Sex Work Regulations in Germany

Posts tagged “Sexarbeit

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.


Prostitution: Trade Supervision instead of Repression

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

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

By Prof. emer. Dr. Monika Frommel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Dr. Monika Frommel

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

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

Photo: Usage Worldwide


Footnotes

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

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

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

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


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

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


Further Reading

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

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


Decriminalising sex work is necessary but not enough

Red Umbrellas Kosta CC2.0

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

By Theodora Becker*

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

“Germany is not the role model for decriminalisation”

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

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

“Decriminalisation must include third parties”

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

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

Amnesty Listened! - Image by @photogroffee


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

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


ZerrSPIEGEL: Die Angst der Medien vor der Wahrheit

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Zwei Sexarbeiterinnen im Gespräch über den Artikel „Aus der Deckung“ der SPIEGEL-Journalistin Ann-Katrin Müller

Two sex workers discuss an article by journalist Ann-Katrin Müller in German news magazine DER SPIEGEL. Please click here for the English version.

Alle Jahre wieder

Die Journalistin Ann-Katrin Müller scheint aus dem Fiasko der SPIEGEL-Titelgeschichte „Bordell Deutschland“ (SPIEGEL 22/2013) keine Lehren gezogen zu haben, oder vielleicht weiß sie schlicht um die Macht des Magazins, für das sie schreibt. Bis heute wird der damalige SPIEGEL-Bericht international sowohl von Politiker*innen als auch von Prostitutionsgegner*innen als vermeintlicher Beweis dafür angeführt, dass die deutsche Prostitutionsgesetzgebung zu einem Anstieg des Menschenhandels geführt habe, obwohl die verfügbaren Zahlen des Bundeskriminalamts das Gegenteil belegen.

Der SPIEGEL wirbt mit dem Slogan „Keine Angst vor der Wahrheit“, doch bis die Leser*innen diese erfahren dürfen, scheint es noch eine Weile zu dauern. Nach der Veröffentlichung des Artikels erschienen schnell drei Gegendarstellungen, darunter auch eine vom Berufsverband erotische und sexuelle Dienstleistungen (BesD), in dem aktive und ehemalige Sexarbeiter*innen organisiert sind.

Warten auf die Wahrheit - Der Spiegel

Im folgenden Interview erläutern die Sexarbeiterinnen Melanie (vom Projekt Voice4Sexworkers) und Fraences ihre Reaktion auf die neuerlichen Falschdarstellungen des SPIEGELs und die Wahrheiten, vor denen Ann-Katrin Müller offenbar Angst hat.

Interview

Research Project Germany: Was war Eure erste Reaktion auf den Artikel?

Fraences: Als ich die Überschrift las, und den Kommentar von jemandem, „Oh das wird lustig.“, dachte ich mir gleich, das wird bestimmt nicht lustig mit dem SPIEGEL.

Melanie: Ich war erst einmal sprachlos. Zuerst hab ich es gar nicht so ernst genommen, weil ich auch noch nicht den kompletten Artikel kannte. Aber kurze Zeit später trudelten die ersten gescannten Exemplare ein und ich war nur noch geschockt. Wie kann man nur so lügen und das ganze noch als „Wahrheit“ verkaufen? Und wie kann man sich überhaupt noch auf ein Gespräch mit dem SPIEGEL einlassen, nach allem was da schon vorgefallen ist?

Siehe „Bordell Deutschland: Journalismus auf Lücke“

Fraences: Auch wenn man denken mag, die damalige SPIEGEL-Titelgeschichte ist lange her, so wird sie doch noch immer von Politikern benutzt, um Stimmung gegen Sexarbeit zu machen. Sowohl der Uhl* im Bundestag als auch Parlamentarier in Kanada haben die Story als Beweis angeführt, aber gegenteilige Aussagen von Sexarbeiterinnen und Wissenschaftlern ignorieren sie.

*Hans-Peter Uhl ist Mitglied der Bundestagsfraktion der CDU/CSU und setzt sich für ein verschärftes Prostitutionsgesetz ein.

RPG: Welche Punkte im Artikel von Ann-Katrin Müller seht Ihr als problematisch an?

Fraences: Das fängt schon im ersten Satz an: „Dubiose Verbände … gemeinsam mit Bordellbetreibern“, und dann folgt die Beschreibung von Fabienne.* Beides dient nur dazu, Sexarbeiterinnen und unsere Organisationen zu diffamieren.

*Fabienne Freymadl ist Sexarbeiterin und eine der beiden politischen Sprecherinnen des BesD.

Müller behauptete, Freymadl hätte ein durchsichtiges Oberteil und darunter einen schwarzen BH getragen. In ihrer Reaktion schrieb Freymadl: „Ich trug Jeans und Pullover. Ich bewundere Ihre Imagination, dass Sie sich vorgestellt haben, ich trüge ein durchsichtiges Oberteil. Aber so ist das ja mit meinem Beruf, wenn Protagonisten brav und langweilig daherkommen, dann erfindet man ein paar pikante Details.“

Melanie: Der Artikel ist voller Lügen. Wer einen Blick auf die Forderungen des BesD wirft, kann sehen, dass Müllers Ausführungen nicht stimmen. Und überhaupt kämpfen die Hurenverbände schon seit langem für weitaus mehr als das, auf was Müller es zusammengekürzt hat. Über die umfassenden Forderungen der Hurenbewegung von damals, und was bis heute von ihnen umgesetzt wurde, hat Voice4Sexworkers am Welthurentag im vergangenen Jahr einen Beitrag von Fraences veröffentlicht.

Müller behauptete, „alle drei Verbände“ seien der Meinung, „dass Deutschland so wenig Regulierung wie möglich brauche“, und fügte an: „Offenbar geht es den Prostituiertenverbänden nicht nur um die Belange der Huren.“

Fraences: Dass alle Verbände gleicher Meinung seien und für weniger Regulierung einträten, ist schlicht erfunden. Aber Müllers Zusammenfassungen und Auslassungen sind generell problematisch. Wenn man Müller glauben würde, ginge es beim Menschenhandelsparagraphen nur um verschleppte Opfer, die gezwungen werden, in Bordellen anschaffen zu gehen. Doch der Paragraph umfasst viel mehr als das, und Müller verstärkt so die falschen Vorstellungen in der Gesellschaft. Kein anderes Gewerbe wird gesondert im Strafrecht geregelt, um Straftaten zu verfolgen. So wird in der öffentlichen Wahrnehmung und Berichterstattung der Anschein erweckt, das Prostitutionsgewerbe sei ein Hort organisierter Kriminalität, obwohl offizielle polizeiliche Kriminalstatistiken zeigen, dass Verbrechen im Prostitutionsgewerbe drastisch gesunken ist.

Siehe §232 und §233 des Strafgesetzbuchs (StGB). Weitere Paragraphen die Prostitution betreffend: Art. 297 Einführungsgesetzes zum Strafgesetzbuch (EStGB), §180a, §181a, §184f und §184g StGB, §119 und §120 des Ordnungswidrigkeitengesetzes (OWiG), sowie §55 Abs. 2 Nr. 3. des Aufenthaltsgesetzes (AufenthG)

Mich nervt auch, wie die Schwesig* dargestellt wird, die, laut Müller, keineswegs die Prostitution wie in Schweden verbieten will. Das Schwedische Modell, das übrigens auch dort nicht funktioniert, wäre in Deutschland eh nicht umzusetzen, deshalb setzen Schwesig und andere auf eine Prostitutionsverhinderungspolitik und auf Abschreckung. Durch die Reduzierung der legalen Arbeitsplätze wird Sexarbeiterinnen das Leben erheblich erschwert, denn die sich bereits anbahnende Monopolisierung in der Branche geht, wie in anderen Berufen, zu Lasten unserer Rechte.

*Manuela Schwesig ist stellvertretende Parteivorsitzende der SPD und Bundesministerin für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend.

RPG: Wie steht Ihr zu der Behauptung des SPIEGELs, der Unternehmerverband UEGD sei an der Gründung des BesD beteiligt gewesen, und zu der Behauptung des UEGD, Sexarbeiterinnen bei der Gründung moralisch unterstützt zu haben?

Melanie: Das ist der größte Quatsch, den ich je gehört habe. Ich selbst habe noch eine Email vom Rettig* vorliegen, in der er Vorbehalte äußerte, eine Unterstützung anbetreffend. Auf weitere Emails reagierte er nicht. Da ging es um eine Anfrage von mir an ihn vor ca. zwei Jahren, ob er Interesse daran hätte, sich mit uns zusammenzusetzen, um Qualitäts- und Arbeitsstandards auszuarbeiten. Er hat uns mehr oder weniger nicht ernst genommen. Gesehen hab ich ihn noch nie und sonderlich hilfreich sind seine Aussagen auch nicht. Er tritt ja auch für die Erlaubnispflicht ein, was im krassen Gegensatz zu unserer Einstellung steht.

*Holger Rettig ist Vorstandsvorsitzender des Bordellbetreiberverbands UEGD.

Fraences: Rettigs Bordellgenehmigungsentwurf ist eine Kopie des Entwurfs eines Anwalts, der im Auftrag eines Betreibers entstand, und der vom Gaststättengesetz abgeschrieben und dann für Bordellbetriebe umgestaltet wurde. Den hat Rettig eins zu eins übernommen. So weit zu seinen tollen Inputs.

Der Rettig hat überhaupt nichts zur Gründung des BesD beigetragen. Er war bei den 1. Prostitutionstagen in Frankfurt schlicht anwesend, als Johanna* und ich zu einem ersten Kooordinierungstreffen aufriefen, um einen Verband zu gründen und Widerstand gegen die Konzessionierung zu organsieren. Danach hab ich niemals wieder was von Rettig gehört und um den UEGD wurde es still.

*Johanna Weber ist Sexarbeiterin und eine der beiden politischen Sprecherinnen des BesD.

Melanie: Ja genau, aber um das noch mal klarzustellen, der Rettig war definitiv nicht bei der Gründung dabei, und das wäre eh nicht möglich gewesen, da er nie aktiver Sexarbeiter war. Zum Sexarbeitskongress im Herbst letzten Jahres, zu dem er eingeladen war und wo er referieren sollte, ist er auch nicht erschienen.

Der Spiegel 14.2015 Mock Cover - Image by Matthias Lehmann

Diese Abbildung ist kein echter Spiegel-Titel. (Graphik: Matthias Lehmann)

RPG: Stichwort Sexarbeitskongress. Könnt Ihr Stellung nehmen zu der Behauptung, Eva Högl* sei dort als „Nazi“ beschimpft worden? Und was genau ist bei Manuela Schwesigs Besuch in Nürnberg vorgefallen?

*Eva Högl ist stellvertretende Fraktionsvorsitzende der SPD-Bundestagsfraktion und Mitglied des Deutschen Bundestages.

Fraences: Ich war leider gerade draußen, als der Stress losging, aber ich weiß, dass ein Vertreter von Doña Carmen die Högl daran erinnert hat, dass es eine Registrierung von Sexarbeiterinnen in Deutschland zuletzt unter den Nazis gab, was richtig ist. Noch nicht einmal mit dem Bockschein unter dem Geschlechtskrankheitengesetz von 1953 hat man Prostituierte registriert.*

Als Bockschein wurde das amtsärztliche Gesundheitszeugnis bezeichnet, das Sexarbeiter*innen bis zum Jahr 2000 regelmäßig vorweisen mussten. Die Bezeichnung ergab sich aus dem Bock, dem gynäkologischen Untersuchungsstuhl.

Melanie: Ich war in dem Moment auch ein wenig geschockt, aber als sich das kurze Streitgespräch zwischen dem Herrn von Doña Carmen und Eva Högl entwickelte, in dem sie ihn wutentbrannt aufforderte, seine Vorwürfe zurückzunehmen, herrschte eher großes Schweigen. Wer Müllers Artikel liest, muss aber denken, ein Mob von Sexarbeiterinnen des BesD hätte Frau Högl angegriffen, und das ist Quatsch, denn der Mann ist weder Sexarbeiter noch Mitglied beim BesD. Vergessen werde ich in dem Zusammenhang nie Eva Högls Aussage, sie bräuchte keine Geschichtsbücher und wen denn heute die Geschichten von damals interessieren würden.

RPG: Ich las auch, dass Eva Högl damals sagte, in dem sie sich auf die Sexarbeiter*innen bezog, für die das Prostituiertenschutzgesetz gedacht sei, “Keine von denen sitzt heute hier.” Was ist Eure Reaktion darauf?

Fraences: Wut über so eine ignorante und arrogante Einstellung. Ich habe mich echt gefragt, ist die so doof oder tut sie nur so? Und als es um die Erklärung der Meldepflicht ging, da wollte sie uns als Juristin erklären, dass diese für alle Bürger gelte, wobei sie dann die Sozialversicherungspflicht nannte, und die Pantel* die Meldepflicht beim Einwohnermeldeamt oder die Gewerbeanmeldung. Ich konnte das nicht fassen, dass die den Unterschied nicht wissen. Und solche Leute regieren unser Land! Das kann echt nicht wahr sein. Allerdings nehme ich denen nicht ab, dass die den Unterschied wirklich nicht wissen. Ich glaube vielmehr, dass sie sich das als „gutes Argument“ zurechtgelegt haben für diejenigen, die sich mit der Materie nicht auskennen. Bei der Registrierungspflicht für Sexarbeiter geht es um eine Anmeldung bei der Polizei! Wer behauptet, dass entspräche einer allgemeinen Bürgerpflicht, lügt.

*Sylvia Pantel ist Mitglied des Bundestags für die CDU/CSU-Fraktion. Pantel spricht sich für eine Anhebung des Mindestalters für Prostitution von 18 auf 21 Jahren aus sowie für die Einführung einer ordnungsbehördlichen Erlaubnispflicht von Prostitutionsstätten und verpflichtende Gesundheitsuntersuchungen für Sexarbeiter*innen.

Melanie: Ja, absolute Wut. Als die Högl den Satz brachte, ging ein großer Aufschrei durch den Saal. Die drehen es immer so wie sie es gerade brauchen. Mal sind wir die Prostituierten, um für „Opferzahlen“ herhalten zu dürfen, dann sind wir wieder keine Prostituierten, damit man uns aus der Diskussion ausschließen kann. Niemand im Saal hat die Högl als „Nazi“ beschimpft, und der Beifall, den es an einer Stelle gab, galt lediglich dem Satz des Vertreters von Doña Carmen, dass es 1939 eben schon einmal eine Meldepflicht für Sexarbeiterinnen gab. Das wird man doch wohl noch sagen dürfen? Insgesamt lassen ihre Aussagen und ihr Verhalten beim Sexarbeitskongress tief blicken.

RPG: Und was passierte bei der Protestaktion in Nürnberg?

Melanie: Die Aktion in Nürnberg war sehr spontan und wurde innerhalb von nicht einmal 24 Stunden organisiert. Bewusst hatte ich dafür nicht innerhalb des BesD aufgerufen, sondern nur mir bekannte Kolleginnen angesprochen. Das Ganze war also eine Aktion von Voice4Sexworkers und nicht von irgendjemand anderem. Im Gegenteil: von Kolleginnen des BesD erhielt ich an dem Morgen noch SMS und Emails, ich solle die Aktion doch lieber absagen oder abschwächen.

Wir haben in Nürnberg mit großen Schildern genau auf genau dieses Gesetz von 1939 hingewiesen. Davon gibt es auch Fotos. Das Wort „Nazi“ war weder auf unseren Schildern, noch fiel es verbal, und erst recht nicht haben wir Frau Schwesig mit Nazis verglichen. Ich denke, wenn dem so gewesen wäre, hätten die Medien damals sicher darüber berichtet, denn die waren in großer Zahl vor Ort.* Generell finde ich diese Nazi-Vergleichs-Vorwürfe gegen uns ätzend. Damit wird nur versucht, unsere Argumente zu entkräften und vom eigentlichen Thema abzulenken.

*Auch der SPIEGEL berichtete über den Protest und zitierte die Slogans auf den Schildern.

Protest  in Nuremberg against Manuela Schwesig - Photos by Voice4SexworkersSexarbeiterinnen protestieren in Nürnberg (Fotos: Voice4Sexworkers)

RPG: Müller schreibt, dass nur eine verschwindend geringe Anzahl von Sexarbeiter*innen in Verbänden organisiert sei und man „kaum von einer Interessenvertretung aller Huren“ sprechen könnte. Was ist Eure Reaktion zu dieser Behauptung?

Fraences: Auf der einen Seite stimmt das leider, aber der BesD ist ja auch im Aufbau. Hinzu kommt, dass der überwiegende Teil der Sexarbeiterinnen einfach in Ruhe ihr Geld verdienen will. Außerdem gab es vom Ministerium von jeher wenig Aufklärung über das Gesetz. Das einzige Infomaterial, das vom Bundesfamilienministerium mitfinanziert wurde, ist eine Broschüre, die Stefanie Klee* herausgebracht hat.

*Stephanie Klee ist Sexarbeiterin und Aktivistin, die sich seit Anfang der 1970er Jahre für die Rechte von Sexarbeiterinnen einsetzt. Sie ist Mitbegründerin des Bundesverbands Sexuelle Dienstleistungen (BSD), nicht zu verwechseln mit dem BesD, in dem ausschließlich aktive oder ehemalige Sexarbeiter*innen organisiert sind.

Dass migrantische Sexarbeiterinnen bei uns bisher nur wenig in Erscheinung getreten sind liegt auch daran, worauf Klaus* immer hinweist, dass es nämlich kaum Aufklärung und Einbindung von Migrantinnen gibt. Wenn sie nicht ins „Opferschema“ passen, werden sie ausgeschlossen. Die meisten migrantischen Sexarbeiterinnen haben ihren Lebensmittelpunkt in ihren Heimatländern und sind oft nur für einige Monate oder wenige Jahre hier, um sich mit ihren Ersparnissen später etwas daheim aufzubauen.

*Klaus Fricke ist Mitbetreiber des Haus9 in Bremen, in dem Sexarbeiter*innen Verrichtungszimmer mieten können, und Mitinitiator des Projekts Ne-RO-In, das Informationen für migrantische Sexarbeiter*innen anbietet.

Melanie: Was die Arbeit und die Mitgliederwerbung des BesD so schwer macht, ist schlicht und ergreifend auch, das die finanziellen Mittel sowohl dafür als auch für die Aufklärung und aufsuchende Arbeit fehlen. Die meisten da draußen haben noch gar nichts von der momentanen Diskussion über ein neues Gesetz mitbekommen, geschweige denn haben sie je vom Berufsverband gehört. Die leben immer noch in ihrer kleinen „heilen“ Welt und ahnen nicht, welche Apokalypse bald über die deutsche Pay6-Branche hereinbrechen wird.

RPG: Stichwort Stefanie Klee. Welche Gemeinsamkeiten und Unterschiede gibt es zwischen dem BesD und dem BSD?

Fraences: Der BSD ist schon seit seiner Gründung überwiegend ein Betreiberverband, der sich für die Konzessionierung ausspricht, weil sie sich dadurch mehr Rechtssicherheit versprechen.* Ich finde das schwierig, denn einerseits sprechen sie sich gegen die Meldepflicht von Sexarbeitern aus, aber eine Konzessionierung würde eine indirekte Meldepflicht nach sich ziehen. Gemeinsamkeiten sind beispielsweise vorhanden bei unserer Ablehnung von Zwangsuntersuchungen, einer Kondompflicht, einem Verbot von Flatrate-Gangbang-Parties, einer Sonderbesteuerung, und Sondergesetzen für die Prostitution im Strafrecht, Ausländerrecht und in den jeweiligen Polizeigesetzen.

*Siehe Gesetzesvorschläge des BSD

Die großen Betreiber sind eher für eine Kondompflicht, auch wenn sie teils zugeben, so etwas gar nicht kontrollieren zu können. Der Lobscheid vom Pascha Köln* hat sich nicht nur für eine Kondompflicht, sondern auch für Zwangsuntersuchungen ausgesprochen. Damit steht er nicht allein. Viele Betreiber sind für Zwangsuntersuchungen, genauso wie die Freier.

*Armin Lobscheid ist Geschäftsführer von Europas größtem Bordell, dem Pascha in Köln.

RPG: Wie würdet Ihr allgemein die Berichterstattung über Sexarbeit in den Medien beurteilen?

Melanie: Ich mag ja den Begriff „Lügenpresse“ nicht, aber beim SPIEGEL trifft er leider immer wieder zu. Bevor ich mit der Presse spreche, nutze ich lieber meine eigenen Medien, wo unsere Worte nicht verdreht werden und nicht die wichtigsten Aspekte weggelassen werden.

Fraences: Man muss gegenüber der Presse immer im Kopf behalten, das sie keine Unterstützer sind im Kampf für unsere Rechte und eine Gleichstellung mit anderen Branchen, sondern dass sie einfach nur reißerische Themen haben wollen, weil Normalität in der Prostitution ihnen keine Auflagen bringt. Den Medien geht es meist nicht um Information, sondern um Meinungsbildung. Es soll Stimmung gemacht werden für mehr Kontrolle und gegen Prostitution.

RPG: Zählt Ihr Euch zur “revolutionären Basis”?

Melanie: Nö, das klingt abwertend. Wir wissen schon sehr genau, was wir tun, und müssen uns nicht vor irgendjemandem rechtfertigen.

RPG: Vielen, vielen Dank, dass Ihr Euch die Zeit für dieses Interview genommen habt. Ich hoffe, Ihr trefft auch manchmal auf ehrliche Journalist*innen. Es gibt sie noch.


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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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.


More Rights For Victims of Human Trafficking

UN Member States appraise Global Action Plan to combat human trafficking. Photo: United Nations

UN Member States appraise Global Action Plan to combat human trafficking. Photo: Mark Garten/UN

Se il vous plaît cliquez ici pour lire la version française de “Plus de droits pour les victimes de la traite des êtres humains”.

Interview with Heike Rabe, Policy Advisor at the German Institute for Human Rights (Deutsches Institut für Menschenrechte)

The UN calls for a global fight against human trafficking. In Germany, the focus lies on forced prostitution.* In an interview by Ute Welty for German news service tagesschau.de, lawyer Heike Rabe laments the lack of reliable data. She doesn’t think much of plans to tighten the prostitution law.

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

Who falls victim to human trafficking? Is it predominantly a matter of so-called forced prostitution?

Where human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation is concerned, it is noticeable that the percentage of women coming from EU countries is increasing. That’s because the EU is steadily growing. These are often women who either come to Germany under their own steam for a variety of entirely different motives or who are brought to Germany. Some of these women don’t want to work in prostitution, others encounter undignified working conditions. Germany is a destination and transit country for human trafficking.

When it comes to human trafficking, the media’s attention is particularly focused on the subject of forced prostitution. Does this correspond with the facts?

No. The truths that are broadcast by the media aren’t empirically verifiable truths. There is no evidence that Germany is the biggest brothel of Europe. There is no evidence that prostitutes are also always victims of human trafficking. And there is also no evidence that the Prostitution Act of 2002 is to blame for that. Fact is, however: the measures that are discussed with regards to the pending revision of that law curtail the rights of prostitutes. They include, for example, mandatory health checks.

“Transfer of prostitution into economic life”

In your opinion, what should the revision accomplish?

I believe it’s a tall order for a prostitution law having to fight human trafficking. Initially, the Prostitution Act of 2002 was aiming to improve the working conditions, and via pension and social insurance entitlements the social welfare of prostitutes who voluntarily decided for this job. In my opinion, it is necessary to continue this process: a complete transfer of prostitution into economic life, on equal terms with other fields of activity.

Victims of Human Trafficking in Germany 2008-2012

Annual reports by the Federal Criminal Office (BKA) speak of victims. As Rabe explains, however, the figures actually represent preliminary investigations whose outcomes are unknown.

Following an enquiry by the parliamentary group of the Left Party, the federal government announced that last year, 625 people became victims of human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation; a slight increase compared to 2012. How significant is this figure?

This figure comes from the report of the Federal Criminal Office that is compiled annually and based on police statistics. Hence, it does not represent proven cases but potential victims, whose cases were investigated. Such investigations are conducted by the police and then handed over to the public prosecutor’s office and the courts. The report therefore does not provide any information about whether an investigation led to a charge or even a conviction.

Furthermore, human trafficking is a so-called “control offence”. The police uncover human trafficking only when their experts are looking for it. Those affected usually do not contact authorities on their own. We cannot even assume that there really is a high number of unreported cases. That doesn’t mean, however, that the situation might not be dramatic. We simply don’t know it.

“Human trafficking is a human rights violation

Does human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation always involve forced prostitution?

I avoid using the term “forced prostitution”, because in Germany, prostitution is a profession one can pursue legally and as dependent employment – just like with other employers and employees, too. Human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation is a human rights violation. It occurs when women’s sexual integrity is harmed and they cannot free themselves from a helpless situation. But when prostitutes are “just” badly paid, it constitutes exploitation in prostitution. This differentiation is important, in order for laws, regulations and measures to be effective.

International Day of Protest to End Violence against Sex Workers. Photo: Marek Foeller

Global protest to end violence against sex workers. Photo: Marek Foeller. All Rights Reserved.

Not every prostitute is a victim of human trafficking. Nevertheless, it is planned to tighten the Prostitution Act to fight human trafficking.

With regards to human trafficking, what domains do you consider as similarly problematic but not adequately discussed?

Human trafficking for the purpose of labour exploitation, for instance, is part of the criminal code since 2005. But structures to fight it are still simply missing. With regards to sexual exploitation, there are networks in almost every federal state, where NGOs and government agencies cooperate. The “Federal/Länder Working Group Human Trafficking” fulfils a similar role on the federal level. But those groups do not deal with the subject of labour exploitation.

“Where does the money go to?”

Human trafficking is a big business on global scale, said to generate up to 40 billion dollars per year. Do you think this figure is realistic?

It’s difficult to verify this amount. Nor can I verify the unbelievably high profit margins that are mentioned in connection with human trafficking. Comparisons are always made with the profits of arms or drug trafficking. I just wonder where all the money goes to. When those affected enforce their claims in court, to receive compensation, damages for pain and suffering, or lost wages, then there’s suddenly no money left anymore.

From time to time, women in such proceedings are awarded a few thousand euros. That’s nothing compared to what they are legally entitled to, if they provided services to clients for years or were victims of rape for years. Fighting human trafficking must therefore also consider property aspects. Law enforcement authorities could for example secure or confiscate assets generated from criminal activities.

“Further enhance victim protection”

That means, what’s happening right now isn’t sufficient?

I can imagine various measures that go beyond mere law enforcement. Victim protection, for example, isn’t developed well enough. Women who aren’t from the EU and do not have a regular residence permit usually have to leave Germany immediately, if they are picked up at a brothel or on the street.

They are only allowed to stay, if and for as long they cooperate and testify against the offenders in criminal proceedings. However, it can take two, three years until a trial concludes. During this time, the women are left without any prospects, any job, and without their family, only to then, after the trial is over, having to leave anyway. You tell me, who would seek help from law enforcement authorities in such a situation?

Heike Rabe, Policy Adviser at the German Institute for Human Rights. Photo: German Institute for Human Rights/S. PietschmannAbout Heike Rabe

Heike Rabe is a fully qualified lawyer and since 2009 a research associate at the German Institute for Human Rights. From 2009 to mid-2013, she led the project “Forced labour today – Empowering trafficked persons”. Since the beginning of 2014, she focuses on access to justice for victims of human trafficking and gender-based violence.

Photo: German Institute for Human Rights/S. Pietschmann


The interview was conducted by Ute Welty for tagesschau.de, a news service by the German public-service television network ARD. Please note that the copyright for this interview lies with tagesschau.de and is not licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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. The photos above did not appear in the original article.

*Forced Prostitution

Since the term “forced prostitution“ is contested, this author usually puts it into quotation marks. For this translation, they are added only where they 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


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.