“We still know very little.” – 10 Years Prostitution Law (ProstG) in Germany
On October 19th, I followed the invitation of the German Green Party (Alliance ’90/The Greens) and attended a symposium titled “10 Years Prostitution Law” at the Jakob-Kaiser-Haus in Berlin. Afterwards, I contacted the speakers that had been present and several members of the audience that had participated in the discussion, to verify my notes. The result was a comprehensive transcript, which was published on Menschenhandel Heute (lit. Human Trafficking Today), a blog that originated from a student tutorial, initiated and led by Sonja Dolinsek, at Humboldt University of Berlin.
I would like to thank Sonja Dolinsek for her assistance with the proofreading of the rather extensive text. Furthermore, she added various sources as hyperlinks to enable readers to easily access additional background information. You can follow “Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery News” in English via Facebook and Twitter.
Please click here to access a Google-translated version of the transcript or here for the original in German. In the following, I listed selected quotes from the discussion that I translated myself. Please understand that I cannot provide a full translation of the transcript. You are certainly welcome, however, to leave any questions or comments below and I will try to accommodate requests for the translation or clarification of additional passages.
“Objectivity also means to admit what we don’t know. There is no new data.” - Elfriede Steffan (SPI Forschung gGmbH)
Statement in response to Ekin Deligöz (Deputy Chairwoman of a parliamentary group of the Green Party) who had stated that there were about 400,000 sex workers in Germany, an unproven figure from the late 1980s that is quoted for decades now despite lacking scientific evidence. A figure from the 1990s put the number of sex workers somewhere between 60 and 200,000, but even that was outdated, Steffan added. “We still know very little.”, another statement of Ekin Deligöz and the title of this article, was an accurate appreciation of the situation.
“The prostitution law was never meant to fight human trafficking. When it comes to human trafficking, we shouldn’t compromise. The law is about the situation of those who voluntary work as prostitutes.” – Ekin Deligöz
I published the transcript to allow those who couldn’t attend the event to get an impression of the topics discussed there. That is why I mostly refrained from adding any commentary of my own. In response to Deligöz’ use of the term “voluntary prostitutes”, however, I added a quote from Cheryl Overs, founder of the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP).
“[I]t would be absurd to preface the words ‘bride’ and ‘gay man’ with ‘willing’ or ‘consenting’. Can you imagine reports that say that condoms should be distributed to ‘consenting homosexuals’? Can you think of anything more absurd, more homophobic or more stigmatising? Can you think of anything more absurd than describing Kate Middleton as a ‘willing bride’?
Positioning ‘willing’ and ‘unwilling’ doesn’t contribute to justice for people who have been raped, beaten imprisoned in the course of either marriage, homosexuality and no-one would suggest that. Nor would anyone suggest that rejecting the terms ‘willing brides’ and ‘consenting homosexuals’ amounts to a denial that those things happen.”
No other self-employed person has to pay a fee for a fictitious income.” – Claudia Fischer-Czech from the Association of Counsellors for Sex workers (BUFAS), commenting on the practice to collect a sex tax via an automated ticket machine.
“People should discuss working conditions in a matter-of-factly fashion. Some brothel owners did improve working conditions, but I can’t say that things have changed fundamentally.”
- Claudia Fischer-Czech
“Employers have to follow even more laws than employees. Model apartments are often the simplest establishments, paying no attention to health and safety standards, where people try to earn quick cash. – Holger Rettig, German Employers’ Association of Erotic Companies (UEGD)
“Bad working conditions exist even in big, fancy and clean brothels.” – Claudia Fischer-Czech in response to Holger Rettig
“The law is for the benefit of the women and men working in this business, not for brothel operators.” – Volker Beck, Chief Whip and Human Rights Spokesman of the Green Party
“We have to get back to basics. We mustn’t avoid to talk with sex workers, brothel owners and clients. A participatory approach is needed and a positive climate in our society to discuss the necessary conditions. It’s dishonourable for a country like Germany to only care about collecting taxes and controlling sex workers.” – Stephanie Klee, sex worker and co-founder of the Association for Sexual Service Providers (BuSD)
“I would love to erase the restricted area act. The Green Party did submit a proposal to that end but it was blocked by the Social Democrats. Some have this fantasy that it would result in Sodom and Gomorrha.” – Volker Beck
“The criminalisation of punters is a perfidious logic but somehow, it caught on with the public. To have the Swedish model in Germany would be a disaster.” – Volker Beck
“Societies need to decide how they want to deal with prostitution and for that, evidence-based, ethical discussions are essential. Prostitution remains a dingy topic. It involves sexuality and thus people’s core ethical norms.” – Claudia Zimmermann-Schwartz, Departmental Head at the Ministry for Health, Equalities, Care and Ageing in North Rhine-Westphalia (MGEPA)
“I believe that the bottom line is that regulation, not restricted areas, should be the answer. Berlin will not have restricted areas. For that, there is no political majority and it is good there isn’t one.”
– Sibyll Klotz, District Councillor for Health, Social Affairs and Urban Development in Berlin Tempelhof-Schöneberg (Green Party)
Note: Since the translated passages in this article lack additional context, words may have been added for reasons of clarity. However, I guarantee that they are in no way distorting the original statements.