Activists from radical feminist group Femen staged a topless protest outside one of Germany’s biggest brothels, as part of a campaign promoting criminal punishment for prostitutes’ clients.
Five topless “sextremists” – as Femen calls its members – chained themselves to the entrance of the Artemis club or “wellness brothel” in Berlin.
The women chanted “Go rape yourselves” and “Germany is not brothel” and briefly scuffled with the club staff and security before being led away by police.
“Legalisation of prostitution didn’t free women engaged in prostitution from humiliations, pimps, violence, diseases, and only legalised slave trade at the state level,” the international group, which was started in Ukraine, said.
“Down with slavery! Down with sexual exploitation of women! FEMEN demands the abolition of prostitution as the most shocking oppression mechanism which exists between men and women in so called ‘civilised’ Germany and all over the world!”
Femen held a similar protest in Amsterdam earlier this month.
The feminist movement maintains that implementing laws punishing the clients of prostitutes, rather than the sex workers themselves, is the best approach to fight sexual exploitation.
In an interview with IBTimes UK, Femen leader Inna Shevchenko said the vast majority of female prostitutes in Western Europe are migrants from Asia, African and Eastern Europe who are forced into selling their body to escape poverty and deprivation.
“Prostitution is not a women’s industry, it’s a business controlled by men,” she said. “Women are just mechanisms in this huge bloody machine that eats more [women] every day crushing and destroying their lives.”
The Berlin protest came as two opposite approaches to prostitution are being debated across Europe.
Germany legalized the sex market in 2002 following the example of the Netherlands, which had approved a similar law two years earlier.
Feminist groups however allege that such liberalizations downgraded women to commodities up for sale and urged European governments to follow the “Nordic Model’ instead.
Criminalising buying sex, but not its sale, was enacted in Sweden in 1999 and adopted in Norway and Iceland 10 years later. The system eventually led to a decline of prostitution, whereas legalisation has turned Germany and the Netherlands into sex-tourism hotspots.
Plans to introduce the Nordic Model are being discussed in France and Ireland.