The prostitutes in Germany are the victims of smugglers, pimps and well-meaning politicians. They wanted to improve the fate of women and made it hell.

The facts: The red-green prostitution law of 2002 was intended to strengthen women and protect them from exploitation. They wanted to liberalize and decriminalize the red light district. The job profile of a socially insured and legally secured sex worker was created.

At the time, that was considered modern and emancipatory. There was even talk of training as a sex worker. The pimp milieu with its discreet lobbying had – that is also part of the truth – achieved a spectacular success .

With the Prostitute Protection Act of 2017, the federal government, now no longer led by Gerhard Schröder, but by Angela Merkel, made improvements. But the reality was far removed from the original wish – and was no longer achieved by the reform of the reform.

Inge Bell, Chair of the German Institute for Applied Crime Analysis and Deputy Chair of Terre des Femmes, draws a sobering conclusion: “Germany has one of the most liberal prostitution laws and is considered ‘Europe’s brothel’ and ‘paradise for human traffickers’. This dubious reputation, which Germany has acquired internationally over the past 20 years, is the result of a political wrong turn. “

The fact is: in Germany, prostitution was immoral until 2002. The Prostitution Act that was then passed and later amended was intended to strengthen the rights of prostitutes and legalize sexual services.

Everything looks perfect on paper. There is a registration requirement and health advice for prostitutes, a permit for the prostitution business, a condom requirement and an advertising ban.

But the facts in a trade that sees people as goods and turns over an estimated 15 billion euros a year in Germany alone speak a different language. These facts deny the good intentions:

• The prostitution situation in the 1990s—which formed the intellectual background for the red-green legislation—looked different. At that time there were almost exclusively German prostitutes.

• With a few exceptions, foreign women were forbidden by law from prostitution. The immigration law in force at the time required a permit for prostitutes to “exercise self-employment”, which was only rarely granted. Language skills were a criterion for the authorities at the time.

• In 2001, the obligatory health examination for prostitutes was abolished and, with the newly created Infection Protection Act, health care for prostitutes was exclusively based on voluntary and personal responsibility.

• According to the Federal Statistical Office, only around 23,000 women were registered with the authorities in 2021 – with an estimated 250,000 to 400,000 prostitutes in Germany.

• Around 90 percent of prostitutes today come from abroad, where human traffickers “acquire” them and then smuggle them to Germany.

• Many of the prostitutes working in Germany have their passports taken away after crossing the border, and from then on they are at the mercy of their pimps. You have no regular registration, no apartment of your own and no health insurance. They are mostly kept like slaves.

• More and more experts, including lawyers such as Prof. Dr. Ulrich Rommelfanger and the ethicist Prof. Dr. Elke Mack. You have prepared an extensive report that refers to the catalog of fundamental rights and here in particular to “human dignity as a fundamental norm”. It has the potential for a constitutional lawsuit. “Human dignity, which is enshrined in the German constitution as the supreme principle, is currently judged primarily on the basis of the question of the autonomy of human decisions. “

• And it is precisely this autonomy that is undermined by the majority of prostitutes through a lack of language skills, the withholding of identity papers and the use of drugs. The two experts write in their legal opinion: “The moment people are objectified or instrumentalized by third parties, they no longer have a choice for a free personal value judgement, because they are no longer autonomous. “

• And further: “The laws on prostitution assume that the persons concerned act voluntarily without ever having subjected them to an empirical test. There is a premature legalization of prostitution – without examining the human rights consequences for the prostitutes. “

• They accuse the legislature of serious deficiencies : “The applicable prostitution law has not been revised, although the legislature itself has recognized that there are ongoing, serious violations of the rights of prostitutes within the framework of this law. “

In principle, they accuse the legislature of withholding the so-called “protection of dignity” of the Basic Law from women because it causes “serial, irreversible post-traumatic stress disorders, chronic diseases of the genital organs and other organs”, but also “high mortality and a greatly reduced life expectancy as a result of prostitution”.

• They demand, as is common today in almost all Scandinavian countries as well as in France, Ireland, Israel and Canada, that sex purchases should be “criminalized as a legal norm”, i.e. that punters should be punished and women decriminalized. Their hope: This will make the business model unattractive for organized crime.

Conclusion: These facts (and the accompanying podcast conversation with Barbara Schmid) are difficult to surpass in terms of clarity and, unfortunately, brutality. I hope it serves to clarify. Anyone who still wants to establish the “sex worker” as a normal profession is not from this world.

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