Sex Work and Human Rights

Posts tagged “Criminalisation of clients

Celebrating Hollywood’s “gender studies scholars”

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Images* to celebrate Hollywood’s “gender studies scholars” who, after conducting “some very scientific studies”, have co-signed a letter by anti-prostitution activists to try and pressure Amnesty International into dropping plans to adopt a policy that would recommend decriminalising sex work.

Tell Amnesty to listen to sex workers!

NSWP Petition to Amnesty (Image by @photogroffee)

Please read, sign and share the petition by the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) and tell Amnesty to listen to sex workers and protect their human rights!

Recommended Reading

Sarah (Tits and Sass)
A Tale of Two Petitions: CATW’s Amnesty Open Letter Fail

Luca Stevenson and Agata Dziuban (ICRSE)
Amnesty must stand firm on support for decriminalising sex work

Caty Simon (Tits and sass)
Pye Jakobsson (NSWP President) on the Amnesty International vote and holding allies accountable

Michel Sidibé (UNAIDS Executive Director)
UNAIDS Letter of Support to Amnesty International [PDF]

Sebastian Kohn (Open Society Foundations)
Why Amnesty International Must Hold Firm in Its Support for Sex Workers

Wendy Lyon (Feminist Ire)
On Amnesty and that open letter

Thomas Schultz-Jagow (Amnesty Int’l)
Response to Jessica Neuwirth’s article in the New York Times

Amnesty International
Explaining our draft policy on sex work

Kathryn Adams
18 Reasons for Decriminalisation of Sex Work
(Adapted from Amnesty International’s Draft Policy on Sex Work)

Chantawipa Apisuk (Empower Foundation Thailand)
Letter of Support to Amnesty International

Kay Thi Win (Asia Pacific Network of Sex Worker)
Please vote Yes to the policy on decriminalization of sex work

Juniper Fitzgerald (Tits and Sass)
Celebrity And The Spectacle Of The Trafficking Victim

Alison Phipps (Director, Gender Studies, University of Sussex)
‘Disappearing’ sex workers in the Amnesty International debate

James Baer (London); Barbra Moyo (Sexual Rights Centre, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe)
Guardian Letters: Amnesty International is right to take a stand on sex work

Molly Smith
In this prostitution debate, listen to sex workers not Hollywood stars

Serra Sippel (President, Center for Health and Gender Equity)
All Women, All Rights – Sex Workers Included

Rachel Vorona Cote
Celebrities Have Vital Opinions About Decriminalization of Sex Work

Jamie Peck
Sex workers tell Lena Dunham, other celebs to STFU about shit they don’t understand

…or check out #Amnesty4Sexwork on Twitter.


*All images modified by Research Project Korea/Germany (@photogroffee). Feel free to share and retweet. See image descriptions on Facebook for Twitter URLs.


“Red Light Research” – Interview by Malte Kollenberg

Sex workers and allies protest in front of the South Korean Constitutional Court. © 2015 Research Project Korea. All Rights Reserved.

Sex workers and allies protest in front of the South Korean Constitutional Court.
© 2015 Research Project Korea. All Rights Reserved.

Summary

In May, I accepted an interview request by Malte Kollenberg, a freelance journalist producing a series about Germans living in South Korea for KBS World Radio. After several negative experiences with the Korean media, it was refreshing to meet a sincere journalist willing to go the extra mile to communicate before, during and after our encounter to ensure that the subject of sex work would be dealt with appropriately.

Listen to the interview in German or read the translated transcript below.

Please note that the copyright for the interview recording lies with KBS World Radio and is not licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Interview

Introduction by Malte Kollenberg

Matthias Lehmann’s research deals with a stigmatised occupation. He currently works on his dissertation about sex work regulations in Germany at Queen’s University Belfast. Over the last years, he’s created his own niche. Starting from his interest in North and South Korea, and later in human trafficking prevention in Thailand, he presented in 2013 the results of a privately funded research project about the impact of the South Korean Anti-Sex Trade Laws on sex workers’ human rights. And South Korea is still on his mind. Lehmann actively engages for improved working conditions for sex workers. For the “Meeting of Two Worlds”, we’ve met Lehmann in Busan and spoke with him about his research, the differences between Germany and South Korea, and his critique of the media.

Malte Kollenberg: Mr Lehmann, what brought you to South Korea?

Matthias Lehmann: I first came to Korea was in 2002. I majored in Korean Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, and the first time I came here was as a visitor, and then I returned later as an exchange student. Back in Berlin, my home town, I had quite a few Korean friends, and that’s how I came in contact with Korean culture, especially with Korean music, and of course with Korean films. My family’s history was shaped by the German division. I was born and grew up in West Berlin, but I also had relatives in East Berlin and other, smaller cities, all the way down to Saxony, and often visited the former GDR. That’s why the history of the Korean division is both a very interesting and emotional issue for me, and that was one of main reasons why I got into the field of Korean Studies.

MK: In the meantime, your research field is an entirely different one, however, and has little to do with the Korean division.

ML: Right. During my previous studies, and also for some time after that, I was particularly interested in North Korea and the role of the United States in the so-called North Korean nuclear crisis. Afterwards, I first shifted my focus onto the field of human trafficking. I did my master’s degree here in Korea and the subject I then wanted to focus on, sex workers’ rights and prostitution laws, which is the subject I am also dealing with now, I couldn’t get approved by the faculty at my university here, and I guess I can understand that. That was why I continued to focus on human trafficking prevention for my M.A. thesis, but of course that included illustrating how laws that should actually fight human trafficking, like here in Korea, negatively affect the rights of sex workers, especially of migrant sex workers. So, that’s how my research interest developed: first Korea, then human trafficking, then sex work. And although I first focused on Thailand, I later returned to South Korea to focus more closely on the situation here after the huge protests in Seoul in 2011.

MK: You also did research about this subject from a German perspective. Generally speaking, are there great differences between how sex work/prostitution is regulated by law in Germany and South Korea?

ML: Yes, there’s a huge difference. I’ve now begun to focus on Germany for my doctoral degree, and it’s exciting for me to do research about my own country for the first time. In Germany, sex work has been legal for a very long time. The media often report that Germany legalised prostitution in 2002 but that is actually incorrect. Prostitution was already legal for most of the 20th century, with the exception of the Nazi period. What changed in 2002 was that a law was created to strengthen the legal and social rights of sex workers, and that the operating of brothels was permitted. That’s what changed. But sex work was already legal, both the buying and the selling of sexual services.

And that’s exactly what is prohibited in Korea, which means that brothel operators, people who facilitate contacts, for example escort agencies, and also sex workers themselves are all prosecuted here. And it does happen! I’ve often experienced that both Koreans and foreigners living in Korea say that they believe nothing is being done and that the police is always looking the other way. And that really isn’t true. It might only be a drop in the bucket – but that drop hits the target. In fact, there are many raids here, and since last year, they’ve actually increased again. People are arrested and sentenced, people have to appear before the court, and last November, a woman even died as a result of a raid, because she panicked and jumped out of a window to escape the police.

That was a very interesting case and that’s where we come to the media. If any “prostitution ring” or human trafficking case is uncovered in Korea or abroad, where Korean sex workers are involved, or victims of human trafficking, which of course can also occur, then the Korean media always report about it immediately and extensively in their English editions and on their English websites, because that’s “sexy” news. But when that woman died last November – absolute silence! Nobody wanted to report in English that this sort of thing also happens. Of course there were some reports about it in Korean, but they were not good and very disrespectful. In one of them, there was a cartoon that showed two police men looking down from a tall building and a dead woman lying below. How one can even have such an idea is a mystery to me. Of course there isn’t always such extreme harm involved, but raids do happen and the human rights of sex workers here in Korea are being violated. That’s a big problem.

MK: You just said that the media are keen on such “sexy” news. And that’s exactly how it is. Sex always sells in the media. You must be flooded with media requests.

ML: Indeed. With the exception of September 11, I’ve never experienced such an avalanche of media reports as in the last 18 months, both in Germany, but also in the UK. In Germany, that’s because there’s an ongoing discussion about changing the prostitution law. There’s a new bill but it has already been in the works for quite a while and no final decision has yet been made. The ruling coalition will probably just push it through parliament since they have such great majority there. In Northern Ireland, Scotland and also in the British House of Commons, different attempts were made to introduce laws to criminalise the purchase of sexual services. [In Northern Ireland, a law criminalising sex workers’ clients has come into force on June 1st, 2015.] And in Korea, there are also a lot of media reports, especially due to the ongoing constitutional review concerning the Korean anti-prostitution law.

MK: What might be the outcome of that?

ML: I didn’t really look very deeply into the adultery law, which was recently changed here so that adultery is now no longer punishable by law, but in the wake of that decision, it is of course possible that the constitutional judges, they’re eight men and one woman, will take the next step and say that the prostitution law also needs changing. But I don’t quite believe it yet. There have been constitutional reviews of the law in the past, but those weren’t submitted by a judge. However, two years ago, a Korean sex worker stood before the courts because she had sold sex, and she insisted on her right of self-determination, which resulted in the presiding judge at the Seoul Northern District Court submitting a request for a new constitutional review of the law.

The review should have been concluded already, but these things take a lot of time. In the case of the adultery law, for example, it took four years. The first public hearing was in April and the process will continue. The experts I’ve heard giving evidence so far represent a mixed bag. Sex workers are not sufficiently included. It’s bad enough in Germany, but here, it’s even worse. Although there are two different sex workers’ rights organisations, sex workers haven’t presented evidence so far. Instead, that was done by lawyers, researchers, and other experts, so that at the hearing, sex workers themselves weren’t heard. At least in Germany, even if that was merely a fig leaf, we did have a sex worker presenting evidence in front of the justice committee of the German parliament. But here, nothing of that sort happened.

MK: Let’s return to the media. On your blog, you published a media critique some time ago. What problems do you see when it comes to media reports about prostitution/sex work?

ML: Well, it wasn’t just one media critique but sadly, it’s a recurring issue, and it’s always a lot of work. I only focus on those that matter, for example, if there’s a detailed report from the BBC or from [German broadcaster] ARD. When it comes to reports about Korea, then what you mostly see in the German media are the latest stories to have allegedly happened in North Korea, and those stories are often trumpeted before they’re even confirmed, simply because they make for good clickbait. And when it comes to prostitution, there is no value set on fact-checking or actually speaking to members of the occupational group concerned. When the train drivers or pilots in Germany go on strike, then journalists speak with representatives of those occupational groups. Sadly, when it comes to sex work, that just doesn’t happen. Or if it happens, then they are harassed to make certain statements they don’t want to make, or do certain things they don’t want to do. I remember talking with a sex worker while I was doing my research project here in Korea, who told me that after the 2011 protests in Yeongdeungpo, that’s a red-light district in Seoul, one of the media teams insisted on filming her while she would do the dishes at a brothel. She replied to them that she never does that, so why should she do it now? Their idea was obviously to convey a message like, “Look, sex workers are normal people, just like you, doing normal things.” Maybe from a very naïve perspective, one can understand their motivation, but it’s still nonsense to try and fabricate something like that. Instead of trying to put words into their mouths, shouldn’t they actually report about what sex workers’ concerns and demands are?

Jasmine & Dora Protest in Berlin in 2013 © Research Project Korea. All Rights Reserved.

On July 19th, 2013, people gathered in 36 cities across the globe
to protest against violence against sex workers. |
Official Website

MK: The topic sex work/prostitution is so complex. Is there anything that you would like to add that you consider as particularly important?

ML: Yes, thank you. Ever since the global protest in June 2013, after two sex workers were murdered in Sweden and Turkey, the #StigmaKills hashtag is being used on Twitter. It refers to the fact that the stigmatisation of sex work and of sex workers really does result in deaths – or at the very least, it has a very negative impact on sex workers. Something I notice time and time again, especially here in Korea, is that people either feel sorry for sex workers, which they really don’t need, or they’re angry about them, which happens both in Korea or in the Korean communities in Australia, for example. They are angry because they seem to think that Korean sex workers who work abroad are giving Korea a bad image. But the reason why many Korean sex workers have migrated to work abroad is that the law, which was adopted here in 2004, criminalises them, and that the risks they’re taking by working abroad, for example in the US where sex work is also illegal, are still more predictable, or the conditions more attractive, than the risks they’d face if they were to stay and work here. People should finally listen to sex workers, and not just let off steam based on their prejudices.

MK: Thank you very much, Mr Lehmann.

ML: You’re welcome.


Please note that the copyright for the interview recording lies with KBS World Radio and is not licenced under a Creative Commons License.

Interview by Malte Kollenberg. © 2015 KBS World Radio. Translation by Matthias Lehmann. The English version differs slightly from the German original to make for easier reading. I would like to thank Malte Kollenberg for his professional attitude and sensitivity throughout our communication before, during and after the interview.


Related Posts

Articles tagged “Media Critique” on Research Project Korea

A fair deal? – South Korean sex workers’ earnings at home and abroad

In Pictures: Sex workers protest in front of South Korea’s Constitutional Court

Lies & Truths about the German Prostitution Act – An Introduction for the Uninitiated

Distorting MIRROR: The media’s fear of the truth [SPIEGEL Critique]

Does legal prostitution really increase human trafficking in Germany? [SPIEGEL Critique]

[Video in German] “Sex Crime” or “Sexual Self-Determination”? Prostitution discourses in South Korea


Kuosmanen: La loi contre l’achat de sexe crée un faux optimisme

Jari Kuosmanen - Photo by Åbo Underrättelser. All Rights Reserved.Questionnant la loi contre l’achat de sexe: Jari Kuosmanen, professeur associé au Département de Travail Social de l’Université de Göteborg, dit que l’offre et la demande pour des services sexuels en Suède n’a pas diminué depuis la fin des années 1990. Photo: Åbo Underrättelser.

A propos de cette traduction

En 2014, le Parlement Européen, l’Assemblée d’Irlande du Nord, et le Parlement Canadien ont vote en faveur de lois qui criminalisent l’achat de services sexuels, une mesure communément référée comme le Modèle Suédois. Pendant ce temps, la Commission Spéciale du Sénat français, la Chambre des Communes du Royaume Uni, et la Commission électorale de Justice du Parlement Néo-Zélandais ont rejeté une telle démarche.

Les défenseurs du Modèle Suédois prétendent que la loi a mené à une diminution du nombre d’acheteurs et de vendeurs de services sexuels. Cependant, selon Ann Jordan de l’Université Américaine Centre pour les Droits Humains et le Droit Humanitaire, le gouvernement suédois ne sait en fait pas “si la loi a causé une quelconque réduction du nombre d’acheteurs de services sexuels, de travailleurSEs du sexe, de victimes de traite, ou de travailleurSEs du sexe migrantEs”. Comme Jordan l’explique, les affirmations d’un ‘succès’ manquent de preuves fiables, et la source de ces affirmations “est principalement un court résumé en anglais d’un rapport du gouvernement”.

Tandis que le travail sexuel de rue a initialement chuté, Jay Levy et Pye Jakobsson soutiennent que la recherche suggère qu’il est depuis retourné à ses niveaux antérieurs, et qu’il reste difficile de savoir si le déclin initial a été causé par la loi ou d’autres facteurs. En ce qui concerne la baisse présumée des acheteurs de services sexuels, les chercheuses suédoises Susanne Dodillet et Petra Östergren soulignent que le résumé en anglais mentionné ci-dessus cite une enquête, qui suggère que moins d’hommes ont acheté des services sexuels en comparaison à une étude de 1996, mais il oublie cruellement de citer les réserves exprimées par la personne qui l’a elle-même conduite: Jari Kuosmanen. Alors que les défenseurs du Modèle Suédois et les activistes anti-prostitution continuent de citer ses résultats comme preuve soutenant leurs opinions, Kuosmanen explique dans cette interview le manque de preuves de l’efficacité de la loi.

S’il vous plait, notez que le droit d’auteur pour cet article réside avec Åbo Underrättelser et n’est pas sous license Creative Commons.

La loi contre l’achat de sexe crée un faux optimisme | Par Dan Lolax

Les politiciens Finlandais qui veulent suivre l’approche suédoise et introduire une interdiction totale d’acheter des services sexuels devraient réfléchir à deux fois. Il n’y a rien pour étayer l’allégation que la prostitution a diminué en Suède depuis que le pays a établi la loi en 1999, dit Jari Kuosmanen, professeur associé à l’Université de Göteborg, qui a été le premier à évaluer les effets de la loi. Selon lui, le problème est que les politiciens n’ont pas base le changement de législation sur la recherche. (more…)


Kuosmanen: Sex Purchase Act Creates False Optimism

Jari Kuosmanen - Photo by Åbo Underrättelser. All Rights Reserved.Questioning the Sex Purchase Act: Jari Kuosmanen, associate professor in the Department of Social Work at the University of Gothenburg, says that supply and demand for sexual services in Sweden has not declined since the late 1990s. Photo: Åbo Underrättelser. All Rights Reserved.

About this translation

In 2014, the European Parliament, the Northern Ireland Assembly, and the Canadian Parliament all voted in favour of laws to criminalise the purchase of sexual services, a measure commonly referred to as the Swedish Model. Meanwhile, the Select Committee of the French Senate, the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, and the Justice and Electoral Committee of the New Zealand Parliament rejected such a move.

Advocates for the Swedish Model claim that the law has led to declining numbers of buyers and sellers of sexual services. However, according to Ann Jordan from the American University’s Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, the Swedish government doesn’t actually know “whether the law caused any reduction in the number of sex buyers, sex workers, trafficking victims or migrant sex workers”. As Jordan explains, claims of its ‘success’ lack reliable evidence, and the source of such claims “is primarily the government’s initial and short English-language summary”.

While street-based sex work dropped initially, Jay Levy and Pye Jakobsson argue that research suggests it has since returned to previous levels, and that it remains unclear if the initial decline was caused by the law or other factors. With regards to the alleged decline of sex buyers, Swedish researchers Susanne Dodillet and Petra Östergren point out that the aforementioned English-language summary cites a survey, which suggests that fewer men had bought sex compared to a 1996 study, but crucially omits the reservations expressed by the very person who conducted it: Jari Kuosmanen. While advocates of the Swedish Model and anti-prostitution activists continue to cite his findings as evidence supporting their views, Kuosmanen explains in this interview the lack of evidence of the effectiveness of the law.

Please note that the copyright for this article lies with Åbo Underrättelser and is not licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Sex Purchase Act Creates False Optimism | By Dan Lolax

Finnish politicians who want to follow Sweden’s approach and introduce a total ban on buying sex should think twice. There is nothing to support the claim that prostitution in Sweden has decreased since the country established the law in 1999, says Jari Kuosmanen, associate professor at the University of Gothenburg, who was the first to evaluate the effects of the law. According to him, the problem is that politicians didn’t base the legislative change on research.

That the law regarding the purchase of sex is described as a success is a statement based on assessments by the police and social services. “It gives a completely false image of supply and demand for sexual services. Street prostitution has gone down, yes, and it is now dominated by Eastern European and African women. But hidden prostitution is difficult to access”, says Kuosmanen, adding that even before the amendment, two-thirds of prostitution occurred indoors.

Overall, the Swedes feel positive about the ban on buying sex. Approximately seventy percent support it, more women than men, but that does not mean that the Swedes think that it has any effect, he says, referring to his evaluation. The effects have not so much to do with the law as it has to do with police resources, says Kuosmanen. The number of arrests per year varies, sometimes there can be as many as three hundred.

If the police, after lengthy investigations, manages to blow up a trafficking ring it will create good statistics. Many clients confess right away to avoid a trial and public shame, says Jari Kuosmanen. “But such crackdowns were possible even before the amendment because pimping was not allowed before 1999.

Prostitution in Sweden has become a political issue, for better or for worse, he says. There are politicians who travel to Nordic countries and praise the law without having any evidence of its success. Instead of basing their statements on research, politicians cite the government’s assumptions, which according to Kuosmanen, are often biased.

His colleagues and him were thwarted by social welfare authorities when they proposed to establish a prostitution research centre. “The risk is of course that we researcher find something out that goes against the purpose of the law.”

In the evaluation of the law in 2010, two years after Jari Kuosmanen’s research on the effect of the law, the working group consisted of lawyers only. “The impression one got was that the instructions were: ‘Do as you please, just don’t do anything to undermine the law.’”

The reason that he doubts that the law has had the effect politicians claim it does is that the scope of supply does not seem to have decreased. The proportion of Swedish men who bought sex was ten percent, according to Kuosmanens evaluation report in 2008. That figure was a drop compared to 1996, when it was thirteen percent. “But when the question was asked in 1996, buying sex was not illegal as it is now. And how many will admit that they committed a crime?” Seventy percent of the men who buy sex do it abroad. This figure has not changed since the Act came into force.

Jari Kuosmanen’s message to Finnish politicians is to not forget that prostitution is a multifaceted phenomenon. There is not an overall agreement among researchers in Sweden, he admits, but some of them cannot with a clear conscience say that the law had an effect. What Kuosmanen can say is that prostitution can not only be met with legislative changes. “Prostitution has so many faces. There are miserable experiences, but there are also others.”

Right now, Kuosmanen is conducting research on male sex workers and people who engage in sex work as a kind of rebellion to go against the mainstream, have fun and make money. His point is that issues regarding prostitution must be allowed to be seen as complex as any other societal issues.

“If authorities and politicians try to create some uniform picture, their credibility disappears”, says Kuosmanen, and urges Finnish politicians to do proper research before any change of the law. Only in this way can the legal effect be determined and properly evaluated.


This article was written by Dan Lolax and published by Åbo Underrättelser, a newspaper in Åbo, Sweden. Click here to view the Swedish original. Please note that the copyright for this article and the photo above lies with Åbo Underrättelser and is not licensed under a Creative Commons License. The photo below did not appear in the original article.

Translation by Anonymous. Every effort has been made to translate this article verbatim. However, on some occasions, the wording and word order were slightly altered for better understanding.

No to the Swedish Model - Protest at Stormont, Belfast - Photo by Matt Lemon Photography. All Rights Reserved.

Photo: Sign used during the protest by sex workers and allies against the introduction of a sex purchase ban in Northern Ireland. © 2014 Matt Lemon Photography | Please read the copyright notice


New Zealand Justice Committee rejects Swedish Model

Photo by New Zealand Prostitutes Collective

Yes and no, and no again!

In recent weeks, members of the Northern Ireland Assembly as well as the House of Commons and the Senate of Canada have voted in favour of laws to criminalise the purchase of sexual services, a measure commonly referred to as the Swedish Model. In July, however, the Select Committee of the French Senate rejected such a move, as did a majority of members of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom last week. The latest decision against the Swedish Model was handed down on November 7, 2014, by the Justice and Electoral Committee of the New Zealand Parliament (Pāremata Aotearoa).

Petition by Freedom from Sexual Exploitation

In May 2013, Elizabeth Subritzky had submitted a petition on behalf of Freedom from Sexual Exploitation that the House of Representatives legislate for a national plan of action to combat street prostitution, including a law to make the purchase of sexual services illegal. At the time, Subritzky claimed that the Prostitution Reform Act of 2003, which decriminalised sex work, was to blame for women selling sex. According to Subritzky, the law had not only encouraged more men to buy sex, but also “transformed prostitution into an acceptable, even attractive job for young, poor women in New Zealand”. (Source: Stuff New Zealand)

The Prostitution Reform Act 2003

The Prostitution Reform Act 2003 decriminalises prostitution while not endorsing or morally sanctioning it or its use. The Act, administered by the Ministry of Justice, creates a framework that

  • safeguards the human rights of sex workers and protects them from exploitation
  • promotes the welfare, occupational health and safety of sex workers
  • is conducive to public health
  • prohibits people under 18 years of age from working in prostitution.

The Act provides protections for all sex workers, whether they work indoors or on the streets, by making prostitution subject to the same laws and controls that regulate other businesses. No person in New Zealand on a visa may provide commercial sexual services, or act as an operator of or invest in a New Zealand prostitution business. (Source: Report of the Justice and Electoral Committee)

Report of the Justice and Electoral Committee

Based on the 2008 Report of the Prostitution Law Review Committee (PLRC), established under the Prostitution Reform Act, the Justice and Electoral Committee stated that a perceived increase in street prostitution “may be due to an increase in visibility in some areas” which “may not necessarily represent greater numbers overall.” The committee also referred to a 2010 report from the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective which found that “the number of sex workers is relatively stable, and in some parts of the country, such as Wellington, is decreasing as sex workers have the means to shift indoors and to work from home or elsewhere”.1

With regards to the impact of street-based sex workers on the communities they work in, the committee found that while a small number of communities “have raised concerns about vehicle noise, disorderly behaviour, and the disposal of rubbish”, there are already laws in place to address them. A review of the issues associated with street-based sex work undertaken by the Ministry of Justice in 2009 recommended “a comprehensive local approach to improve community safety and minimise harm” and suggested that “banning and moving on street-based sex workers might drive activity further underground, impairing the health and safety of workers”.

Whereas Subritzky’s petition expressed concern that street-based sex workers were “particularly vulnerable to violence, rape, drug and alcohol abuse, poverty, and social marginalisation”, the committee stated that the aforementioned 2008 PLRC report had concluded that “on the whole the vast majority of those involved in the sex industry are better off than they were before the Prostitution Reform Act, and [that] the relationship between sex workers and the police has improved.” Acknowledging the vulnerability of street-based sex workers, the committee recommended to encourage them to move to indoor workplaces and support them “to work as safely as possible while causing minimal disruption to local residents”.

In response to the request in Subritzky’s petition to make the purchase of sexual services illegal, the committee stated: “The purpose of the Prostitution Reform Act is to give sex workers the same protections as other workers, recognising that sex workers are not necessarily victims. The 2008 PLRC report noted that Swedish sex workers have criticised the Swedish model, saying the need to protect their clients from the risk of prosecution disadvantages them and exposes them to risk. The committee considered that all forms of criminalisation increase workers’ vulnerability, producing negative health and safety outcomes.”

With regards to the suggestion in Subritzky’s petition that prosecuting brothel managers would enable authorities to control human trafficking, the committee pointed to existing trafficking legislation, which also punishes “a range of conduct associated with trafficking, including rape, engaging underage prostitutes, coercing prostitutes, and exploitation of labourers”. It added that New Zealand was meeting its “international obligations to prevent and combat people trafficking under the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime” and had amended the law “to remove the cross-border requirement, ensuring domestic and transnational human trafficking can be prosecuted and punished”.

Whereas the Subritzky’s petition expressed concern “about the number of under-age street-based sex workers”, the committee referred to reports from the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective, which indicated that “there are very few under-age workers in Christchurch and Wellington, and few in Auckland”, and that “the existence of the Act has made brothel operators more aware of the law on under-age workers”. In addition, the 2008 PLRC report had concluded that there had been “no increase in the number of under-age prostitutes since the Act came into force”.

On the subject of under age sex workers

Under 11.4 Media Influence on Public Perception, the 2008 PLRC report cited findings from Nicolas Pascoe (2007) that “the most common negative assumptions were that decriminalisation will increase the numbers of under age people involved in prostitution, and that there is or will be more crime associated with sex work” due to the Prostitution Reform Act. “The analysis concluded the way in which an issue is reported (whether negative or positive assumptions about it are made and reinforced), may prompt attention from other sectors of the media and from politicians whose involvement in turn adds weight to the perception that the matter is of grave concern. Thus, the perceived scale of a ‘problem’ in a community can be directly linked to the amount, and tone, of newspaper coverage it receives. The Committee considers that much of the reporting on matters such as the numbers of sex workers and under age involvement in prostitution has been exaggerated.” (p. 163)

Rejecting Subritzky’s petition, the Justice and Electoral Committee concluded: “We appreciate the petitioner’s concerns about street prostitution. However, we are aware that the eradication of street-based prostitution has not proved to be achievable in any jurisdiction, and simply banning it may have negative consequences for the health and safety of sex workers. We support the Prostitution Law Review Committee’s conclusion that local approaches are likely to be most effective in dealing with street prostitution.”

Reaction from Dr Calum Bennachie

“It may seem like a quiet, minor victory, but it is very important. After failing in 2003 to have it added to the Prostitution Reform Bill as it made its way through parliament and after their failed attempt at getting a Citizens Initiated Referendum to overturn the Prostitution Reform Act, abolitionists again attempted to overturn the rights of sex workers. The Select Committee considering their petition has thrown it out, ruling on the side of reason and evidence, rather than on the basis of ideology.

When other groups are finally given rights by society, they rarely have to keep returning to parliament to protect those rights. Yet, sex workers, who have been given their rights by Parliament in 2003 when sex work was decriminalised, continually have to defend themselves in parliament, fight the same battles, and time after time have to refute the same tired arguments based on invented figures. In this petition, there were claims that most people entering sex work do so under 18 years of age. This claim is blatantly untrue, and in another part of the petition, Freedom From Sexual Exploitation actually claims that 18.3% of sex workers start under 18 years of age. No matter how often they repeat their incorrect assertion, 18.3% do not represent the majority of sex workers, and they are still less than the 35.6% of sex workers who started work between 18 and 21, the age group in which most sex workers start. These abolitionists need to realise that the falsehoods, fictions, myths, and lies that they tell will not win, and will be exposed.”

Dr Calum Bennachie is the Coordinator of PUMP (Pride and Unity among Male Prostitutes), the male sex worker project of the New Zealand Prostitutes Collectives.

Footnote + Further Reading

[1] This report is based on Abel, Fitzgerald, & Brunton’s (2009) paper “The impact of decriminalisation on the number of sex workers in New Zealand”. [J Soc Pol 38(3) 515-31]

Response by the Ministry of Justice to Petition 2011/60

Evidence submitted by the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

New Zealand Prostitutes Collective “Decriminalisation of Sex Work in New Zealand” (incl. video)

“Police help short-changed sex worker”, NZ Herald, Jul 13, 2014

“Escort wins landmark case”, NZ Herald, Mar 1, 2014

Una versione italiana di questo articolo è stata pubblicata su abbattoimuri.
An Italian version of this article was published at abbattoimuri.


I would like to thank Dr Calum Bennachie for allowing me to include his comments in this article. (Photo © New Zealand Prostitutes Collective)


“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.

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