An Introduction for the Uninitiated
The 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.
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: 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 (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.