Tweet not included in original text. See note below.
Roughly 32,800 prostitutes registered with authorities at the end of 2018
At the end of 2018, roughly 32,800 prostitutes* were validly registered with the authorities in accordance with the Prostitutes Protection Law (ProstSchG). As the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) further reports, 1,600 prostitution businesses had been granted permits or provisional permits under the law, which entered into force on July 1, 2017. These results are partly based on administrative structures that are still being set up. This limits the data’s informational value.
Nearly one fifth of all registered prostitutes possess German citizenship
Of the 32,800 registered prostitutes, 25,000 (76%) were 21 to 44 years old. 5,700 (17%) were aged 45 or older, and 2,000 (6%) were between 18 and 20 years old. 6,200 prostitutes (19%) possessed German citizenship. The three most common foreign nationalities of the prostitutes were Romanian with 11,400 (35% of all registered prostitutes), Bulgarian with 3,200 (10%) and Hungarian with 2,400 (7%).
By the end of 2018, 1,600 prostitution businesses were in operation with permits or provisional permits under the ProstSchG. 1,530 (96%) of the registered prostitution businesses were prostitution sites (Prostitutionsstätten, e.g. brothels). Prostitution agencies, vehicles and events accounted for a combined number of 70 permits (4%).
Notes on the data’s informational value – Administrative structures partly still being set up
The data under the ProstSchG is based on information of the relevant authorities and related administrative procedures. Under the law, prostitutes are subject to mandatory registration and prostitution businesses to statutory permission requirements. This statistic was first compiled in 2017. However, in some counties or municipalities, it was not yet possible to register as being engaged in prostitution or obtain a permit for a prostitution business on the reference day of December 31, 2017. Thus, 7,000 prostitutes nationwide had validly registered with the authorities by the end of 2017. The number of prostitution businesses holding a permit was 1,350. The reporting year 2018 marked the first year during which administrative procedures of all federal states were recorded. Nevertheless, at the end of 2018, the statistic is partly based on administrative structures that are still being set up. This limits the data’s informational value. Since the statistic represents administrative procedures pursuant to the ProstSchG, even subsequent data collections cannot include any information about businesses or prostitutes operating without registrations.
Translation by Matthias Lehmann, co-founder of SWAT – Sex Workers + Allies Translate.
“The aim of SWAT is not only to provide sex workers and allies with a network to enable sex work knowledge sharing across as cultural and language barriers, but also to reward contributors for their work whenever possible.”
Every effort has been made to translate this press release verbatim. Therefore, the above text uses the term “prostitute” instead of “sex worker.” The tweet by the German AIDS Service Organisation (Deutsche Aidshilfe) did not appear in the original text. It refers to a report from May 2019 [German version] by the Ministry for Regional Identity, Communities and Local Government, Building and Gender Equality of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, where less than a quarter of the estimated number of sex workers have registered.
According to the report, “It is to be feared that many prostitutes have retreated into the dark field of prostitution, where they are difficult to reach for authorities and counseling institutions. … There are reasonable doubts as to whether the law, in practice, can ever live up to its original idea of protection.” In its conclusion, the state’s government admit, “There is now a greater risk of slipping into poverty or illegality, losing a job and/or having personal data protection issues. The goal of protecting all sex workers from exploitative structures was not achieved by the introduction of the ProstSchG.”
This translation is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Photo by Abigail Lynn on Unsplash
Haga clic aquí para una traducción al español de este artículo.
ProstSchG well on its way to achieve Conservatives’ goals
A flurry of recent media reports have suggested the Prostitutes Protection Act (herafter ProstSchG) had failed to achieve its stated goals and would not sufficiently protect people engaged in prostitution.
The ProstSchG is well on its way to achieve all of the federal government’s desired goals and effects, especially those of the conservative parties [Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Christian Social Union (CSU) in Bavaria, together known as die Union]. It may have taken a while, but now, around two years after the ProstSchG went into effect on July 1, 2017, it has become increasingly apparent that the law’s consequences, which we expected and predicted, have materialized up and down the country.
As interior minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) aptly noted on June 6, 2019, when speaking about the legislative process in Germany:
“The law is called the Data Exchange Act. Introduced completely quietly. Quietly, probably because it’s complicated, so it didn’t attract as much attention. Over the last 15 months, I’ve made the experience that you have to make laws complicated, then [laughs] they don’t attract so much attention. We’re not doing anything illegal, we’re doing what’s necessary. But even necessary things are often illegitimately called into question.”
While the subject here was the Data Exchange Act, the same tactic was already employed when the ProstSchG was adopted.
Almost as an aside, the law undermined Germany’s Basic Law [Grundgesetz, GG]. Article 13 GG, which grants the inviolability of one’s home? No longer applies to sex workers. Occupational freedom? That, too, is being undermined through the registration procedures forced upon sex workers. Naturally, the law does not spell that out. That would have been too simple, and then there might have been louder protests against it. (See also: “Prostitutes Protection Law violates fundamental rights”; click here to read the article with Google Translate.)
Instead, the plan was hatched to call the measure “Law on the Regulation of Prostitution and the Protection of Persons Working in Prostitution”, in short, Prostitutes Protection Act. Such things always earn wide acceptance in the society. There is a widespread misconception, however, that the “protection of persons working in prostitution” is meant to do just that: provide sex workers with protection. On the contrary, if one scrutinises the law, one quickly realises that the law aims to protect people from themselves and from prostitution, just like sunscreen does not protect the sun but those using it from the effects of sunlight exposure.
In the context of the ProstSchG, the above-cited quote by Horst Seehofer fits yet again, as the ProstSchG, in a roundabout way, is also supposed to help curb migration. It was clear from the outset that the law would be particularly problematic for people from countries where prostitution is illegal, such as Bulgaria or Romania. If they register as sex workers in Germany, they risk receiving mail in their countries of origin, despite the promised option to have any related mail delivered to a different mailing address. (See for instance, “Prostitutes Protection Act: Between Aspiration and Reality” by the German AIDS Service Organisation; click here to read the article with Google Translate.)
Tax offices flout this provision knowingly and deliberately, and in doing so, they greatly endanger the lives of sex workers in their countries of origin. Protection? Nil. Did lawmakers heed the advice of experts? They did indeed, though not in the way those experts intended. Instead, their expertise and reasoning were turned on their head, making it easy to create regulations that would hit sex workers as hard as possible. Without further ado, the list of measures fundamentally rejected by the called-upon experts was converted into the government’s wish list.
[Irony on] Sex workers require anonymity to protect themselves? Let’s do the opposite and write mandatory registrations into the law. [Irony off]
ProstSchG is intended to deter, not protect
The entire construct of the ProstSchG is intended to deter people from entering prostitution and render sex work impossible in most places. Mandatory registrations at public authorities are nothing short of forced outings in front of strangers. In some places, for instance in the city of Gießen, the government even tasked private organisations with carrying out this measure. (See also: “Sex worker files suit at administrative court against implementation of Prostitutes Protection Act through the city of Gießen”; click here to read the article with Google Translate.)
Such practices reinforce the stigma sex workers are exposed to on a daily basis. Politicians cannot pretend they were unaware that many sex workers would opt to circumvent the mandatory registration procedure and instead, out of necessity, work underground and, thus, illegally. All experts, including representatives of trade associations and counselling centres as well as sex workers themselves, had explicitly warned them this would happen and called for other, better measures, e.g. expanding the offer of counselling centres, funds for job retraining for people in sex work, the full decriminalisation of sex work, the abolition of all measures fuelling the stigma attached to sex work, and many others.
With those measures, however, the federal government would not have achieved their actual goal to quietly abolish prostitution under the guise of helping people in prostitution.
Two years after the adoption of the new law, news articles about the demise of brothels and vacancies in prostitution businesses appear almost on a daily basis, as officially registered sex workers are few and far between. The majority of good and safe work places are fast disappearing, be it due to requirements set out in the ProstSchG or the law’s effects, e.g. sex workers being unable or unwilling to obtain a “Whore ID” in order to avoid being outed. In addition, the ProstSchG dictates that sex workers are no longer permitted to stay overnight at brothels, walk-in brothels (Laufhäuser) and other prostitution businesses. This requires sex workers to earn more money to cover the added daily expenses for a separate bedroom [offered by some prostitution businesses] or hotel room. As a result, many decide to work illegally, either independently or in unlicensed prostitution businesses.
Many sex workers have disappeared from the public sphere for fear of attracting attention and facing an inspection. Consequently, sex workers spent less time on solicitation via internet or phone, which puts them at greater risk as they can no longer screen their clients to the extent necessary.
Sex workers, who were previously able to share apartments where they could both live and work, are now forced to work alone. This results in higher costs (for rent, utilities, advertising, etc., which they were able to share) that most cannot afford on their own. And the protection through their colleagues is, of course, also gone. Where previously sex workers could provide protection to one another, those working in apartments are now forced to work alone. The result: over the last two years, the large majority of those work places has also disappeared.
All this has been confirmed by the recently published “Evaluation of the Prostitutes Protection Act in North Rhine-Westphalia”. (See also: “Ineffective protection of prostitutes: Sex workers pushed underground”; click here to read the article with Google Translate and select “Schon dabei” on the pop-up window.)
“Forced registration – Not with us!” Sex workers and allies demonstrate against the ProstSchG in front of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs in Berlin © Emy Fem
Even the counselling centres are hit hard by the ProstSchG, jeopardising years of their work and efforts to build trusting relationships with sex workers. In 2018, Madonna e.V. [a member of the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) and the only sex worker self-help project in North Rhine-Westphalia] received significantly less funding from the provincial government. Funding for the widely acclaimed Lola app [offering advice for sex workers in Bulgarian, English, German, Romanian and Turkish] was also reduced. Needless to say, the aforementioned evaluation report conveniently omitted this. (Honi soit qui mal y pense.) Urgently needed counselling positions had to be cut, as funds are no longer sufficient. This is especially worrisome considering that independent and anonymous counselling for people engaging in sex work is immensely important.
In this context, it should be noted here that the Kober counselling centre, which authored the report “Changes and Effects of the ProstSchG on the Prostitution Scene in North Rhine-Westphalia”, which is attached to the aforementioned evaluation report, did receive funds and support from the provincial government. Thus, one can hardly speak of “independent research,” and the report does neither satisfy academic standards nor does it provide answers for the many questions it poses. (Listen to the commentary by cultural scientist Mithu Sanyal; German only.)
Whoever still believes that the Prostitutes Protection Act was intended to protect sex workers also believes that woodchucks chuck wood.
Translation by Matthias Lehmann, co-founder of SWAT – Sex Workers + Allies Translate.
“The aim of SWAT is not only to provide sex workers and allies with a network to enable sex work knowledge sharing across as cultural and language barriers, but also to reward contributors for their work whenever possible.”
Every effort has been made to translate this article verbatim. The photo and tweet above as well as some of the links did not appear in the original article. The German original of this article was first published as “Prostituiertenschutzgesetz: Ziele der Union voll erreicht” by Voice4Sexworkers (June 8th, 2019). This translation is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
“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.
Nueva Ley de Prostitución en Alemania: una ley especial impracticable y discriminatoria | Declaración de Voice4Sexworkers (Voz para trabajadores sexuales)
Foto: Parodia del registro de prostitutas en una protesta de trabajadoras sexuales en Berlín © 2016 Friederike Strack. Todos los derechos reservados.
En el día de hoy, la ministra de Salud de Rhin Norte-Westfalia, Barbara Steffens, y la presidenta de la Mesa Redonda sobre la Prostitución de Rhin Norte-Westfalia, Claudia Zimmermann-Schwartz, dieron una conferencia de prensa acerca de la planeada Ley de Protección de Prostitutas, de la que dijeron que llevará aún más a las trabajadoras sexuales a la ilegalidad, en lugar de protegerlas. Como parte del comunicado de prensa, se presentaron las declaraciones de dos trabajadoras sexuales que participaron en la Mesa Redonda. Lo que sigue es la declaración ampliada de una de ellas, traducida del original en alemán publicado por Voice4Sexworkers. Hacer clic, por favor, aquí para ver el comunicado de prensa emitido por el Ministerio de Salud, Igualdad, Servicios Sociales y Personas Mayores en Rhin Norte-Westfalia. Este recurso está en alemán.
Declaración de Melanie, participante en la Mesa Redonda sobre Prostitución
Soy madre soltera de dos hijos y he estado trabajando como trabajadora sexual durante los pasados diez años. Nunca he conseguido ganarme totalmente la vida con el trabajo sexual, pero no quise volver a recibir ayuda social o vivienda protegida. Por esta razón, los ingresos adicionales provenientes del trabajo sexual han sido siempre bien recibidos y me han permitido proporcionar a mis niños vidas normales libres de exclusiòn social.
El principio más importante —y esto es exactamente en lo que no se basa el proyecto de ley sobre nosotras— es que la prostitución tiene que ser despenalizada antes de ponerse a regularla. Esto significa que el trabajo sexual no debe ser regido por el código penal. El año pasado, Amnistía Internacional llegó a la misma conclusión tras llevar a cabo durante dos años un amplio estudio en el que entrevistaron a trabajadoras sexuales, en particular en los países en los que el trabajo sexual está intensamente regulado o incluso prohibido. Un informe de la ONU de 2012, basado en la investigación llevada a cabo en 48 países, encontró también que los sistemas de licencias o registros demostraban ser ineficaces o beneficiaban solo a un pequeño número de trabajadoras sexuales. En las jurisdicciones que han introducido estos sistemas, la vasta mayoría de las trabajadoras sexuales operaba fuera de ellos. Comparaciones con países como Alemania revelaron que las situaciones de trabajo y de vida de las trabajadoras sexuales mejoran cuando el trabajo sexual es legalizado. Pero los resultados más positivos se han conseguido en Nueva Zelanda, donde el paso final hacia la despenalización se dio hace casi 13 años. (more…)
Photo: Mock Whore ID at sex worker protest in Berlin © 2016 Friederike Strack. All Rights Reserved.
Today, North-Rhine Westphalian Health Minister Barbara Steffens and Claudia Zimmermann-Schwartz, Chairwoman of the Roundtable Prostitution in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), held a press conference about the planned Prostitutes Protection Law (ProstSchG), which they argued would further drive sex workers into illegality instead of protecting them. As part of the press release, statements from two sex workers who participated in the Roundtable were presented.The following is an expanded statement from one of them, translated from the German original published by Voice4Sexworkers. Please click here to view the press release by the Ministry of Health, Equalities, Care and Ageing (MGEPA) in NRW. This resource is in German.
Statement by Melanie, Participant at Roundtable Prostitution
I’m a single mother of two and I’ve been working as a sex worker for the past ten years. I’ve never been able to earn my entire livelihood through sex work but I didn’t want to fall back on receiving welfare or housing benefits. That’s why the additional income from sex work has always been welcome and has enabled me to afford my children normal lives free from social exclusion.
The most important principle – and that’s exactly what the draft bill before us is not based on – is that prostitution has to be decriminalised first before one sets out to regulate it. This means that sex work must not be governed by criminal law. Last year, Amnesty International arrived at the same conclusion after conducting a comprehensive 2-year study in which they interviewed sex workers, particularly in countries were sex work is heavily regulated or even forbidden. A UN report from 2012, based on research in 48 countries, also found that licensing or registration systems proved to be ineffective or benefited only a small number of sex workers. In jurisdictions that have introduced these systems, the vast majority of sex workers operated outside of them. Comparisons with countries like Germany revealed that the working and living situations of sex workers improve when sex work is legalised. But the most positive results have been accomplished in New Zealand, where the final step towards decriminalisation was taken almost 13 years ago.
The authors of this Prostitutes Protection Law did not muster that same courage. Under the guise of wanting to protect us, they drafted a bill that is entirely “exit-oriented” but mentions nothing about how to earn a living or receive benefits for one’s livelihood. The Hartz IV welfare benefits are insufficient even now, and it is for that very reason that many of us choose to engage in sex work. If one were really interested in helping us, other alternatives and practical assistance were required instead of fobbing us off with minimal basic coverage. Notably, in urban areas where the unemployment rate is high, this minimal basic coverage does not provide for sustainable future prospects.
Instead of the current plan of sinking an initial 76.2 million euros followed by 85 million euros annually into this bureaucratic monster, these funds could be used for more meaningful projects, such as counselling centres, self-help organisations, interim payments, and support for qualification measures to enable occupational reorientation. A social welfare fund for sex workers would also be a blessing, since a considerable percentage of us cannot even afford the minimum contribution towards our health insurance.
Instead of offering us the assistance we have suggested time and time again, the new law would impose insurmountable obstacles on us. Our survey among sex workers from December 2015 has also shown what they really wish for and need: effective protection from discrimination, protection against dismissal from a primary job due to engaging in sex work on the side, protection against extortionate rent, more counselling centres (particularly of the kind that don’t just offer help on how to exit, but also how to safely enter sex work), and better protection of their anonymity, especially when dealing with authorities. The ProstSchG fails to provide any of that and instead amounts to the exact opposite, since it even goes as far as to cancel out the Basic Law. If this new law came into effect, the police would be allowed to enter any private home without a court order. A simple allegation that prostitution was taking place in any given apartment would suffice as justification.
In our survey, around one third of all respondents stated they had already had negative experiences with authorities. An equally large share stated they had never outed themselves to authorities out of fear or shame. Together, they represent far more than half of all respondents. Having to explain oneself and provide intimate details to a stranger would only exacerbate this trend.
In addition, it is incomprehensible why it should be necessary to provide all our work locations or have to register anew to work in additional cities or states. These measures are simply meant to enable authorities to create movement profiles that would reveal a lot but contribute nothing to our protection.
Instead of supporting people engaged in sex work to self-organise and create individual work places, the employment situation of independent sexual service providers would be made worse. It’s not enough that the law in its current form would effectively give big operators supervisory powers over sex workers, since operators would have to record their registration details, length of stay and other specifics to pass on to authorities. The law would also strengthen the overall position of those operators by rendering it virtually impossible for sex workers to work alone or with colleagues in apartments. As a result, it would push them into the hands of the very operators who are such thorns in the sides of so many municipal politicians – just their sight, of course, not their taxes. This law pretends to protect us from heteronomy but it would cause the exact opposite: it would deprive most of us of the opportunity to self-determined and independent work.
The authors also further the “laissez fairy tale” of prostitution businesses not being subject to strict regulations and the poor police having no way of controlling anything. Nothing could be further from reality. Rather, it is an attempt to win approval for the draft bill from the public instead of explaining to them why an annual 85 million euros should be forked out for measures that will not help sex workers or those municipalities already short on funds.
The draft bill consistently lacks the principle of impartiality. It is blatantly apparent that the authors were unable to discard the stigma attached to sex work, against which (incidentally), no steps have ever been taken since the current prostitution law came into force.
Instead, the measures planned under the Prostitutes Protection Law aggravate and intensify the very stigma which sex workers around the world cite consistently as the the main obstacle in their daily lives. The wording of the draft bill and the claims made in the substantiation for the law exacerbate the pre-existing prejudices and clichés. If sex work is mentioned in the same breath as criminal activities and sexual exploitation, that is the image that manifests in people’s heads.
Those who dismiss the few sex workers who dare to stand up for their rights as “privileged” should rather become aware of their own complicity in the stigmatisation of sex work. Instead of drafting laws that will curtail the options of all sex workers, the focus should be to add to options available to them. Those who would be affected the most by this law are the very people who already have too few options to begin with, namely migrants and trans* people, and who are often subject to multiple discriminations on a daily basis.
My participation in the “Roundtable on Prostitution in North Rhine-Westphalia” was the first time I experienced people talking with me. Usually, people only talk about me, even when I’m present. The Roundtable proved that it is entirely possible to sit down with the actual experts – us (!) – and find solutions. If one doesn’t talk with sex workers one ends up with the very result the ProstSchG represents: an impractical and discriminatory special law, which excludes us from equal participation in economic life and renders us socially vulnerable.
Original by Voice4Sexworkers. Translation by Matthias Lehmann. Proofreading by Christy Swain and Gabriel Pettyjohn. Published 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.
“Politically motivated despotism” | Statement by sex worker counselling centre Doña Carmen in response to the derecognition of its charitable status
“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
+++ 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.
“Gemeinnützigkeit” as 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.
German original by Nadja Hermann. Translation by Matthias Lehmann. Posted with kind permission.
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.
Quotes from the Greens‘ position paper
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.
Sex workers and allies protest against the planned ‘Prostitutes Protection Law’ at the International Women’s Day demo in Berlin. Photos published with kind permission by Susi Wilp (@hauptstadtdiva) and Friederike Strack. All Rights Reserved.