Sex Work and Human Rights

Posts tagged “ProstG

“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


Janice Raymond’s modus operandi

Raymond's Ouija BoardJanice Raymond’s Ouija Board (Source: Wikipedia)

Introduction

In an exclusive for OpEdNews, a US-based website for political and social analysis, radical feminist Janice Raymond responded to sociologist Julie Kaye’s opinion piece in the New York Times, titled “Canada’s Flawed Sex Trade Law”, in which Kaye criticised the Canadian government for having merely replaced one flawed policy with another by passing Bill C-36. [1] It would be hilarious, if it wasn’t so serious an issue, that of all people, Raymond felt she was in a position to criticise Kaye for ignoring evidence. Responding to claims made by Raymond surely is not what gets me up in the morning but I decided to do so due to the sheer amount of misinformation put forward by her, including continuing to misrepresent South Korea’s Anti-Sex Trade Laws. The statements from reports and articles listed below will illustrate that ignoring evidence is in fact Raymond’s very own modus operandi.

Alleged increase of human trafficking during sport events

Raymond is indignant that someone could have the audacity to challenge “the numbers of women and girls sexually exploited during sports events”. In the report “What’s the cost of a rumour? A guide to sorting out the myths and the facts about sporting events and trafficking”, Julie Ham wrote:

“There is a very wide discrepancy between claims that are made prior to large sporting events and the actual number of trafficking cases found. There is no evidence that large sporting events cause an increase in trafficking for prostitution.”

Source: Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW)

And in a study commissioned by the European Football Association (UEFA), Martina Schuster, Almut Sülzle, Agnieszka Zimowska wrote:

“As in our previous analysis of major football events, we suggest that the topic of human trafficking should not be brought up in connection with such events, since this is detrimental to efforts to help victims. Before the 2006 World Cup in Germany, for example, various campaigns predicted an increase in human trafficking, which did not materialise. As a result, the organisations concerned were no longer taken seriously by the public because their predictions had been so inaccurate.”

Source: La Strada International (LSI) – Network against Trafficking in Human Beings

Finally, Ruth Krčmář, Coordinator of the International Organisation for Migration’s Counter Trafficking Programme in the Ukraine stated:

“NGO case data as well hotline responses show no evidence that human trafficking surged before or during the EURO 2012. The scare of increased human trafficking for sexual exploitation comes up every time there is a large sporting event on the horizon, although our experience only reinforces earlier findings in other countries. We hope that studies like ours will eventually put an end to the myth, which results in scarce counter-trafficking resources being spent on one-off campaigns rather than long-term solutions and victim assistance.”

Source: International Organization for Migration (IOM)

You say ‘Nordic’, I say ‘Swedish’, let’s call the whole thing off

With regards to Raymond’s conflation of different countries’ prostitution laws as ‘Nordic Model’, May-Len Skilbrei and Charlotta Holmström wrote:

“We found that the differences not only between, but also within, the Nordic countries are too great for there to be anything like a shared ‘Nordic’ model – and that the case for their success is far more fraught than popular support would suggest. Only Sweden, Norway and Iceland have acts unilaterally criminalising the purchase of sex. Finland has a partial ban; Denmark has opted for decriminalisation. The ‘Nordic model’, then, is in fact confined to only three countries. … The Nordic countries also police prostitution using various other laws and by-laws. Some of these regulations do, in fact, assume that the women who sell sex are to be punished and blamed for prostitution. This goes to show that one should be careful in concluding that Nordic prostitution policies are guided by progressive feminist ideals, or that they necessarily seek to protect women involved in prostitution.”

Source: The Conversation

Raymond blames Kaye for ignoring the findings of the Swedish Institute’s evaluation of the Swedish Sex Purchase Act from 2010, claiming that “there is no evidence that the decrease in street prostitution has led to an increase in prostitution elsewhere” and that “Sweden is one of two countries in Europe where prostitution and sex trafficking is not increasing”. However, the one who is doing the ignoring here is Raymond.

A 2014 report by the Stockholm County Council, titled “Extent and development of prostitution in Sweden”, states that “the methods currently available are unable to estimate the exact extent in Sweden” and that “the size of the population” engaging in prostitution is unknown. What’s more, the report also states that there is a lack of “a single definition of prostitution and human trafficking, which makes it difficult to draw comparisons between and within countries over time”.

Whereas Raymond cites the 2010 report as stating there was no evidence that prostitution had moved elsewhere (from the streets), the 2014 report states that “the number of escort ads aimed for men who buy sexual services from women has increased markedly during the past eight years from 304 to 6,965 ads”. Apparently, prostitution did move elsewhere: online. One should also note that the claim of the Sex Purchase Act having halved street-based sex work is problematic, since it is based on guesstimates from as early as 1995 – 4 years before the adoption of the law. [Source: Stockholm County Council]

A recent research report from Malmö University, commissioned by the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education (RFSU), also criticises the Sex Purchase Act, concluding that claims of the policy’s success have been greatly exaggerated. “There is no evidence that the demand has declined to the extent claimed by the state-led evaluation,” RFSU’s President Kristina Ljungros told the daily Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter. “The law has instead led to increased vulnerability for sex workers.” [Source: Global Network of Sex Work Project (NSWP)/Dagens Nyheter]

Fictitious numbers

Where Raymond’s statements about Germany are concerned, I shall give her credit for correctly stating that Germany decriminalized aspects of prostitution in 2002, as opposed to legalising sex work in 2002, as is commonly and incorrectly claimed. However, the number she mentions of persons engaged in prostitution is a mere figment of her imagination. The claim that they are 400,000 sex workers in Germany actually dates back to the 1980s – before Germany’s reunification – and was only an estimate by Hydra e.V., a meeting and counselling centre for sex workers.

At a symposium titled “10 Years Prostitution Law in Germany” in 2012, researcher Elfriede Steffan stated that Hydra’s estimate was continuously being cited for over two decades although it lacked any scientific basis. According to Steffan, another estimate from the 1990s put the number of sex workers in unified Germany between 60,000 and 200,000. She added, “Objectivity also means to admit what we don’t know. There is no new data.”

A 2005 evaluation report by the German government estimated that there were 200,000 sex workers in Germany, and on its website, the responsible ministry states that where the number of sex workers in Germany is concerned, there are no reliable statistics available. Thus, Raymond’s claim that “two years after the law was passed, the number of persons in prostitution rose from about 200,000 to over 400,000” is entirely fictional.

Raymond’s Reprise: Misrepresenting the ‘South Korean Model’

Finally, as I mentioned in my introduction, Raymond continues to misrepresent the nature and alleged success of South Korea’s Anti-Sex Trade Laws, currently under review by the country’s constitutional court. Raymond states that the law prohibits “the purchase of sexual activities” but conveniently leaves out that sex workers are equally criminalised. In addition, as I have written previously, her claims about the existence of better victim protection and assistance and the alleged reduction of the sex industry in South Korea lack common sense as well as scientific evidence.

Conclusion

The above is by no means an exhaustive list of evidence to counter the wild claims made by Janice Raymond, and I shall leave the remaining ones to others, since there really isn’t enough time in a day to debunk articles such as Raymond’s. But at the very least, I hope that the above listed sources will suffice to illustrate that Raymond is in no position to blame others for “selecting certain examples at the expense of others” and that what Raymond laments, ignoring evidence, is in fact her very own modus operandi.


Footnotes

[1] Janice Raymond is an American radical feminist author and activist, and a professor emerita of Women’s Studies and Medical Ethics at the University of Massachusetts (UMass). Julie Kaye is the Director of Community Engaged Research and Assistant Professor of Sociology at The King’s University in Edmonton, Alberta.

[2] For the reason why I do not use the term ‘sex trafficking’ as Raymond does, please see Borislav Gerasimov’s article ‘Hey, mind your language’ and my own comment below.


Prostitution: Beyond an infantilising feminism

“The last twelve years have shown that sex workers want to work independently and do not wish to be forcibly outed.”

Criminal law professor Dr. Monika Frommel on conservative double standards, the dark sides of the Nordic women’s movement, and plans to reform Germany’s Prostitution Act.

Research Project Germany

A relief work in Amsterdam's Oudekerksplein Photo by  J.M. LuijtBronze relief installed by an anonymous artist in Amsterdam’s Oudekerksplein (Old Church’s Square) in the heart of the city’s red-light district of De Wallen. Photo byJ.M. Luijt(cc)

Germany’s federal government is currently revising the country’s prostitution regulation. Criminal Law Professor Dr. Monika Frommel notes improvements of the one-sided debate of late, but demands regulations, which respect the reality of sex work.

By Prof. emer. Dr. Monika Frommel

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

Will federal policy makers during the current legislative period succeed to regulate prostitution adequately? If their efforts would lead to yet another blockade, it would hardly come as a surprise; feminist objections and male privileges – according to the abolitionist women’s movement, active since around 1900 – as well as diverse conservative currents agreeing on the…

View original post 2,625 more words


German Sex Worker Organisation BesD responds to Bundesrat Resolution about Prostitution Act Reform

Logo of the Trade Association Erotic and Sexual Services

Logo of the Trade Association Erotic and Sexual Services

In April, the Upper House of the German Parliament, the Bundesrat, passed a resolution calling for an objective debate and differentiated measures amid plans by the ruling coalition of Conservatives and Social Democrats to reform the German Prostitution Act of 2002 (ProstG). With kind permission of the author, Research Project Germany published an English translation of the response by the Trade Association Erotic and Sexual Services (BesD), a German sex worker organisation founded in October 2013.

Click here to continue reading at Research Project Germany.


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


Sex workers against Human Trafficking

Please note: this article is from June 2013 and deals with a law that was eventually dismissed by the Bundesrat, the upper house of the German parliament.

Last night, the German parliament passed the “Law to Fight Human Trafficking and Control Brothels”, although experts had unanimously dismissed it. The new era began even before the vote when police launched what might have been the biggest ever crackdown on the red light district near Frankfurt’s main station.

Parliamentary TV - Frankfurt Red Light District by Sexworker.at

Experts of all shades dismiss government’s bill to control prostitution

On Monday, experts unanimously rejected the government’s bill to fight trafficking and control brothels (17/13706). In a public hearing of the legal committee, the invited experts argued against the bill. While most stated that the bill was a first step in the right direction, it required many amendments and many aspects were judged as too vague. With its bill, the ruling coalition aims to better fight human trafficking by introducing new criminal law provisions, and to inspect brothels in accordance with trade regulations. Complicity in human trafficking for the purpose of organ trading will become punishable under law, whereas so far, it was only seen as abetment. The new regulations also include cases of human trafficking for the purpose of begging or to force others to commit crimes. By strengthening this and other criminal law provisions, the government intends to implement EU-standards to prevent and fight human trafficking.

Dr. Lea Ackermann, chairwoman of the aid organisation Solwodi (and staunch opponent of prostitution, A/N), criticised the bill proposal as insufficient and demanded an unconditional right of residence for victims of forced prostitution from (non-EU) third countries that is not dependent on the readiness of women to give testimony. “That’s the least that we can offer these women.”, said Ackermann. Especially in cases of human trafficking and forced prostitution, prosecution were often only possible with victims’ testimony.

Sabine Constabel from Stuttgart’s health office (another staunch opponent of prostitution, A/N) said, the bill would not alleviate the misery in prostitution. She suggested to take lessons from the Swedish Model (that criminalises the buyers of sexual services) and demanded to raise the minimum age for sex workers to 21, to employ more social workers, and to introduce a rent ceiling for brothel rooms rented by sex workers.

Attorney Margarete von Galen said, the bill didn’t address the worst grievances and would only serve as work-creation programme for the courts. She criticised that the bill addressed “Prostitutionsstätten“ (lit. places where prostitution takes place) but didn’t define them at all, an aspect that all experts criticised.

Michael Heide from Karo e.V., a streetwork project at the border between Germany and the Czech Republic, said, the only change in the bill was changing concerned the age in article 232 of the criminal code (human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation). According to him, the change from a statutory to a criminal offence was important and would improve police investigations. More generally he called for a better implementation of existing laws. Abstract laws wouldn’t change much.

Stephanie Klee, a sex worker and activist who runs the Highlights Agency, rejected the bill entirely and labelled it “hasty and legally crude”. She demanded a comprehensive concept that would guarantee that would put sex work on an equal footing with other trades and create legal certainty. After all, the constitution guaranteed the right to choose one’s profession.

Carsten Moritz from the federal criminal police also criticised the bill. While it was good to implement the EU guidelines, the main problem would remain: the element of the offence of human trafficking would continue to be predominantly dependent on the testimony of victims and that was hard to come by. In that sense, the bill would not reflect the EU directive.

Irmingard Schewe-Gerigk from Terre des Femmes supported Ms Ackermann’s demand for an unconditional right of residence independent from any testimonies of prostitutes at the courts against their pimps. She also demanded an entirely new legal package. Against this background, she supported the amendment of the law proposed by the Greens.

Marc Schulte from the district office of Berlin-Charlottenburg spoke out in favour of introducing legal and structural minimum standards for brothels. That, he argued, would help open “closed doors” (in reference to a statement of Ms Ackermann about sexual exploitation behind closed doors) and enable the control of brothels via trade laws. In his view, the bill was a patchwork proposal that reflected that its authors had still not achieved a change of consciousness in the spirit of the prostitution law of 2002.

According to Helmut Sporer from the criminal investigation department in Augsburg, the prostitution law of 2002 had forced sex worker into “a type of slavery”. He claimed that before 2002, women (in prostitution) had been in control but now brothel owners had, as employers, the right of direction (Weisungsrecht), which gave them carte blanche to have them do whatever they asked. Therefore, the abolition of the right of direction would be the best, Sporer said. The bill was merely a first symbolic step, but its contents were full of weaknesses. Strictly speaking, prostitution was not a trade, he added, but a highly personal service. Therefore, using trade laws would be the wrong way to go.

(Source: German Parliament, Translation: Matthias Lehmann. Please note that the translation of statements by outspoken prostitution abolitionists as Ms Ackermann, Ms Constabel or Mr Sporer does not at all represent an endorsement of their general views. I merely translated the views expressed to illustrate that despite their great differences, all experts present unanimously dismissed the bill.)

Sex workers protest against new law

We don't need to be saved - Research Project Korea - All Rights Reserved

Last Monday, I participated at a protest against the government’s bill. The protest was organised by Sexwork Germany, a union of sex workers all across Germany, which is currently in the course of formation.

Afterwards, I joined the participants at the abovementioned hearing of the legal committee. What struck me was that, although the experts were diametrically opposed about the subject of prostitution, they unanimously agreed that the bill of the Christian-conservative-liberal government was unnecessarily hasty.

Since the media almost always produce distorted reports about sex work and since sex workers are rarely given the chance to elaborately explain their positions, I will here cite the press release of Sex Work Germany, that rejects the bill entirely and demands a separation of laws related to human trafficking and those related to sex work.

  • Human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation or for the purpose of labour exploitation is an unacceptable criminal offence. Offenders should be prosecuted and existing laws are sufficient.
  • Regulations pertaining to the protection of victims, however, are insufficient, and we support their expansion (as is already practice in other EU countries).
  • Sex work is work. Sex workers do still not enjoy the same rights as other workers. It’s high time to expand the prostitution law of 2002, which also include clear and unitary regulations for the different types of places in Germany where sexual services are provided.
  • We are against special laws and demand to finally put sex work on an equal footing with other gainful occupations and to decriminalise our industry.

(Excerpt from Reasons for the protest on June 24th, 2012)

Please click here to view a photo album from the protest in front of the German parliament. (No Facebook account required.)

Quo vadis, Germany?

In her article Back and Forth, Maggie McNeill looks at the past, present and future of the struggle for sex workers’ rights and concludes:

“In the long run, human rights must win: the trajectory of history has been for decreasing state control over individuals’ sex lives, and the number of health officials, human rights campaigners and other respected voices calling for decriminalization increases every month. But sometimes, when one is forced to look at developing history from the inside as we mere humans are, it can be awfully hard to tell.”

One can only hope that she is right and that eventually, reason will prevail. If the future is bright, the present is not in Germany, where a government, impotent to fight actual exploitation of human beings, discards experts’ opinions in favour of sensationalist media reports and equips the police with ever more powers to harass sex workers and invade their work places without probable cause.