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Jul 8 16 4:51 PM

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Open Democracy:

German Law Endangers Sex Workers

wwwÆopendemocracyÆnet†/beyondslavery/diversegroupofberlinbasedsexworkeractivists/


A diverse group of Berlin based sex worker activists

The ‘prostitutes protection law’, passed 7 June by the German parliament, is a huge step backwards for sex workers

rights.

Hydra-3_920.jpg

Photo by Hydra. All Rights Reserved.

The 7th of July is a sad day in the history of sex workers' rights in Germany. The government passed the ProstSchG

(prostitutes protection law) in the German Bundestag.


We are sex workers from a variety of workplaces and backgrounds. Amongst us are street and

brothel based sex workers, tantric practitioners, independent escorts, BDSM workers and many more, affiliated or not to one or more sex

workers rights groups.


As sex workers and experts on our work, conditions and lives, we have been adamant from the start: the new law is

most dangerous for those of us who were supposed to be ‘protected’ by it.


The law pretends to fight human trafficking. But instead of helping victims of this crime it raises the stigmatisation of sex

workers to a new level. Forced registration through obligatory counselling includes the evaluation of one's mental status

by a state authority and implies sex workers (nearly exclusively referred to as women) are perceived as irresponsible,

mentally incapable beings. We oppose this discriminatory opinion, and claim back our agency in making well informed

decisions regarding our life choices and sexuality. We are adults and we engage in consensual sex work.


Are You Mentally Able To Understand What Sex Work Does to You?

Our very own whore ID will be a state issued document including our picture; our profession (that is “prostitute”, as the

word 'sex worker' is a bit too modern for the German state), our real name and address, and it will identify us as state

approved sex workers. In order to get it we will be forced to visit one state body and undergo counselling. The

governmental authority that will have to deal with us has yet to be revealed, but most likely the police or the

Ordnungsamt (public order office) will be in charge of judging if we are mentally stable enough to take on the

profession. You read this right: a functionary will decide in a compulsory talk if you have the marbles in your brain to be

a sex worker.


Neat.


Let's also not forget: you will only be able to get your whore ID if you have an official work permit. This inherently

excludes migrants, asylum seekers and many of the other most vulnerable groups in society that consciously engage in

sex work to simply survive. You have no work permit, you get no whore ID. You get caught doing sex work in order to

sustain yourself and your family, and you will be deported, most likely to a country in which sex work is still criminalised

and prosecuted.


Once a Sex Worker Always a Sex Worker - Our Stigma Ignored

Great, figure we make it to your whore ID. We now are officially registered as prostitutes in a state database. We all

know that state secured databases containing sensitive information are never†leaked, or hacked, or misused. Well,

actually, they are.


We all feel very safe and secure now that there is a huge chance that we will, for now and always, be outed as sex

workers. Let's just hope we never plan to work in another professional field, to adopt children, become politicians, or

simply want to travel freely or book an accommodation on a holiday.


Forcing Once Indépendant Sex Workers Into Dependance


Pretending to ‘save’ precarious sex workers, the new law will actively abolish self organised

small workplaces by forcing brothel owners to obtain permission for their establishment. 

As useful as it will be to make sure that big brothels comply

with basic industry standards like the hygiene or safety for their workers, this part of the law will also make it impossible

for self organized sex workers to work together in teams of two or three in small venues. Workers who decide to share

a small workspace will be judged the same as huge brothels. Under the new law, indoor sex workers will have merely

three choices.


One, work from our own homes, whether rented or owned, and invite clients into our private bedrooms, making us

potentially more vulnerable to abusive customers, violence and police raids.


Two, apply for a room in a regulated and certified brothel. It is easy to predict that only a few brothels will be able to get

the necessary certification by state authorities. This will lead to an artificial shortage of legal workplaces. Let’s just think

for a minute about supply, demand, labour exploitation and who will be the most vulnerable link in this capitalistic chain.

It will probably not be the big brothel owners, but rather us workers who will be caught between either giving in to big

brothels’ exploitation or illegality and risk of abuse and blackmail by third parties.


Those of us who are most vulnerable, poor and precarious, those who don't have legal work permits and those who

won't pass the mental test for lack of literacy and language skills will be largely left with no choice, but to end up in

illegality.


In fact, the third, surely least desired option will be to work illegally. Sharing a flat with a colleague to ensure

independence and safety will be outlawed – unless you will get a license to own a brothel. Too bad that this decision will

be very expensive and therefore incredibly difficult to achieve. German building regulation laws are not easy to handle,

think of the paperwork alone. Only the most able, well off and legally savvy sex workers will be able to get permission.

Those of us who are most vulnerable, poor and precarious, those who don't have legal work permits and those who

won't pass the mental test for lack of literacy and language skills will be largely left with no choice, but to end up in

illegality.


The new law will also likely push many of us to work in unsafe conditions and even to offer unprotected services.

Clients who are looking for unprotected or inhumanly cheap services will probably look for illegalised precarious sex

workers instead of going to huge, controlled, legal brothels.


As sex workers and experts on our work, conditions and lives, we have been adamant from the start: the new law is

most dangerous for those of us who were supposed to be ‘protected’ by this very law and its makers. Had they listened

to us, this law would never have passed. But surely you do not ask those you want to protect what kind of protection

they need. Surely, lawmakers and party politicians know better. Well actually, they don't.

"I would no more be a Master than a slave. It does not conform to my idea of Democracy." Abraham Lincoln 1856.