Sex Work and Human Rights

Posts tagged “Alice Schwarzer

“I thought it was all different!”

Highlights from a symposium about the German Prostitution Act at the Urania Berlin on December 9th, 2013. The event was organised by Felicitas Schirow who had invited experts from the fields of justice, criminology, social work, sociology, and social sciences, as well as an expert from the Berlin State Office of Criminal Investigation (LKA) and two women’s rights spokeswomen from the Left Party and the Greens.

Facts and Figures about the German Prostitution Act

“The Swedish Model has led to bizarre outcomes. Firstly, prostitution in Sweden has not decreased. Secondly, in order to prosecute punters, the police can only conduct investigations under degrading conditions. In my view, if you want to create a law, as the coalition agreement suggests, then you should first do proper research about legal facts, before you conclude some backroom deal without rhyme or reason that only serves to make matters worse.”

– Percy MacLean, Chief judge at the Berlin Administrative Court (ret.), former director of the German Institute for Human Rights, recipient of the 2004 Carl von Ossietzky Medal by the International League for Human Rights (ILHR) which honours citizens or initiatives that promote basic human rights

“We say that the prostitution law needs to be updated. The interior ministers have demanded (a reform) in 2010, but it still hasn’t been implemented. What is now being demanded in the media is in fact the long overdue implementation of this resolution. I believe it’s justified to say that prostitution isn’t a job like any other but to automatically equate prostitution with human trafficking isn’t fair, isn’t appropriate, and doesn’t contribute to the discourse. I’ve met enough women that prostituted themselves voluntarily, that were neither forced nor went into that line of work due to economic necessities, and I believe the state should acknowledge that. We witness it in our daily work, and that is why I always ask for a factual and differentiated view, maybe with a few uncomfortable comments by the police.”

– Heike Rudat, Director of the unit dealing with organised crime at the Berlin State Office of Criminal Investigation (LKA)

“If there is no majority for a sensible law, then I believe we don’t necessarily need a (new) law. Article 180a of the Criminal Code – that is one of the four laws that were adopted in 2002, at least one, that’s a significant share – prohibits brothel owners to offer prostitution in a fashion that limits the personal and economic liberties of those employed there. If extortionate rents and fees are charged, if no receipts are given for the payment of provided services etc. – those aren’t findings of the department for organised crime but from female police officers that work in the milieu – then those would be concrete facts that would raise the suspicion of exploitative prostitution being offered there, and existing laws already allow for such a brothel to be controlled. I would have no objections if legislation would further clarify these matters but then one must no longer view them from the human trafficking angle but talk about price controls through the Trade Supervisory Office, about the prevention of exploitative prostitution, and about the implementation – at long last – of the Prostitution Act, and one would have to completely change the jargon. The Prostitution Act was torpedoed. Let us finally put the Prostitution Act into effect. And, dear women, if you believe you need to be dominated by an old woman named Alice Schwarzer, oh my…”

– Prof. Dr. emer. Monika Frommel Criminologist, former director of the Institute of Sanction Law and Criminology at the University of Kiel

“Since there are repeated calls again for controls, controls, and more controls, let’s take a look at the subject of health. I can honestly say that Berlin’s outreach clinics seldom report the outbreak of diseases where the general public is concerned, and the women (in prostitution) are also free to visit a doctor. Their bodies are their assets. They have to be fit. They can’t say, all right, nothing to worry about, I might spread some diseases a little. It’s been suggested time and again that prostitutes are guilty of spreading venereal diseases. It’s wrong. That occurs on different levels.”

– Ilona Hengst, Social worker with 25 years of experience working with sex workers, previously held positions at several district offices in Berlin

“There has to be collaboration with sex workers, women’s projects and all stakeholders to pull together in one direction, to get this discourse into the right direction, because currently, it goes into the wrong one.”

– Evrim Sommer, Spokeswoman for women’s rights and member of the Berlin parliament for the Left Party (Linkspartei)

“Others have already mentioned the right of direction (Weisungsrecht) here today. I believe it’s very important to emphasise this subject, since the idea of further restrictions on the right of direction was also discussed among the Greens. Some suggest that brothel owners should no longer be allowed to assign the workplace or schedule, which to my knowledge are the only aspects the (already restricted) right of direction permits them to control. I believe this is the wrong debate. One should better come out and admit that one’s actual goal is to prohibit prostitution than trying to further restrict the right of direction, just to make it impossible to work in prostitution.”

– Gesine Agena, Spokeswoman for women’s rights and member of the federal board of the German Greens

“What actually happens in the setting of prostitution, when a client comes to a prostitute or talks to her? When the client goes to the prostitute, assuming they’re both adults, then it’s usually the prostitute who specifies and determines things relatively clearly, because most men, at least in my experience, are not necessarily in a position to clearly express what they actually like or want, and so she is the one making suggestions. Then they negotiate, about the price, too, and once they come to an agreement, the door closes, or the car door closes, or wherever they go together, and then a sexual service is performed. It’s a sexual and proactive act. The woman neither sells her body, nor does she sell her soul. Some people, and our society is no exception, apparently cannot imagine that women can actively offer and negotiate those services, and that they are basically in charge of these situations. I believe this is something that is very difficult to communicate and where we always get stuck at the client/prostitute level, e.g. where the criminalisation of clients is concerned. And where physical or sexualised violence does occur, we enter an area, also where criminal proceedings are concerned, of bodily harm, grievous bodily harm, rape etc. That is one level.”

– Christiane Howe, Sociologist at the Institute for Social Studies at Humboldt University Berlin

“Over the last few years, sex workers have told me time and time again about the physical and verbal abuse sex workers experience at the hands of police officers, including rape and the demand of “freebies”, i.e. sexual services in exchange for not being arrested, and there is ample documentation of this happening. Licensing or registration models have proven ineffective, or rather, where there’s a positive impact, it benefits only a small number of sex workers, since it was shown that in places where such models were introduced, the vast majority of sex workers worked outside of those legal frameworks. In addition, the measures that are involved often represent human rights violations, such as the forced outing of sex workers through compulsory registration schemes or mandatory health checks, which were both suggested by the editorial staff of the EMMA magazine and Mr Sporer from the criminal investigation department in Augsburg.”

– Matthias Lehmann, PhD Candidate at the Faculty of Law, Queens University Belfast

“I organised this event so that politicians, who will someday, maybe soon, create laws affecting us, cannot say they would have made different decisions if they had known about the contents of this event.”

– Felicitas Schirow, Since 1997 Owner of the brothel “Cafe Pssst!” in Berlin Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf. The decision by the Berlin Administrative Court on December 1st, 2000, to declare the withdrawal of her pub license as unlawful is widely seen as precedent that triggered the adoption of the Prostitution Act of 2002.

Click here to download a transcript of all quotes listed below. (For the German version of this post, please click here. Für die deutsche Version dieses Beitrags bitte hier klicken.)

Lecture Manuscript

Since several guests approached me after the event with the request for a copy of my lecture manuscript, I subsequently made it available. Please click here to retrieve the manuscript in English translation as a PDF file.

copyrightPlease note: This manuscript must not be cited or otherwise publicised without express permission by the author. Although several authors as well as titles of cited sources are mentioned in the text, it contains no links or a bibliography as customary for academic articles. In addition, not all quotes are highlighted as such.

The text includes passages from press releases by the English Collective of Prostitutes and the Sex Worker Open University. Should you wish to cite this transcript or encounter difficulties to locate the respective sources, please send an email to Matthias Lehmann at yongsagisa[at]gmail[punkt]com.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

© 2013-2014 Felicitas Schirow
℗ 2013-2014 blumlein records – Andrew Levine


(Im)moral Authority

Following a report in news magazine DER SPIEGEL, Alice Schwarzer, Germany’s leading anti-prostitution activist and advocate of the Swedish Model, admits to tax evasion, then accuses DER SPIEGEL of “character assassination”. Click here to read more.

(Un)Moralapostolin: Nachdem DER SPIEGEL berichtete, dass die führende Prostitutionsgegnerin systematisch Steuern hinterzog, gibt Alice Schwarzer dies zunächst zu, nur um dann den SPIEGEL des Rufmords zu bezichtigen. Hier weiterlesen.


Presentation at the Urania

Symposium at the Urania © Andrew Levine

Symposium at the Urania © Andrew Levine

“Facts and Figures about Prostitution that might surprise you”

To view this post in German, please click here.

On December 9th, 2013, an event was held at the Urania Berlin with the title “I thought it was all different! – Facts and Figures instead of Black-And-White-Thinking”. Its goal was to allow politicians, the general public and those affected by potential changes to the German Prostitution Act a comprehensive insight into the subject matter. The event was organised by Felicitas Schirow, since 1997 owner of the brothel “Café Pssst!” in Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf, Berlin. The decision by the Berlin Administrative Court on December 1st, 2000, to declare the withdrawal of her pub license as unlawful is widely seen as precedent that triggered the adoption of the German Prostitution Act that came into effect on January 1st, 2002.

Among the panellists were Percy MacLean, retired Chief Judge at the Berlin Administrative Court and recipient of the 2004 Carl von Ossietzky Medal by the International League for Human Rights (ILHR); Heike Rudat, Director of the unit dealing with organised crime at the Berlin State Office of Criminal Investigation (LKA); criminologist Prof. emer. Dr. Monika Frommel, former director of the Institute of Sanction Law and Criminology at the University of Kiel; Ilona Hengst, a social worker with 25 years of experience working with sex workers, who previously held positions at several district offices in Berlin; Gesine Agena, newly appointed spokeswoman for women’s rights and member of the federal board of the German Greens; Evrim Sommer, spokeswoman for women’s rights and member of the Berlin parliament for the Left Party (Linkspartei); and sociologist Christiane Howe from the Institute for Social Studies at Humboldt University Berlin.

I had the honour to join this impressive panel to speak about the effects of prostitution and anti-trafficking laws on sex workers’ human rights, with a focus on Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.

Among other topics, my presentation dealt with the recent raids in Soho, Central London, the findings of the UN report “Sex Work and the Law in Asia and the Pacific” and the demonstrated negative effects of the much-discussed sex purchase ban in Sweden.

Lecture Manuscript

Since several guests approached me after the event with the request for a copy of my lecture manuscript, I subsequently made it available. Please click here to retrieve the manuscript in English translation as a PDF file.

copyrightPlease note: This manuscript must not be cited or otherwise publicised without express permission by the author. Although several authors as well as titles of cited sources are mentioned in the text, it contains no links or a bibliography as customary for academic articles. In addition, not all quotes are highlighted as such.

The text includes passages from press releases by the English Collective of Prostitutes and the Sex Worker Open University. Should you wish to cite this transcript or encounter difficulties to locate the respective sources, please send an email to Matthias Lehmann at yongsagisa[at]gmail[punkt]com.


Invitation to the Urania

Das habe ich mir ja ganz anders vorgestellt

Invitation to a double bill about the German Prostitution Act

For the German version, please click here.
Bitte hier klicken für die deutsche Version.

I would like to cordially invite you to the event “I thought it was all different!” at the Urania Berlin on December 9th, 2013. Please note, however, that the event is held in German. (Should you not live in Berlin: the entire event will be recorded. The recordings will be made available at a later point in time.)

Due to the current political situation in Germany, this event will allow the general public as well as those affected by potential changes to the German Prostitution Act of 2002 to gain a comprehensive insight into the subject matter. Please click here to read a flyer with further information (in German only), incl. details about experts from the fields of justice, police, social work and social sciences, which I have the honour to join.

ProstG Urania„Das habe ich mir ja ganz anders vorgestellt!“
Dezember 9th, 2013 – 6:00 pm
Humboldt Hall, Urania Berlin
An der Urania 17, 10787 Berlin

I invite you to join one or both parts of the event at the Urania on Monday to learn more about the complex subjects that also form part of the coalition agreement between the prospective government of Conversatives and Social Democrats, which I wrote about in my article A sham of the “forced coalition” – Human Trafficking and Prostitution in the coalition agreement.

I would also like to direct your attention once more to the Appeal to strengthen the rights of sex workers and to improve their living and working conditions by the Trade Association Erotic and Sexual Services (Berufsverband erotische und sexuelle Dienstleistungen) in Germany. It has already been signed by nearly 1,500 individuals and organisations, incl. numerous counselling centres for sex workers or victims of human trafficking as well as the German AIDS Service Organisation (Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe). Members of the German parliament and other politicians, a great number of social scientists and other experts, as well as sex workers and private individuals have also signed the appeal.

I would be very glad if you would read and sign the appeal, which naturally, I support, too, and I look forward to meet you at the Urania on Monday.

Warm regards,
Matthias Lehmann

Links to social media sites concerning the event:

Facebook Event Page

Facebook Page

Tumblr Blog (incl. media articles)

Twitter


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


Sex worker criticises Alice Schwarzer’s view of women as commodity

 

“I just want to say that what bothers me is the view of women as commodity. 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 translation is as close to the original as possible. Due to low sound quality, some passages were a little hard to understand.)

Recorded at the presentation of anti-prostitution activist Alice Schwarzer’s book “Prostitution – A German Scandal” on November 14th, 2013, at Urania Berlin. Video by Research Project Korea.


Appeal FOR Prostitution*

*To strengthen the rights of sex workers and to improve their living and working conditions

The following is the English version of an Appeal FOR Prostitution by the Trade Association Erotic and Sexual Services (Berufsverband erotische und sexuelle Dienstleistungen) in Germany. It is a response to an appeal by leading German anti-prostitution activist Alice Schwarzer and her magazine Emma.

Please read, spread and sign the appeal to support German sex workers!

#PROstitutionProstitution is not slavery. Prostitution is an occupation, where sexual services are offered in exchange for payment. Such transactions are based on the voluntariness of the parties involved. Without consent to sexual activities, there is no prostitution, since sex against a person’s will is rape. The latter is a criminal offence, even if money changes hands.

Prostitution is not a synonym for human trafficking. Not only German but also migrant sex workers are predominantly working as sex workers self-determinedly and by choice. To flatly label sex workers, regardless of their ethnicity, as victims is an act of discrimination.

Although often described as the world’s oldest profession, prostitution is hardly anywhere recognised as work. To the contrary: in most parts of the world, sex workers are persecuted, ostracised, and excluded from society. That is why sex workers around the world demand the decriminalisation of sex work and its recognition as an occupation.

The German parliament adopted this idea when it passed the Prostitution Act of 2002 (ProstG). Their legal recognition improved the situation of sex workers in Germany. They are now able to sue employers for lost wages and have access to the social security and health care system. In addition, the provision of good working conditions and rooms are no longer punishable as “procurement of prostitution”. However, the law did not change the right of the police to enter premises used for prostitution at any time, and the number of raids has increased ever since.

The Prostitution Act of 2002 has some weaknesses and requires a reform. The main problem, however, isn’t the law itself but the lack of implementation in specific federal states.

Contrary to common claims, the Prostitution Act has not led to an increase in human trafficking in Germany. As progress reports by the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) have shown, the number of identified victims of human trafficking has even decreased since the adoption of the law. In New Zealand, where prostitution is recognised as work since 2003, no increase in human trafficking has been registered either.

Among the factors that abet human trafficking are global inequality, restrictive migration laws as well as the lack of rights by parties affected. A successful fight against human trafficking requires comprehensive structural reforms on a global level and a human rights based approach.

The criminalisation of customers who make use of erotic services is unsuitable to solve these problems. While the so-called “Swedish Model” has displaced visible street prostitution, there is no evidence that it has reduced prostitution itself or human trafficking. Meanwhile, the working conditions for sex workers have worsened and Denmark and Scotland have already rejected the adoption of the “Swedish Model”.

Therefore we demand:

● The involvement of sex workers in political processes that deal with the subject of prostitution

● No further expansion of policing powers and no supervision by the State or curtailing of civil liberties

● No criminalisation of our customers under the Swedish Model or any other law

● Information instead of prohibition, government-funded further education for sex workers

● Campaigns against stigmatisation and for respect for sex workers

● Right of residence, compensation and comprehensive support for people affected by human trafficking

Signatories

Click here to see the list of signatories and sign the appeal.

Fill in your name, and add your occupation/organisation (Beruf/Organisation) and location (Ort) if you wish. If you wish to receive the BesD newsletter (German), please add your email address, too.

Berufsverband erotische und sexuelle Dienstleistungen
(Trade Association Erotic and Sexual Services)
Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

Translation: Matthias Lehmann. Research Project Korea.