous. “Inhaber” can refer either to registered proprietors or occupants of apartments.
 GewO: Trade Regulation Act
 Alternative translation: “trustworthiness”; likewise, where this document mentions “unreliability” or “unreliable”, the alternative translation would be “untrustworthiness” or “untrustworthy”.
 It is important to note that this passage seems to suggests that gang bang parties constitute rape. In the BDSM scene, the term “rape gang bang party” describes gang bang sex where the participating sex worker pretends to be raped. Regardless of one’s personal view on such practices, this does not constitute rape.
 Upper House of the German Parliament
 See footnote 11; It is important to note that this passage seems to leave sex workers working in apartments defenceless as it appears to open the door for arbitrary interpretations of the law by local authorities.
 This passage may refer to hotels, apartments, private rooms and so-called Laufhäuser where sex workers can rent rooms and then solicit clients, and where they do not share their income with the owners of such premises outside the rent due for the use of the respective rooms.
 StGB: Criminal Code
 Original: “Kommunale Gestaltungs‐ und Steuerungsinstrumente bleiben uneingeschränkt bestehen“
 Introductory Law to the Criminal Code
 Original: “Stammgesetz”
 Original: “Änderungen bestehender Gesetze können im Wege einer Ausgestaltung als Artikelgesetz in zusätzlichen Artikeln geregelt werden.“
 It is important to note that his passage indicates that the government plans to bypass the Upper House of the German Parliament, a hurdle the previous bill, submitted by the former ruling coalition of Conservatives and Liberals, failed to pass.