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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.Credit is also not a substitute for asking for permission to use an image. Unfortunately, there have been several cases of photos from this or my other blogs being used elsewhere without my express permission and at times without respecting the Creative Commons License. Unless credited otherwise, all photos on this blog are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Any use, in particular any commercial use, requires my prior permission. The use of Yeoni Kim’s photos on this blog is prohibited. If you wish to use them, please contact me to facilitate communication with her.

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Minister Barbara Steffens: “One cannot prohibit prostitution – Strengthening sex workers’ rights”

Originally posted on Research Project Germany:

Roundtable Prostitution hands over Final Report © MGEPA NRW 2014Claudia Zimmermann-Schwartz (right), Chairwoman of the Roundtable Prostitution in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), hands over the final report to Minister Barbara Steffens (left) © MGEPA NRW 2014 [North Rhine-Westphalia is the most populous state of Germany, as well as the fourth largest by area.]

Roundtable Prostitution presents Final Report

Press Release

The Ministry of Health, Equalities, Care and Ageing (MGEPA) of North Rhine-Westphalia announces:

With the handover of its final report to Minister Barbara Steffens, the “Roundtable Prostitution NRW” has concluded its operation. On nearly 100 pages, the report documents a comprehensive analysis of the subject matter and includes positions to politically contentious issues, as well as recommendations. In doing so, the report sheds light on diverse forms of prostitution and pays particular attention to the dynamic changes of the market.

A nationwide unprecedented panel

“One cannot prohibit prostitution, and prostitution is not a job like any other. But those who…

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Lies & Truths about the German Prostitution Act

Originally posted on Research Project Germany:

An Introduction for the Uninitiated

Stamp from Deutsche Post AG from 2001, Pinocchio Source Wiki CommonsThe 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…

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Save My Seoul? Save Us From Saviours!

Coming soon: Questionable documentary about “sex trafficking”

Beware of Wolves in Sheep's ClothingNot a day goes by without another lurid news report, blog article, petition, or film project about “sex trafficking” surfacing. Last week, Jason and Eddie Lee, two Korean-American brothers who founded the Jubilee Project, and Jean Rheem, a native Korean living in the US, published a trailer for their upcoming documentary “Save My Seoul”, which aims to uncover “prostitution and sex trafficking in Seoul”.

Although the documentary has not yet been released, the details that have already emerged raise serious concerns over the three film makers’ grasp of the subject in general, and the harms caused by the conflation of sex work and human trafficking in particular. The following will examine the “facts” they present on their website and in the trailer, in order to highlight the problems that arise when presumably well-intended do-gooders choose to create ostensibly objective accounts about “sex trafficking”.

The “Facts”

Save My Seoul - Factoid 1

Apart from the fact that, ranging from 500,000 to more than double that number, it doesn’t even qualify as a guesstimate, this figure, which the film makers attribute to the Korean Feminist Association, was first spread more than ten years ago and before the adoption of South Korea’s Anti-Sex Trade Laws in 2004. It has since been quoted in news reports time and time again, which is par for the course for such figures, but considering that even the South Korean government isn’t able to produce any reliable research on the subject (see next paragraph), the figure is highly questionable. It doesn’t bode well that the film makers label an outdated and inaccurate figure as a “fact”, and without providing a link to the actual report, but their other claims are no less problematic.

Save My Seoul - Factoid 2

Eddie Byun is a Chicago-born pastor at Onnuri Community Church in Seoul. He “fights against modern-day slavery” through HOPE Be Restored, an extension of Onnuri’s English Ministry “that seeks to bring freedom for the oppressed and restoration to lives that have been effected by human trafficking in Korea and around the world”. His book, “Justice Awakening: How You and Your Church Can Help End Human Trafficking”, includes tips how to “teach and preach sermons on human trafficking” and “rally men’s and women’s ministries to educate and actively engage in the fight against trafficking by helping anti-trafficking and after-care programs”. It doesn’t come as a surprise that among those praising his book is Gary Haugen, president and CEO of the International Justice Mission, an organisation “whose reliance on headline-grabbing brothel raids conducted with police to “rescue” sex workers have drawn criticism from human rights advocates around the world.” (Continue reading: Melissa Gira Grant – U.S. Policy and the Unjust Approach to Human Trafficking of the International Justice Mission)

While it is perhaps understandable that the Christian film makers felt they could trust the words of a pastor, Eddie Byun supports his claim by citing a report from November 2007 that was published by the South Korean Ministry of Gender Equality and Family (MOGEF) but produced by the Korean Women’s Development Institute (KWDI).

The report, which is only available in Korean, is titled: “National Survey on the current conditions of the Sex Trade in Korea” (전국성매매실태조사). KWDI chose altogether 8 business types from government registries of businesses they suspected as most likely to facilitate transactional sex. Those were: serviced pubs, clubs, smaller pubs, tea and coffee houses, noraebangs (karaoke places), barber shops, massage parlours, and beauty shops/wellness places. People living or working in red light districts were interviewed and the findings were based on their impressions (emphasis added).

The numbers in the KWDI report don’t always add up either. The 2007 figures in the report list 39 red light districts, 1,443 brothels, 3,644 sex workers, 2,510,000 clients per year, and an average of 5.8 clients per brothel and day. However, if one multiplies 5.8 x 1443 x 365 (clients per brothel and day x brothels x 1 year), one arrives at 3,054,831 client visits, a discrepancy of 544,831. It probably explains why MOGEF stated they wouldn’t take any responsibility for the figures in the report. (Continue reading: Janice Raymond and the South Korean Model)

The report’s research methodology is questionable at best, and while Byun and the film makers take the figures therein at face value, the authors actually admit that their estimates are based on conjecture.

Save My Seoul - Factoid 3

For this claim, the film makers provide as source a “Korean Municipal Government” and the accompanying link leads to an article by Jennifer Chang on Al Jazeera, where the news channel deemed it necessary to inform its readers that some of the NGO figures Chang quoted “are not supported by any official data and are impossible to verify”, which casts doubts on the article’s overall credibility. According to Chang, the report (by the Seoul Metropolitan Government) cited figures from the police estimating that 200,000 youths run away from home each year, and “a survey of 175 female teen runaways by the municipal government found half had been led into the sex industry.”

Chang’s article, which focuses entirely on female runaways selling sex, appears to be based on this survey, which engaged with less than 0.1% of the total estimate of teenage runaways, and on interviews she conducted with female youths she met with the help of Hansorihoe (United Voice). Hansorihoe is an umbrella organisation of NGOs working towards the “eradication of sex trafficking in a society where all human rights are met”, promoting “anti-sex trafficking campaigns”, and “advocating for polices”. These campaigns – click here for a selection of them – not only frequently objectify women but regularly conflate sex work and human trafficking, which leads not only to “harm to sex workers on the ground, but also to conflicts that undermine HIV prevention”. (Continue reading: Richard Steen et al – Trafficking, sex work, and HIV: efforts to resolve conflicts)

If Chang’s report were an academic paper, it wouldn’t get past any peer-review. But in a news story, one can easily make claims that remain largely unchallenged and are subsequently cited as evidence by others.

Save My Seoul - Factoid 4

The same applies to this claim in the trailer. No source is given and the statement does not appear on the “Save My Seoul” website.

Save My Seoul - Factoid 5

Eddie Byun, the pastor the film makers cited above, writes in his book that “up to thirty million people are in slavery around the world” (page 12). Later, he writes that there are “more than thirty million slaves” (page 58), before he states “there are between 20 and 30 million people who are enslaved throughout the world” (page 155), and finally, that there are “approximately 20 million people are victims of human trafficking” (page 166; emphases added). The final figure is based on the Global Estimate of Forced Labour 2012 by the International Labour Organisation, which stated that “20.9 million people are victims of forced labour at any point in time”, 4.5 million (22 per cent) of which are said to be victims of forced sexual exploitation. The film makers, however, chose to stick with the oft-quoted figure of 27 million human trafficking victims, which dates back to 1999.

“That number was developed was developed by a “trafficking” fanatic named Kevin Bales using media reports multiplied by arbitrary numbers of his own devising; the more the hysteria, the higher the number of articles and thus the higher Bales’ number grows. … Bales starts with an “estimate” of unknown derivation, “adjusts” it by a factor based on media reports (which often repeat each other and obviously increase dramatically during a moral panic), presumes without evidence that the proportion of reports to actual incidents is low, multiplies the result by guesses from prohibitionists with an anti-whore agenda, then rounds up.” (Continue reading: Maggie McNeill – Held Together With Lies)

Rights not rescue – and no voyeurism either!

The above explanations are by no means exhaustive but they illustrate the use of flawed data and misrepresentations to promote the upcoming documentary “Save My Seoul”. There are two possibilities: either the film makers lack the necessary understanding of the very subject matter they hope to shed light on, or they deliberately cherry-picked statistics that fit into their sensationalist agenda. A quick glance at the comments underneath their trailer shows that they certainly know their audience. The most common response smacks of voyeurism: “Can’t wait (to see it)”.

In 2012, three UN agencies compiled a comprehensive report in collaboration with numerous sex worker organisations in the Asia-Pacific region about laws, HIV and human rights in the context of sex work. The report examined laws, policies and law enforcement practices in 48 countries of the region with regards to their impact on the human rights of sex workers and the effectiveness of HIV responses.

If the film makers would have read this report, they would have been aware that “police crackdowns from 2004-2009 resulted in arrest of approximately 28,000 sex workers” in South Korea alone, and that the conflation of sex work and human trafficking often results in migrant sex workers living “with the constant threat of being reported, arrested and deported”, creating “a real barrier to accessing health and welfare services”. (Continue reading: UNDP – Sex Work and the Law in Asia and the Pacific)

Sex worker organisations and human rights groups, such as the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) or the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW), have long since denounced the harms caused by anti-prostitution and anti-trafficking laws, and sex workers around the world demand rights, not rescue. But even in the absence of rights: the last thing sex workers or any people in exploitative labour situations need are voyeurs or do-gooders grandstanding as saviours. Not without reason do sex workers frequently declare: save us from saviours!

Save Us From Saviours - Image by Vamp

Photo: Sex worker collective Veshya Anyay Mukti Parishad (VAMP)

MOGEF launches campaign to eradicate prostitution

The following text is a summary of an article on the official website of the Seoul Metropolitan Government. This post does in no way represent an endorsement of the campaign outlined therein, but is solely provided to illustrate the South Korean government’s continued refusal to acknowledge the rights of sex workers and the self-referential pat on its back for continuing to criminalise sex work, despite growing calls to decriminalise it, including from UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon.


On September 16th, South Korea’s Ministry of Gender Equality and Family (MOGEF) launched a campaign in Seoul to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the Anti-Sex Trade Laws. The campaign will be implemented nationwide “to build a healthy society by eradicating prostitution”

Anti-prostitution campaign by MOGEFThe ministry launched the campaign at Seoul’s City Hall in attendance of Kim Hee Jung, minister of MOGEF, and Kang Weol Gu, head of the Women’s Human Rights Commission of Korea (WHRCK). The event was hosted by the Women’s Human Rights Commission of Korea and the Dasi Hamkke Center*, and lasted for two and half hours. The participants distributed brochures and delivered messages to eradicate prostitution. Posters displayed the achievements of the activities to eradicate prostitution and protect victims over the last 10 years.

MOGEF will continue its campaign under the theme “sex cannot be bought and sold” in 16 cities all over South Korea. The campaign will also be joined by the US Embassy in Korea, the US Forces in Korea, and the Cambodian Government.

Minister Kim Hee Jung stated that “prostitution must be eradicated as it violates human dignity. Hence, measures to punish those involved in prostitution should be strongly enforced. People must understand that human beings cannot be traded like commodities.” MOGEF, in cooperation with other institutions, will continue the campaign using TV and other media to raise public awareness of the sexual exploitation of women and children, the minister added.


The slogan on the above poster above reads “There’s something that’s not tradable in this world.”

*The Dasi Hamkke Center is a non-governmental and governmental collaboration agency offering exit programmes and counselling for “victims of sex trafficking and women in prostitution”. The centre is administered by Hansorihoe (United Voice), an umbrella organisation of anti-prostitution NGOs that frequently collaborate with MOGEF.

Black is the new Red*

Originally posted on Research Project Germany:

Subject of dispute: Brothel in Dachau (Photo: dpa)

Subject of dispute: Brothel in Dachau (Photo: dpa)

The below is a summary of anarticle by Benjamin Emontsthat appeared in German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, provided here as an update to the previous postCities lose legal battles against prostitution businesses. (*Black is the customary colour of Germany’s two main conservative parties, the Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social Union.)

Conservatives involved in construction of brothel in Dachau

For several months, questions were raised over the construction of a nudist club (FKK-Club) in East Dachau, Bavaria, which will include rooms where sex workers can offer sexual services. It has now come to light that local Conservative politicians and elected representatives from the Christian Social Union (CSU) are in fact involved in its construction: developer and acting city councillor Wolfgang Moll; electrician and previous city councillor Helmut Erhorn; and architect and CSU candidate for the city council…

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Guest Post: “The Talking Whore”

Originally posted on Research Project Germany:

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…

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Cities lose legal battles against prostitution businesses

Originally posted on Research Project Germany:

1537 Braunschweiger Monogrammist BordellszeneBrothel scene (1537 Brunswick Monogrammist, Source: Gemäldegalerie Berlin)

While sex workers protestsagainst the planned adoption of a new prostitution lawclaiming to protect them, two legal cases highlight continued attempts of municipal governments to ignore existing prostitution legislation, more than ten years after its introduction.

An administrative court in Minden in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia has issued a verdict against the use of prostitution-free zones, mirroring a decision in 2013by an administrative court in the state of Hesse, while an administrative court in Dachau in the state of Bavaria ruled against objections by the city’s public construction authority, which had attempted to bar two operators from running a fetish studio and a wellness centre, the latter of which will include five rooms where sex workers can offer sexual services.

As regional daily Neue Westfälischereports, various municipalities in Ostwestfalen-Lippe, a region in…

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