Germany Having Second Thoughts On Legalized Prostitution

Nov 19, 2013
Sex Work News
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BERLIN: A decade after Germany legalized prostitution, a debate has kicked off to again ban the trade, with leading feminist Alice Schwarzer labelling the country “a paradise for pimps”.

Dozens of politicians, actors and journalists this month have signed  Schwarzer’s appeal to Chancellor Angela Merkel and parliament to abolish sex  work.

“We know there is slavery in the world today, but there is no modern  democratic country that would tolerate, accept or promote slavery,” she said at  a recent Berlin press conference on her new book “Prostitution, A German  Scandal”.

“However, Germany tolerates, accepts and promotes prostitution, mostly at  the expense of the poorest women from neighboring countries.”

She urged a review of the 2002 law — passed under a centre-left Social  Democrats-Greens coalition government — that theoretically gave sex workers  access to unemployment insurance, controlled working conditions and medical  coverage.

The founder of the feminist magazine Emma argued that the law backfired and  has turned Germany into a “paradise for pimps” who can now more easily exploit  women, especially from poorer central European countries like Romania and  Bulgaria.

Schwarzer, 70, said this “liberalization of prostitution has been a  disaster for the people involved,” estimating the number of prostitutes working  in Germany now at 700,000.

“These brothels are always in need of ’fresh meat’, as they say, which  means that the women generally work for a few weeks in these establishments and  eventually end up on the street,” Schwarzer said.

In a 2007 report — with the official figures so far on the effects of the  law — the government conceded that the outcome had been disappointing and the  legal change did not “actually improve the welfare of prostitutes”.

The study found that only one percent of prostitutes had an employment  contract.

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Many social workers and police also report that the law only aggravated the  situation.

“It is now indisputable that there is an urgent need to effectively respond  to the phenomenon of trafficking in human beings, which is spreading,” the  police commissioner of the southern city of Augsburg, Helmut Sporer, told a  parliamentary inquiry in June.

National police data shows that reported cases of human trafficking have  been on the decline, from 811 in 2002 to 432 in 2011, the latest year for which  figures are available.

However, Chantal Louis, editor of Emma magazine which published Schwarzer’s  appeal, said that “it is really very cynical to first pass a law making the  investigation … of trafficking particularly difficult, then to say that the  number of cases is declining.”

The renewed debate to curb prostitution has now made it onto the agenda of  ongoing coalition talks between Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats and  the Social Democrats.

“We are very, very proud,” that the issue has grabbed top political  attention, said Schwarzer.

The writer, who was involved in the French women’s liberation movement  while she was a Paris correspondent, also praised the current push there to  stamp out prostitution, spearheaded by women’s rights minister Najat  Vallaud-Belkacem.

“It has encouraged us to see that in Europe, there are more and more  countries that speak of prostitution in terms of human dignity and are  beginning to act,” she told AFP.

But, as in France, the campaign against prostitution has also sparked  resistance in Germany.

During her Berlin presentation, Schwarzer was whistled at and booed by  audience members who said they were sex workers.

Undine de Riviere, a prostitute and spokeswoman for a professional union of  suppliers of sexual and erotic services, is part of the opposition.

“Feminists do not think we can speak for ourselves,” she told the Munich  daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

“The desire to control sexuality and prostitution has always been great and  very difficult to get out of people’s heads.”

Schwarzer said that “of course we are not naive, we know prostitution won’t  be abolished tomorrow … it is a social process of raising consciousness, of  creating an awareness about the injustice.

“We want to, step by step, move toward the goal.”– AFP

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Ernest Greene
Ernest Greene
6 years ago

And the European anti-sex-work hysteria rages on. My hope is that long-standing cultural norms will prevail over the current madness and at the end of it all, Europe will remain the sexually sophisticated and tolerant climate it has historically been. The current crop of loony fanatics is up against a tradition of long standing generally approved of by the population at large. I’m betting they’ll lose in the long run. In fact, I’m betting that there will be just as much sex commerce in Europe in ten years there is today. I just hope these crackpot laws don’t make it… Read more »

Michael Whiteacre
Michael Whiteacre
6 years ago
Reply to  Ernest Greene

Well, that’s usually the result of these futile campaigns, alas. Shit rolls downhill, as it were, and the most marginalized and at-risk individuals end up getting the squeeze put to them all the more.

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