Sex Work and Human Rights

Videos of the protest against Alice Schwarzer

BseD PostcardFlyer of the protest: “My job is mine. Prostitution is not synonymous with Human Trafficking. Sex work is work. Bans discriminate against. Talk with us, not about us.” [Click here to read the demands by German sex workers.]

About the videos

The videos below were recorded at the presentation of anti-prostitution activist Alice Schwarzer’s book “Prostitution – A German Scandal” on November 14th, 2013, at Urania Berlin. The protest against this event was a collaboration of the Trade Association Erotic and Sexual Services (BseD), a recently founded sex worker organisation in Germany, Hydra e.V., a meeting place and counselling centre for prostitutes, and Research Project Korea.

The first video shows sex workers being hindered from rolling out a banner next to the stage which has written “My job is mine!” on it, a reference to Schwarzer’s former pro-abortion campaign “My belly is mine”. They were subsequently hauled off by plainclothes police.

The second video includes comments by a Bulgarian sex worker and by Tanja Gangarova of the German AIDS Service Organisation (Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe), as well as the reactions by Alice Schwarzer and social worker Sabine Constabel, who supports Schwarzer’s campaign. Please see an introduction and a verbatim translation below.

The third video was already posted on this blog before but is included here to have all videos in one place. The video shows a sex worker criticising Alice Schwarzer’s view of women as commodities. A verbatim translation is below.

Click here to see the German versions.

Protest against Alice Schwarzer in Berlin

Panel discussion about prostitution with Alice Schwarzer

Introduction and verbatim translation

Following an account by Sabine Constabel about young women from Eastern Europe who, as she claimed, are predominantly uneducated as well as diseased due to insufficient health care in their home countries, a Bulgarian sex worker commented:

„For 3 years, I worked at a brothel in Berlin, before that, 4 years at Artemis, 6 years at another business. I have never met a Bulgarian woman as you described them, who were sick. … 2 women sought protection, they [contacted the police]. Where do you meet these women?”

Before Constabel has a chance to reply, Alice Schwarzer intervenes: „That’s simply grotesque and highly implausible. We just know that 90 to 95% of the women are in dire straits and have to… [Hecklink: “Where is the data?”] …have to and can prostitute themselves in Germany under degrading conditions. Apparently, there are a few per cent of very cheerful prostitutes, so, there you go, granted. We will not follow you around and bar you from doing that. But this is about a different problem. Please, who wants to say something else? Oh, I see, my apologies. Sabine Constabel wanted to…”

Sabine Constabel: “I believe it was a clear question and I can respond to it. The question was where I meet them and how I come up with them. That’s pretty simple. We have interpreters, Bulgarian women, and they go into the brothels, they make contacts in the model apartments, they are on the street, and they become known to the women pretty quickly, and the problem are always those women who don’t speak German or don’t speak enough German, and they eventually come via the interpreters. They call them, they got the phone number, and that’s how they get our counsel.

Alice Schwarzer: “Okay, that gentleman signalled for a while now [that he wanted to say something]. If you let him… He’s battling to get to the mic. There he is.”

Tanja Gangarova (Consultant for Migration, German AIDS Service Organisation): „Well, good evening…“

Alice Schwarzer: „I would say, another two, three questions, then…“

Tanja Gangarova: „I would like to give two, three comments. My name is Tanja Gangarova, I am a social scientist, and I am head of the fields migration, sex work and international affairs at the federal association of the German AIDS Service Organisation. We are an association that now includes 130 organisations, and in their name I am standing here today, because we fundamentally disapprove the appeal against prostitution, and I am telling you, that here and today, the very dangerous conflation of sex work and human trafficking happens again. [Applause] In our view, a constructive communication can happen only, when there’s a clear separation between these two subjects. As for human trafficking in Germany, not just where sex work is concerned, but also in every other societal context, there are criminal law provisions, and it’s good they are there. Not just female but also male sex workers, because you forget those, too, [Applause] make self-determined decisions, even when they are in precarious situations – I’m from Bulgaria myself – because they are acting subjects.”

Alice Schwarzer tries to interrupt her, but Tanja Gangarova adds: “Final comment. I have worked internationally in various countries and I can tell you from a perspective of prevention that banning and criminalising [sex work] have never resulted in the disappearance of sex work.” [Applause]

Alice Schwarzer: „We already got your point. Ms Constabel would like to…“

Tanja Gangarova: „I also would very much like to say something about the Swedish Model, because it’s a lot of nonsense. The Swedish Model has made prostitution disappear fromt the street. [The rest of her statement is inaudible. Gangarova points out that the situation for sex workers has not improved.] [Thunderous applause]

Alice Schwarzer: „Well, I can tell you, that EMMA is planning a congress together with the Swedish embassy in the spring, and we will have people come there and will consult them, and they can report about it.”

Responding to the tumult in the auditorium, Alice Schwarzer remarks: “Ideology beats reality, right? You just don’t want to hear it.” [Laughter from Schwarzer’s opponents, applause from her supporters] “I don’t experience this for the first time.”

Sex worker criticises Schwarzer’s view of women as commodities

Verbatim translation

“I just want to say that what bothers me is the view of women as commoditiy. I am a service provider. Of course there a social hardships. What bothers me is to take it all out of context, that we don’t say: A, there has to be a secure income, we need to get women out of poverty; that is the context. And then (sexual) services should be recognised, the status of women’s oldest profession enhanced and general conditions created, where women aren’t viewed as children, neither on an individual nor on a societal level, but as independent, clear-thinking subjects.”

The above translations are as close to the original as possible. Due to low sound quality, some passages were somewhat hard to understand. Where inserts were made, speakers were quoted from memory.

Third video © 2013 Research Project Korea

One response

  1. Pingback: Commentaries in the international media | Research Project Korea

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