Sex Work Regulations in Germany

Posts tagged “Prostitution Law

Professed Protection, Pointless Provisions – Germany’s new “Prostitutes Protection Act” (ProstSchG)

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

“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)”.

ICRSE ProstSchG Briefing Paper Cover [English]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.

Conclusion

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.

Download

Click here for the English version.
Click here for the German version.

Credits

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

ICRSE ProstSchG Briefing Paper Quotes [English]


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)

Mock Whore ID at sex worker protest in Berlin © 2016 Friederike Strack. All Rights Reserved.

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…)


ProstSchG: An impractical and discriminatory special law | Statement by Voice4Sexworkers

Mock Whore ID at sex worker protest in Berlin © 2016 Friederike Strack. All Rights Reserved.

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.

Registration

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.

Licensing

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.

Stigma

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.

Conclusion

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.


Survey: Prostitution – A Snapshot

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

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

V4S conducted a survey among sex workers in Germany

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

Voices of sex workers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Voice4Sexworkers Header

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


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


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

Wegen Gemeinnützigkeit geschlossen. Photo by ImageParty (modified)

“Closed due to charitable status”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gemeinnützigkeitas political weapon

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

Today, Doña Carmen is the target. And tomorrow?

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

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

Blatant case of political despotism

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

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

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

Timing is not coincidental

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

Attack on sex workers’ rights

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

Request for donations

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

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

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


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


Prostitutes Protection Law Logic

ProstSchG Logic - translated from the original by erzaehlmirnix


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


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

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

Wo Schutz drauf steht, muss Schutz drin sein*

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

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

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

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

Wo Schutz drauf steht, muss Schutz drin sein

Quotes from the Greens‘ position paper

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

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

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

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

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


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


Interview with Sonia, an Italian migrant sex worker in Germany

Shutters - Photo by Patrick Blaise

Before 1958, Italian law once stipulated that shutters of brothels had to
remain
closed at all times, hence the name “case chiuse” or “closed houses”.

Clicca qui per la versione italiana di “Intervista a Sonia, sex worker in Germania”. Please note that the copyright for this article lies with Abbatto i Muri, where this interview was first published, and is not licensed under a Creative Commons License.

About this interview

Sonia is 33 years old and lives in Germany. She has been a sex worker for six years and she tells us – via Skype – what she thinks about the abolitionist trend that currently pushes Europe towards criminalising sex workers’ clients and further marginalising sex workers.

Sonia, first of all, how and why did you start sex work? Did you do it by choice or were you forced to do it?

I arrived here after trying to find work using my degree. I was unemployed, doing precarious jobs, like many others. Then I moved abroad and decided to work to be economically independent. I had different jobs but I could not quite make ends meet. I began to work as a prostitute by choice. For me, it’s a job like any other, and I can earn more money. I met a woman who did this and she gave me some tips. I was never forced to do anything.

Do you mind talking about your clients? Are they violent? How do you feel when you sell sexual services?

Violent? (laughs) Where I work the violent ones are kicked out on their asses. The good part of working without having to hide is precisely that. You can work at a place with better safeguards and you can count on others’ solidarity. How do I feel? Good. It’s my job. I often have fun. Sometimes I get bored, and only a few times I felt annoyed, and with those clients I haven’t worked anymore.

Are there also men or trans* people in your work environment?

Yes, of course. There is less demand for men, but trans* people are doing fine.

Do you plan on doing this job forever?

Forever? (laughs) Nothing is forever. I can stop working tomorrow or twenty years from now. It depends. Do you know if you are going to do what you are doing now for the rest of your life?

Actually, no.

Exactly.

Ok, let’s move on from these stupid questions, because I wanted to ask you about traumata and things like those but it looks like you have other things to talk about.

Oh, please. If you want me to play the part of a martyr, you have to pay me at least (laughs).

Why did you go to Germany to work as a sex worker?

Because it’s not possible in Italy. Until they regulate the profession, many Italians are going to move to Switzerland, Germany, or the Netherlands. It is too difficult in Italy. Escorts and those who work at apartments can manage to live well, but the law is aimed at making you rot on the streets, exploited by pimps.

Do you think regulation would improve your colleagues’ lives?

Of course. Think about the foreigners who will get a residency permit with a work contract. If they erased the criminal offence of abetting [prostitution], you are no longer going to rent an apartment in secret at very high costs. You could pay taxes. You could do everything in plain sight. You would no longer need a pimp to be ‘protected’ because if you work in a protected environment with your colleagues, violent clients cannot harm you.

Hermann Vogel - Vous plaît-elle (Image WikiCommons)

“Vous plaît-elle?” (Do you like her?)
Painting by French painter Hermann Vogel

What do you think about the abolitionist wind from northern Europe that is influencing Italy too?

First, Italy had state-regulated brothels – the worst – and after that, the law has always been abolitionist. The Merlin Law* is abolitionist as well. In northern Europe, we have SWERFs [sex worker-exclusionary radical feminists] that are fighting a war. We are back in the puritan era. Sweden, which is a racist country with a lot of Nazi roots, is affecting other nations’ policies towards a morality that is misogynous, patriarchal, and sexophobe. In the Netherlands, they are talking about closing the windows. In Germany, they are discussing a law to register us and inspect us with a magnifying glass to see if we are infected. They’re not interested in our working conditions. What matters to them is protecting society from us whores.

In Italy, they say that regulation is useless because the German model, demanded by sex workers, has failed. Is that true?

Bullshit. In Germany, where regulation exists and where locals and prostitutes stick with it, it works. The fact is that most places in Germany did not apply the law because puritans have boycotted it. The philosophy of some authorities is one where they sleep better knowing there are whores on the streets in the hands of pimps, so that they can tell the tales of victims of exploitation, which is so useful to create statistics for organisations fighting human trafficking.

Are you saying that human trafficking or exploitation do not exist?

Not at all. I’m saying that in some places there certainly are exploitative conditions. Do all companies in Italy comply with the law? Isn’t there anyone taking bribes or failing to pay their contributions? Here it’s the same. Some do not pay taxes and do not follow the rules. Then there are women on the streets, and given that regulation has been boycotted in many places in Germany, they remain in the hands of pimps.

How do you think the problem of exploitation can be solved?

Through regulations. Enabling women to come out of the hiding. Even more so, if they come from abroad and are threatened by laws that want to push them back to their home countries unless they have jobs.

Are you aware that abolitionists deliberately conflate human trafficking with sex work? What do you think about that?

I think that’s terrible. What some of them write on Twitter or Facebook is repulsive. They are fanatics who are full of spite and don’t allow us to speak about what we do for a living. There are really few feminists like you who let us speak. Human trafficking is a problem we want to address. But that has nothing to do with those who, like me, chose this job. Anyone saying they are the same thing is telling lies.

Why do you think they’re doing that?

Don’t you think it’s obvious? Because they do not care about the fact that I want to be a prostitute and that I am not exploited by anyone. Prostitution is violence, they say, and all clients are rapists. They are so busy saving us that they have forgotten to ask what we think about that and what means we want to use to save ourselves.

What would you like to say to these women?

First, I’d say that I’m sorry they are ignoring what I think. I’m sorry that they are playing us off against one another, those prostitutes who do it by choice and those who are being exploited, as if I was denying their suffering. It’s a cruel and violent game, because I feel that any prostitute who is a victim of exploitation is like a sister of mine. I would like to talk with her, and not with those who exploit her to enforce an opinion that has nothing to do with us.

Have you ever known an exploited prostitute?

Of course. Do you think that if I saw one I would turn my back on her? I hosted many in my house, especially foreigners, who were persecuted by police due to the immigration laws. Instead of protecting them, they wanted to send them back like parcels in human skin with an expiry date on them. I have known many, I understand them, and many have told me that they need a contract to stay and to get rid of their pimps. If Germany or Sweden or other countries do not want to regulate [sex work], do you really think they worry about saving women? In my view, those who “worry” the most are the racist ones. Do you know how many women could get a residence permit if prostitution wasn’t criminalized? As a matter of fact, racists are the ones who push for abolitionism and Nazi-style registration of prostitutes. There’s not going to be a happy ending for those who don’t belong to the race they like.

As a matter of fact, in Italy, so-called trafficking victims sometimes end up at one of the Centres for Identification and Deportation (Centro di identificazione ed espulsione, CIE).

Sonia, what else would you like to tell me? Something that comes to your mind and you want the little world that reads this blog to know?

A hug to the sisters and colleagues who work in Italy and have to endure a lot of difficulties. Fight for me as well, and if you manage to achieve something, who knows, I might come back to Italy soon.


Footnote

* The Legge Merlin (Merlin Law, named after its main author, socialist MP Lina Merlin) became effective on September 20th, 1958. This law, still in force today with little change, revoked the previous regulatory system, prohibited brothels, and introduced “exploitation of prostitution” as a new criminal offence with the aim to punish pimping.

In Italy, “indoor sex work is prohibited though in practice, private apartments with only one sex worker are ‘tolerated’. The state seeks to prohibit or drastically re duce street prostitution. Soliciting is subject to a fine and is defined by law as ‘unabashedly inviting clients on the street’. It does not, however, prohibit loitering whilst awaiting clients on the street. The Domestic Security package of June 2008 invests mayors with the judicial power to declare anything that might endanger the security and decorum of the cities an emergency. For this reason, sex workers and their clients have been subject to special ordinances that allow municipal police to administer fines. In addition, the Public Security Law enables the local chief constable to impose and enforce a mandatory expulsion of persons from a city in which they do not officially reside. Currently, EU citizens who violate this ordinance are fined, while non-EU citizens, especially from African countries, are put in temporary detention/identification centres and, in accordance with the laws on immigration, are subsequently deported. … Migrants who hold a regular work or residence permit may engage in sex work. However, it is not a rare occurrence that the police revoke residence permits and begin deportation procedures for persons working in sex work.”

Source: TAMPEP International Foundation (European Network for HIV/STI Prevention and Health Promotion among Migrant Sex Workers), Main coordinator: Licia Brussa “A report on the intersections of legislations and policies regarding sex work, migration and health in Europe” pp. 19,34


Translation by Michela Cicco. Edited by Michela, Giulia and Matthias Lehmann. I would like to thank Eretica Whitebread for her permission to re-blog this interview and Michela and Giulia for translating and co-editing the English version.


Sex Workers’ Protest at International Women’s Day

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.

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

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

About this text

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

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

Agreement of the Coalition Factions about the Prostitutes Protection Law

Status: February 3rd, 2015

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

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

Further agreed items:

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

Further Reading

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

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

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

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

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

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


Prostitution abolitionists violate our rights!

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

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

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

By Eretica Whitebread

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Prostitution: Beyond an infantilising feminism

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

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

By Prof. emer. Dr. Monika Frommel

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

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

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

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

Infantilising Feminism

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

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

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

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

Amendment of the Prostitution Act

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Data protection and Self-employment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Dr. Monika Frommel

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

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

Photo: Usage Worldwide


Footnotes

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

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


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

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


Further Reading

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

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

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

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

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


Лъжи и истини за германския закон за проституцията

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

Въведение за незапознатите

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

Лъжа: Германия легализира проституцията през 2002 година.

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


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

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

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

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

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

Ariane: Quanti anni hai e dove abiti?

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

Ariane: Da quando lavori come escort?

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Tanja Sommer, Escort and Sex Workers’ Rights Activist

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

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

Ariane: Since when do you work as an escort?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ariane: Why did you get involved?

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

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

The Government’s Prostitution Law Reform Proposals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reform proposals by sex workers

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

Statutory permission

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

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

Working conditions

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

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

Prohibition of flat rate and gang bang sex

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

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

Mandatory condom use

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

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

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

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

Forced registration

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

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


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


Lies & Truths about the German Prostitution Act

An Introduction for the Uninitiated

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

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

Lie: Sex work was legalised in Germany in 2002.

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

Lie: Pimping is legal in Germany.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lie: The German Prostitution Act has failed.

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


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


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


Recommended Reading

Roundtable Prostitution presents Final Report

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


Guest Post: “The Talking Whore”

Reflections about Sex Work, Solidarity and Political Efficacy

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

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

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

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

Images of Sex Work in Media and Art

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aftertaste

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Cities lose legal battles against prostitution businesses

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

While sex workers protests against the planned adoption of a new prostitution law claiming to protect them, two legal cases highlight continued attempts of municipal governments to ignore existing prostitution legislation, more than ten years after its introduction.

An administrative court in Minden in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia has issued a verdict against the use of prostitution-free zones, mirroring a decision in 2013 by an administrative court in the state of Hesse, while an administrative court in Dachau in the state of Bavaria ruled against objections by the city’s public construction authority, which had attempted to bar two operators from running a fetish studio and a wellness centre, the latter of which will include five rooms where sex workers can offer sexual services.

As regional daily Neue Westfälische reports, various municipalities in Ostwestfalen-Lippe, a region in North Rhine-Westphalia, will no longer be able to use off-limit zones to drive away prostitution, as the decision by the Minden Administrative Court calls their validity into question. The district council of Detmold is now faced with having to adjust its decades-old ordinances to the new legal norms and changed moral values.

In its decision, the court closely examined a case in the city of Oerlinghausen, where an operator had opened a tantric massage parlour in November 2013. As the city believed this to be a venue where sexual services were offered, she was barred from operating her business. The city referred hereby to an ordinance to protect youth and public morals.

According to the Minden Administrative Court, such a general prohibition of prostitution is no longer permissible as it violates basic law by unduly limiting the freedom to choose one’s occupation. The court found that the Prostitution Act of 2002 must take precedence here, which defined prostitution as an act of service provision and removed the previously existing notion that prostitution constituted a violation of public mores.

Even the Federal Constitutional Court holds that off-limit zones were only justified in case that the “milieu” would cause disturbances of schools, kindergartens or churches, none of which applied in this particular case, according to the Minden Administrative Court. The city of Oerlinghausen was ordered to pay all procedural costs.

A decision in the actual case was no longer necessary, however, since the operator of the massage parlour no longer wishes to run the business in Oerlinghausen. A decision on whether or not sexual services were actually offered there was not made. The operator and her attorney Burkhard Zurheide had always maintained that hadn’t been the case. Zurheide sees the verdict as success: “The district council should now eliminate its old off-limit zone ordinances or at the very least adjust them to the new legal norms”.

The ruling by the Dachau Administrative Court is still subject to appeal, but in both aforementioned cases, the court found that the operators had fulfilled construction and planning regulations. The two cases can be seen as typical examples how municipal governments attempt to circumvent the prostitution law by imposing arbitrary requirements to prevent prostitution-related businesses from operating within their jursidictions.


A law to protect society from an imaginary evil

“It's

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

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

About this text

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

A law to protect society from an imaginary evil

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

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

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

Status: August 14th, 2014

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

Aims of the Law

The law pursues the goals

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

Scope of Application

The law’s scope of application is intended to include

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

The respective definitions of terms will follow in the bill.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prerequisites for the Issuance of Concessions

The following minimum prerequisites shall govern the issuance of concessions:

  • Reliability Check [14]

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

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

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

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

  • Minimum requirements

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

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

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

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

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

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

Obligations of Operators

The following particular obligations of operators shall be regulated:

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

Duty of notification and registration for prostitutes

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

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


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


Prohibition to advertise unprotected intercourse; other advertising restrictions

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

Review and monitoring by authorities; powers of authorities

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

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

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

Prohibiting the pursuit of business activities; sanctions

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

Legal relationship between prostitutes and operators

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

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

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

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

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

Independent matter subject to regulation outside the GewO

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

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

Entry into force

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

Evaluation

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


Further reading

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

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

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

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


Footnotes

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Ban on Flat Rate Sex and Gang Bang Parties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fear of mandatory registration

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

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

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

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

Flat rate offers are a “publicity ploy”

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

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

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

Sex work as Freelance Occupation

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

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


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

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


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

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

*Terminology

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

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

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


A sham of the “forced coalition”

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

Human Trafficking and Prostitution in the coalition agreement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Gender bias

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Misrepresentation of the control of brothels

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

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

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

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

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

4. Obstruction of the fight against „forced prostitution“

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

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

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

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

5. Lack of definitions

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

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

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

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

Conclusion: A sham of the “forced coalition”

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

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

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

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

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


*Forced Prostitution

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

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

About this translation

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


German Sex Worker Organisation BesD responds to Bundesrat Resolution about Prostitution Act Reform

Logo of the Trade Association Erotic and Sexual Services

Logo of the Trade Association Erotic and Sexual Services

In April, the Upper House of the German Parliament, the Bundesrat, passed a resolution calling for an objective debate and differentiated measures amid plans by the ruling coalition of Conservatives and Social Democrats to reform the German Prostitution Act of 2002 (ProstG). Below is a response by the Trade Association Erotic and Sexual Services (BesD), a German sex worker organisation founded in October 2013.

Equal Treatment Under The Law

On April 11th, 2014, the Bundesrat, the Upper House of the German Parliament, called for an objective debate and differentiated measures to regulate prostitution and sex businesses, following a proposal by the Saarland, one of Germany’s sixteen federal states.

According to the Bundesrat, the public debate about prostitution is frequently affected by prejudices, a lack of knowledge and sensationalism. The Bundesrat found no solid evidence supporting the claim that human trafficking in Germany had increased and it confirmed that the number of reported cases had actually decreased despite an increase in police investigations. The Bundesrat also rejected the blanket equation of human trafficking and prostitution and emphasised the protection of prostitution under Article 12 of the German Basic Law (GG), which guarantees the freedom to choose one’s occupation. At the same time, it called for further measures to protect victims of human trafficking, e.g. by granting them the right of residence.

Furthermore, the Bundesrat deemed the introduction of a law to criminalise clients an unnecessary and counter-productive measure. On the one hand, § 138 of the German Criminal Code (StGB) already prohibits knowingly taking advantage of the plight of trafficking victims, and on the other hand, the police actually receives a considerable number of tip-offs in regards to human trafficking from clients themselves.

The Bundesrat also opposed the re-introduction of mandatory health checks for sex workers, thus paying tribute to the successful preventive measures by the German AIDS Service Organisation and the local health authorities. Mandatory health checks represented grave infringements of basic human rights, and there was no evidence that they could halt the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. In addition, the measure could create the wrong impression that other precautions (e.g. condoms) were then unnecessary. Sensible and effective, on the other hand, were the expansion of voluntary, anonymous counselling services, which already formed part of the Protection Against Infection Act (IfSG).

The Trade Association Erotic and Sexual Services (BesD) welcomes the objective discussion of the Bundesrat about prostitution and confirms its assessment of the above mentioned points. However, in light of the continued societal stigmatisation of sex workers, we consider the reform plans of the Trade Regulation Act (GewO) and the Criminal Code (StGB) that were also mentioned in the resolution as problematic.

The Bundesrat called for an introduction of statutory permissions for “sex businesses”. While it correctly identified that to begin with, a definitional clarification of the term “sex business” is necessary, it did not realise that the legal definition of the term “reliability” is also extremely insufficient. A business can have its operating licence denied if an applicant is deemed “unreliable”. In case of doubt, this leads to a situation where an official needs to make a discretionary decision. Especially in a trade that is subjected to numerous societal taboos and prejudices, this creates incalculable entrepreneurial risks. As a result, smaller businesses unable to afford taking legal action will be threatened with closure. The imposition of statutory permission requirements for the granting of operating licences raises similar concerns.

We also vehemently reject the idea mentioned in the resolution of introducing a registration of sex workers according to § 14 Trade Regulation Act (GewO). Sex workers are affected by the moral condemnation of prostitution: our occupation is not socially accepted. An outing in connection with business registrations or brothel concessions is inacceptable for most sex workers. Many lead a double life out of their own free will or out of necessity to protect themselves from the negative consequences of stigmatisation. Up until now, the tax registration was sufficient for us. We could trust upon the tax office not to disclose our personal data. The Trade Regulation Act (GewO) lacks a corresponding safety measure.

As the Bundesrat admitted, the introduction of the Prostitution Act (ProstG) has led to an authorisation of the state police forces and to a greater density of police raids in “sex businesses”. Therefore, it should be examined to what extent the legal registration of sexual service providers and/or “sex businesses” might have the potential to undermine our fundamental right of inviolability of the home under Article 13 of the German Basic Law (GG). The urgency becomes apparent that not only the term “sex business” needs to be defined, but there also needs to be a legal differentiation between running a “sex business”, merely renting out premises, and actually engaging in prostitution, e.g. at a private apartment.

Especially in light of the above, we are very concerned over the proposal to withdraw the so-called landlord privilege in the Criminal Code (StGB). Operators of sex businesses who might not do anything other than ordinary employers – namely, giving work instructions to employees who are financially dependent on them – are already sailing close to the wind due to § 180a and § 181a of the Criminal Code (StGB). Putting landlords on the same level as them would mean to further push our trade towards criminality. For independent sexual service providers it would then be more difficult to rent suitable premises to work in safety and be in control. On the contrary, working in dependence on “middlemen” would become more attractive again. To protect our independence we therefore not only reject to criminalise our clients but all attempts to criminalise sex work in connection with a reform of the Prostitution Act (ProstG).

With regards to the suggestion by the Bundesrat to standardise the age of consent, we support a standardisation to 18 years of age. The well-meant approach to increase the age of consent to 21 years of age misses the point of the lived realities in our trade. Beginners between 18 and 21 years of age would be denied access to safe work spaces, leaving them vulnerable to criminals and forcing them to work at locations without protection from dangers.

Putting the age of consent to 21 years of age, already a reality under § 232 art. 1 sen. 2 of the Criminal Code (StGB), has led to the fact that a considerable number of trafficking victims in Germany are German citizens who are classified as victims solely because they are between 18 and 21 years old, without the necessity of any form of exploitation or violence having taken place.

In our view, equal treatment under the law with other occupations, including the age of consent, is the best means to promote the destigmatisation of sex work. In contrast, legal exceptions, especially in areas of criminal law, cement the particular perception of sex work among the population. It promotes the formation and cultivation of myths and prejudices, which are repeated over and over again to legitimise the continued discrimination of sexual service providers.

Alternatively, one could consider including the prohibition of discrimination based on one’s choice of occupation in the General Equal Treatment Act (AGG) or the recognition of sex work as freelance occupation. Social insurance structures for sexual service provides could be designed according to the model of the Artist Social Fund (KSK). With regards to the operation of a “sex business” we see no advantages of statutory permission requirements compared to the common duty of disclosure, which under § 14 of the Trade Regulation Act (GewO) applies for the absolute majority of all businesses and is therefore sufficient.

Author: Carmen Amicitia, Executive Board, Trade Association Erotic and Sexual Services (BesD).
Translation by Matthias Lehmann. Research Project Germany.

Click here to read the original statement in German.


Prostitution and Police Powers in Berlin

Mercedes Wanne Polizei Berlin. Photo by Gunnar Richter

Parliamentary Enquiry about Prostitution and Police Powers

In late March, the Berlin Senate issued a reply to a parliamentary enquiry by Evrim Sommer (Left Party) about prostitution and police powers in Berlin.

The response contradicts claims made by anti-prostitution activists and some police representatives that the Prostitution Act of 2002 (ProstG) was hindering police investigations related to combating human trafficking. According to the Berlin Police, no such hindrance exists since the ProstG came into force.

The response also revealed the importance of confidence-building measures between the police and sex workers for the prosecution of offenders and the number of controls and reported cases of sexual exploitation in Berlin.

Read the full text below or click here to download the response of the Berlin Parliament as PDF document. This resource is in English. Click here to download the German original.

Small Enquiry

BERLIN House of Representatives
File 17/12 941 | 17th Parliamentary Term

Small Enquiry by Evrim Sommer, Member of the Berlin House of Representatives (Left Party)
from December 5th (Received December 9th, 2013) and Answer

Prostitution and Police Powers

On behalf of the Senate, I reply to your Small Enquiry as follows:

1. What has changed for the Berlin Police after the Prostitution Act came into effect, what trainings are provided to deal with prostitution, and how are they being utilised?

Answer: The Act Regulating the Legal Situation of Prostitutes (ProstG) from December 20th, 2001, aimed primarily at the strengthening of the social and legal protection of prostitutes. In its final report for a research project on the impact of the Prostitution Act, the Social Scientific Women’s Research Institute of the Protestant University of Applied Sciences (SoFFI K.) concluded that to date, the impact has not been very extensive and is hardly noticeable for the target group of prostitutes. (Retrievable here)

According to the Berlin Police, investigations related to combating human trafficking were not hindered following the entry into force of the Prostitution Act. At the federal level, there are plans to comprehensively revise the Prostitution Act to improve legal provisions regarding the regulation of prostitution and the means of control by the authorities. Trainings to deal with prostitution are provided by the special commissariats of the State Criminal Police Office (LKA) as well as in collaboration with counselling centres, and they are met with a lively response.

2. On what legal basis and for which reasons are brothels and prostitutes in Berlin controlled by the police?

Answer: Prostitution is neither illegal nor immoral. The object of police activities is not prostitution itself but the adverse effects and disturbances of public security and order, especially where associated crimes are concerned. Of particular importance here is the fight against human trafficking.

Since human trafficking represents a control-related offence and since the main goals are the early identification of potential victims of human trafficking as well as their rescue from forced prostitution and/or sexual exploitation, the State Criminal Police Office is for years now successfully practicing an integrated concept in close collaboration with other authorities and counselling centres.

The special commissariats at the LKA 42 carry out routine and warranted controls and patrol all areas of prostitution on the basis of the General Security and Public Order Act (ASOG Berlin). Apart from identity checks, every contact between the police and prostitutes is used to conduct confidence-building talks to provide advice and information as well as to point out counselling centres. Prostitutes are given advice on how to protect themselves from violent pimps and punters. In addition, business cards with details are handed out to allow prostitutes to establish contact as quickly as possible and to provide police support if necessary. Moreover, the LKA’s Department 42 is on-call all year round.

Furthermore, in its fight against human trafficking, the police is following a multidisciplinary approach and cooperates with counselling centres that provide psychosocial support for concerned individuals. The principles of this collaboration are governed by the cooperation agreement between the Police Superintendent of Berlin and the sponsors of the counselling centres. Through that, an image of the Berlin Police as a competent point of contact is conveyed to prostitutes. As a result, there’s a high level of willingness among prostitutes to cooperate with the police, which is essential for the prosecution.

Moreover, in accordance with the Code of Criminal Procedure (StPO), offender-oriented repressive measures are conducted to combat crimes of violence and exploitation in prostitution. The conviction of significant offenders brings about a long-term weakening of the scene and has a positive effect on the willingness of victims to testify.

3. Which departments of the police are dealing with this and which offences are being prioritised?

Answer: The controls are primarily carried out by the LKA’s Department 42. In addition, controls are conducted by the respective local authorities within the scope of their regional responsibilities. The focus of these measures is placed on the offences “human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation”, “pimping”, “sexual abuse of youth”, “sexual abuse of children”, and more generally, violent offences closely related to the practice of prostitution.

4. In what form and by what means are such controls and raids carried out?

Answer: The spectrum of the form and means of operations in the field of prostitution ranges from controls by the special commissariats to larger police interventions, depending on the respective case.

5. How many controls were carried out over the past three years and which criminal offences were detected?

Answer: Over the past three years, controls were carried out in all areas of prostitution in Berlin:

2012 -687-
2011 -822-
2010 -350-

The findings obtained through these inspections formed one of the bases for the reported cases of human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation in Berlin’s Police Crime Statistics:

2012 -65-
2011 -73-
2010 -66-.

Berlin, March 26th, 2014

On behalf of
Bernd Krömer
Senatorial Administration for Interior Affairs and Sports
(Received at the Berlin House of Representatives March 28th, 2014)

Translation by Matthias Lehmann. Research Project Germany.