“We are the sex workers of Korea! Repeal the Anti-Sex Trade Laws!”
On October 24, 2017, sex workers rallied once again to call for the abolition of South Korea’s Anti-Sex Trade Laws, which came into force in 2004 and were upheld by the country’s Constitutional Court with a 6-3 majority ruling in 2016. On Tuesday, about 1,500 sex workers made their way from Daegu, Jeonju, Masan, Paju, Pohang, Pyeongtaek, Suwon and Wonju to join their colleagues at Sejongno Park in downtown Seoul to demand respect for sex workers’ human rights and the decriminalization of sex work. The event was organized by 한터 Hanteo, the National Union of Sex Workers. Ironically, Korean president Moon Jae-in had a meeting with union leaders on the same day, promising to closely cooperate with workers in developing his administration’s labour policies.
All photos © 2017 Matt Lemon Photography. All Rights Reserved. Image description below.
1. Banner behind the stage of the massive sex worker protest in Seoul, organised by 한터 Hanteo, the National Union of Sex Workers. As the director of an English language institute pointed out on Twitter: “Better English here than on most ads coming from major Korean conglomerates.”
2. Massive turnout! Around 1,500 sex workers came from Daegu, Jeonju, Masan, Paju, Pohang, Pyeongtaek, Seoul, Suwon and Wonju to join the protest and demand respect for sex workers’ rights and the decriminalization of sex work.
3. A photo from the first-ever sex worker protest in Belfast in 2014 in front of the Stormont Parliament Buildings was on display at the sex worker protest at Sejongno Park in Seoul on October 24, 2017.
4. Sex worker activist 장세희 Jang Sehee greets fellow sex workers who came from all over Korea to join the protest in Seoul on October 24, 2017.
5. Drumming up support for sex workers’ rights! Amazing performance by 여성타악그룹 도도 (Women Percussion Group Exciting DoDo) at the sex worker protest in Seoul on October 24, 2017.
6. This lady’s placard calls on Korean president 문재인 Moon Jae-in to finally scrap laws criminalising sex work; while on her top it says, “Don’t judge a girl by her clothes”.
7. A Korean journalist busily typing away at yesterday’s sex worker protest in downtown Seoul. Over half of the media reports published so far include the term 성노동자 (seongnodongja, sex worker) – as opposed to 성매매 여성 (seongmaemae yeosong, lit. sex trade female; ‘seongmaemae’ being used interchangeably in Korean for both ‘prostitution’ and ‘sex trafficking’ [sic]).
8. “The Anti-Sex Trade Laws aren’t right” – Sex workers brought placards and provisions for yesterday’s protest in Seoul against the criminalization of sex work.
“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.
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…
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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…)
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.
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.”
Footnote + Further Reading
 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]
I would like to thank Dr Calum Bennachie for allowing me to include his comments in this article. (Photo © New Zealand Prostitutes Collective)
End Violence Against Sex Workers
This video chronicles the efforts of sex worker communities and their allies to memorialise Dora Özer and Petite Jasmine. Dora was a 24-year-old trans sex worker in Turkey, Jasmine was a 27-year-old sex worker in Sweden. Both were murdered in a matter of days in July 2013.
This video is launched at a time when the European Parliament debates about and votes on whether to recommend EU member states to criminalise the clients of sex workers and the buying of sexual services. This system is known as the Swedish Model, which numerous studies, e.g. by member organisations of the United Nations or the World Health Organisation, have found to have serious consequences for the health and safety of sex workers.
“Laws that criminalize sex work and the sex industry should be reviewed, taking into account the adverse impact of these laws on public health and the human rights of sex workers. To enable sex workers to fully enjoy legal rights to health and safety at work requires decriminalization. Decriminalization of sex work requires the repeal of: a. laws explicitly criminalizing sex work or clients of sex workers…” – UNAIDS, UNDP, UNFPA. “Sex Work and the Law in Asia and the Pacific” (UNDP, 2012)
The “criminalization of sex work contributes to an environment, in which violence against sex workers is tolerated, leaving them less likely to be protected from it”. – WHO “Violence against sex workers and HIV prevention” Information Bulletin Series, Number 3 (2005)
In the aftermath of the murders of Dora and Jasmine, sex workers and allies organised protests in front of Swedish and Turkish embassies in 36 cities on 4 continents. The video includes impressions from these protests as well as an interview with Petite Jasmine by Carol Leigh and Pye Jakobsson during the 2012 International AIDS Conference in Washington.
“Often when I talk about what I think is important, that people who sell sex should be accepted and have a place in society like everybody else, there are many that say that it would never be accepted by society. But it wasn’t long ago that people said the same thing about unwed mothers, gays, transsexuals – pretty much everyone that was outside this frame of normality. I think, if we all tried real hard not to discriminate, like we have done with other minorities, things will develop pretty fast, like it has with other groups. That’s what I believe in.” – Eva Marree Smith Kullander (Petite Jasmine)
For further information, please click here to visit the official website for the “International Day of Protest to End Violence Against Sex Workers – In memoriam of Jasmine and Dora”. The protests were coordinated by the International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe (ICRSE).
To view a photo album about the global protests for Jasmine and Dora, please click here.
This video was posted with kind permission from Carol Leigh. For further details, please click here to view the video and a statement by Carol Leigh on Vimeo.
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.
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.
Please 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.
© 2013-2014 Felicitas Schirow
℗ 2013-2014 blumlein records – Andrew Levine