Germany first passed a law in 2002 to legalize prostitution in the country where prostitutes pay taxes and have access to the security system. Since then, the number of large brothels, usually operating under false labels such as “sauna clubs”, has multiplied. In recent years there has also been a widespread practice of offering a “flat rate” whereby customers can have sex with several people at a fixed price, a practice known as “all you can fuck”.
On 1 July, a new law on prostitution will come into force that explicitly prohibits “exploitative models that violate human dignity” such as the flat rate, in the words of the until recently Minister of the Family, Women, the Elderly and Youth, the social democrat Manuela Schwesig. This point of the new norm has been widely accepted, as well as the obligation to register as such the premises that offer what they call “erotic services”. The definition of these services includes not only traditional prostitution, but also other practices such as domination and sadomaso that do not necessarily include sexual intercourse. Persons with a criminal record cannot obtain this licence in an attempt to remove criminal elements from the sector. In addition, the use of condoms will be mandatory.
However, there are other aspects of the new law that have been severely criticised by politicians and different professional groups, including the sector itself. A group of 25 people – prostitutes, brothel owners and clients – have just filed a lawsuit before the German Constitutional Court. The most controversial point is the new obligation for every person offering sexual services to register deutsche pornos. This requires an appointment with the social services to find out whether the engagement in prostitution is based on a voluntary decision, as well as a medical examination.
Approved persons are required to carry the relevant document with them when exercising a role that has been sneered at as “Hurenpass” (“whore card”). The licence must be renewed every two years. For affected persons and parties such as Die Linke or organisations such as Amnesty International, this obligation violates human rights and privacy.
“The obligation to register is discriminatory, worrying in terms of data protection and carries with it the risk of people being unwittingly discovered,” said Fabienne Freymadl, president of the Berufsverband für erotische und sexuelle Dienstleistungen (professional association for erotic and sexual services). “In this way, many sex workers will be pushed into illegality, where they are more exposed to the violation of their human rights,” he concludes.
Sisters, an association to facilitate the exit from prostitution, admit that the obligation to carry the card is a problem, if the card accidentally falls into the wrong hands, especially when the person is engaged in prostitution without knowledge of their family or professional environment. “We understand that the obligation to register is not in the interest of brothel owners or part-time ‘sex workers’. But it is important and necessary for the vast majority who engage in prostitution for reasons of poverty or forced prostitution,” Sisters explained in a written opinion to the Bundestag, the German Parliament, during the legislative process.
Maria Wersig of the Deutscher Juristinnenbund, an association of women jurists, also told parliamentarians that the obligation to register and renew every two years was exaggerated and did not really contribute to improving the protection of prostitutes. The duty to undergo regular medical examinations is also not justified, in her view. “For people who treat food every day in their profession, which could pose a certain risk to public health, they only need to go once in their professional life for a health consultation,” says Wersig.
The final word will now go to the Constitutional judges, but many legal experts rule out the possibility of a successful lawsuit against the prostitution law.