« Landtag Nordrhein-Westfalen (State Parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia)
Kriminaloberrat a. D.
Ehem. Kriminalpolizei Augsburg
Augsburg, 6 Jan. 2021
for the hearing of the Committee on Equality and Women of the State Parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia on 14 January 2021
Motion of the parliamentary group of the CDU and the parliamentary group of the FDP from 8 September 2020, Printed matter 17/10851 « No! To the ban on sex purchase of the Nordic model – help those affected instead of pushing them into illegality »
A – Preliminary remarks
The following statement includes, on the one hand, my professional experience in the offense of human trafficking and surveillance of prostitution and, on the other hand, an evaluation of the motion dated 8 September 2020.
First a few words about myself:
Before retiring about a year ago, I had almost 30 years since 1990 worked for the Kriminalpolizei [Criminal Investigation Department of the police] in Augsburg and was tasked there almost continuously with the issues of prostitution and human trafficking. For almost 15 years, as an investigator, I was responsible, among other things, for the surveillance of prostitution as well as for investigative proceedings in the area of human trafficking, pimping and organized crime. After that, I was head of a police department for about 15 years, responsible for, among other things, the combating of human trafficking and the surveillance of prostitution. During this time, I conducted numerous investigations and operations and directly experienced the effects of the legal changes as well as the changes in the prostitution market. In the past, I was repeatedly invited as an expert on the issues of prostitution and human trafficking in committees of the Bundestag and other political bodies.
General note: For people in prostitution, I will use the feminine form because of the predominant proportion of women and a better readability. Of course, men and transsexuals are also included here.
Since 1990, the prostitution law has undergone several reforms without a satisfactory improvement of the situation, although various new regulations and criminal offenses were introduced. All in all, dealing with prostitution has become more and more difficult both for the women working there and for the authorities. The changes in the prostitution market and in particular the poor record after three years of the Prostitutes Protection Act [Prostituiertenschutzgesetz, ProstSchG] led me to examine alternative solutions to the current regulations. Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that the Nordic model is much more suitable for this complex issue and that it is much more sustainable than the previous approach.
Before I get to my notes on the motion (Printed matter 17/10851), I would like to point out some basic facts in the context of prostitution. They are helpful for a correct assessment of the situation.
B – Basic aspects
Who works in prostitution? In contrast to all other branches at the federal level, there are unfortunately no reliable statistical figures on the total number and the composition of the prostitution scene. That is one of the shortcomings of the failed ProstSchG. In public you can find different numbers of up to 400,000 or even more prostitutes in Germany. I think these numbers are too high. In my estimation, the total number should be around 250,000 prostitutes.
The composition of the prostitution scene has changed completely over the past 25 years. While a foreign prostitute was still the absolute exception in the early 1990s, women from abroad meanwhile dominate the market with a share of around 90 percent. German prostitutes make up a maximum of around 10 percent, although the composition varies depending on the prostitution area. In so-called niche areas like SM studios or luxury apartments you will find a high proportion of German women, while in so-called mass businesses such as large brothels, whorehouses or nudist clubs and also in street prostitution, there are hardly any German women to be found.
The personality structures of the women are correspondingly different. In niche areas with an assumed maximum market share of 5%, mostly independent, self-organized women are working. Here hardly any suspicious facts regarding milieu crimes (pimping, forced prostitution, human trafficking, etc.) can be found.
However, the situation is completely different in the mass businesses, which represent a large part of the scene. There you will find a large number of women who, due to their personalities, education, age, behavior, appearance, home countries or their accompanying persons, justify the suspicion that they are victims of a milieu crime. Even if these women are victims, they hardly ever tell the police during controls. In the vast majority of cases, they only confirm that they are victims after extensive investigations into their surroundings and after the perpetrators have been arrested. I have gained this experience in decades of investigative work with many dozens of investigative proceedings and hundreds of victims.
These so-called victim types, who work under compulsion or at least out of sheer necessity in brothels or street prostitution, make up the largest group. Only a fraction of these women are recorded as official victims. The vast majority, although they are certainly equally victimized, remain officially and statistically undetected or not recorded. In their subjective hopelessness they simply resign themselves to their fate. It is undisputed that a large proportion of the women (in various forms) work in prostitution involuntarily. It does not matter whether a share of 90 or 70 or only 60 percent is assumed here, depending on the assessment criteria. The proportion is always too high.
Therefore, when looking for solutions, the central questions are which of these groups can be helped in what way and which group needs state protection most.
The problem becomes clear when we look at the Prostitutes Protection Act of 2016. It is criticized because it is one-sidedly tailored to the small area of self-organized prostitutes and does not regulate many issues that concern the vast majority of everyday prostitutes, i.e. the victim types. For example, it does not provide for the refusal of a prostitution registration for illiterate or disabled people, which indirectly fosters forced prostitution. On the other hand, the ProstSchG offers the opportunity of having the identity card for the prostitution registration issued with an alias name. For the average prostitute, such regulations are worthless; she has other problems. That is why we also speak of a « law without a target group ».
Consequently, the ProstSchG, three years after its introduction, has not essentially changed the deplorable conditions which the law was meant to improve. It is in fact necessary to determine whether regulations should be made primarily for the very small group of independent, self-organized prostitutes who are visible and can express their concerns themselves, or for the large anonymous mass of almost exclusively foreign women who are controlled by others, who are in the large brothels or on the street, often 24 hours a day, and who cannot draw attention to themselves, who do not speak German, who have no voice and no lobby, who mostly lead a victim’s existence, whom the politicians have presumably never seen or even spoken to, but who urgently need an improvement of their living conditions.
Their situation is roughly comparable to that of contract workers in the meat industry, only much more extreme, because here not only the workforce but the very personal intimate area is affected. Many of the grievances that are rightly denounced in the meat industry, such as working hours, accommodation, hygienic conditions, treatment, etc., can be seamlessly transferred to the prostitutes. While the politicians, after the meat industry’s scandalous working conditions in the pandemic had become known, reacted very quickly and resolutely with the « Arbeitsschutzkontrollgesetz » [Law on the control of occupational safety], we have long been waiting for suitable solutions in prostitution.
C – Comments on the motion dated 8 September 2020
In the following I would like to make a few comments on the motion of the parliamentary group of the CDU and the parliamentary group of the FDP, the Printed matter 17/10851 from 8 September 2020.
Explanatory note: The text of the motion has been inserted and divided into a total of 21 blocks and put in italics for better differentiation.
Text of the motion:
- Initial situation
- As a result of the restrictions to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, prostitution facilities have been temporarily closed nationwide. Some federal parliamentarians are now calling in a letter to all Minister-Presidents for a fundamental change in direction in dealing with prostitution. They demand that an easing of prostitution should be permanently avoided and advocate the introduction of the so-called Nordic model. This is a ban on buying sex, the core of which is the criminalization of prostitution.
Note: Prostitution itself is not criminalized. It is not the women’s activities, namely their working in prostitution, which are illegal. Only the clients and the other profiteers no longer behave in accordance with the law.
- The client is punished, not the prostitute. It assumes that sexual services for money are violence per se.
Note: The term « violence » does not illustrate the issue sufficiently. Adding the terms « pressure, manipulation, human dignity » would be more precise here. At its core, it is about the question whether the buying or renting of people for the most intimate matters, who are subject to different constraints and who thus do not really act of their own free will, should be socially accepted.
- In Germany, on the other hand, prostitution, i.e. the offer and the consumption of sexual services, is legal and subject to specific regulations. In 2017, the law regulating the prostitution industry and protecting people working in prostitution, the so-called Prostitutes Protection Act (ProstSchG), came into force. The law is intended to create acceptable and humane working conditions, exclude exploitative business models, strengthen the right to sexual self-determination and combat violence and human trafficking.
Note: The ProstSchG has largely failed. The criticized inhumane working conditions and the exploitative business models are still a reality, as is the curtailment of the prostitutes’ sexual self-determination. Violence and human trafficking have not been curbed.
- There is no reliable evidence for the effectiveness of the Nordic model.
Note: The judiciary and police professionals in Sweden who are directly tasked with this issue report the opposite. Prostitution and, in particular, crimes to the detriment of prostitutes have massively decreased there. The Swedish special envoy for the fight against human trafficking, Per-Anders Sunesson, quoted an Interpol report: « The Swedish market for human trafficking is practically dead ».
The Swedish police officer Simon Häggström, an acknowledged expert in the field of prostitution surveillance, with whom I have spoken in person on several occasions, also confirms the effectiveness of the Swedish model.
An indication of this can also be the number of prostitutes who have been killed resp. murdered. While only a single case has been reported in Sweden for around 20 years, over 100 prostitute murders were registered in Germany during the same period.
- An official evaluation in Sweden only shows the decrease in visible prostitution. However, the decline in street prostitution cannot be viewed in isolation, but in the context of the increase in technical developments, online offers and advertising platforms. It can be assumed that there is a considerable amount of unreported cases.
Note: The remark « It can be assumed that there is a considerable amount of unreported cases » is only an unspecified (and ultimately unfounded) conjecture. The phrase that prostitution will be « pushed underground » is often used as an apparent argument against the Nordic model, without any conclusive justification being given.
An important aspect here are the « online offers » mentioned in the motion. This fear is not a threat relevant for the future, but is already a reality in Germany. For some years it has been increasingly observed that prostitutes are being offered via online advertisements in hotels, private homes or holiday apartments, etc. This has various advantages for the organizers resp. profiteers, e.g. avoidance of high daily rents, increased anonymity and flexibility. Since the COVID-19 pandemic and the brothel closings, these offers have only been noticed more. COVID-19 is sometimes wrongly named as the cause of this trend. Actually, this phenomenon has already been existing much longer, despite the liberal prostitution regulation in Germany. Because of the mentioned advantages and attractiveness for the users (according to previous experience, these are mostly flexible, small groups traveling around), this variant will increase significantly in the future, regardless of COVID-19-related reopenings of brothels, and will require specific regulations for its containment. However, this trend has no impact on prostitution in mass businesses or the composition of the prostitution scene there.
This form of prostitution, which is sometimes misleadingly referred to as « underground prostitution », is no hurdle for prostitutes to be reached by the authorities. In contrast to narcotics crime, which can thrive in secret, the prostitution market requires a certain degree of publicity and advertising. The police can access this market just as quickly via the advertising platforms as can the actual target group for advertising, i.e. the clients.
- From the point of view of the NRW coalition of CDU and FDP, a change to the Nordic model would push prostitution « underground », into the area of illegality.
Note: In addition to the previous note, it must be said that there is already a specific dark field in official German prostitution sites. This statement may seem irritating to people who are less familiar with the mechanisms in the milieu, but it is unfortunately a reality. In many brothels, especially in the large so-called mass businesses, but also in street prostitution, one mainly encounters young foreign women, the so-called « victim types ». The specialized authorities that are familiar with the situation on site are generally aware that these women are mostly determined by others and are therefore victims. However, well-founded investigations require concrete suspicious facts, usually in the form of testimonies from the prostitutes. Unfortunately, for known reasons (e.g. violence, threats, intimidation) this happens very rarely. Therefore it is often not possible for the prosecuting authorities to act despite obvious suspicions and they are forced to wait and see.
The official facade of a brothel often does not reflect the actual conditions behind the scenes, i.e. the « dark field ». A well-known example of this phenomenon is the large brothel « Paradise » in Stuttgart. Over the years, their operators promoted their business as a modern model of « clean, legal brothel prostitution » and for this reason they were regular guests on many well-known talk shows such as « Jauch », « Maischberger », etc. One of the operators even had his own weekly TV program where he acted as a « brothel evaluator ». The « Paradise » was seen by the public as a modern, social and women-friendly model company. But even then, experts were aware that the conditions in the « Paradise » were marked by serious crime, contrary to the media presentation.
In 2013 there was a well-founded suspicion against the « Paradise », and my department at the Augsburg Criminal Police launched covert investigations into the « Paradise ». The procedure was later continued very successfully by the authorities in Stuttgart. The glimpses behind the facade, i.e. into the dark field, exceeded all fears and revealed a cleverly camouflaged network of serious and organized crime. After extremely complex investigations, the brothel bosses were sentenced to prison terms of up to 5 years in 18 cases for multiple typical milieu offenses such as aiding and abetting serious human trafficking and pimping. The four perpetrators made confessions at the Stuttgart District Court. The judgments are final.
It must be assumed that behind a supposedly clean facade there are similar criminal structures in many other brothels in Germany. This is also shown by investigations against other large brothels in Germany. Without the ultimately successful investigations, the Paradise would still be considered a model brothel and at the same time evidence of the effectiveness of the ProstG [the Prostitution Act that came into force in 2002].
In the discussion about the Nordic model, keywords such as « underground », « dark field » or « illegality » are sometimes used in a misleading way and can thus cause a certain bias.
With a change to the Nordic model, prostitution and exploitation will undoubtedly continue to exist, but to a much lesser extent than now. On the one hand, the specific dark field in the regular brothels will no longer be available because then there will be no approved brothels any more. On the other hand, the further migration to hotels and private apartments etc. will be limited because the prostitution sites then available will in fact be limited due to special regulations that have yet to be enacted; this will make it more difficult for hotel operators and other landlords to provide premises for prostitution purposes.
In addition, the police will then be able to monitor in a much more targeted manner than it does at the moment. The legally prescribed surveillance of prostitution, which currently includes an estimated 250,000 prostitutes for the whole of Germany, spread over several thousand brothels, streets and other prostitution sites, requires from the police and, since 2017, also the administrative authorities, an immense deployment of personnel, that is often not sufficiently available. Controls cannot then be carried out to the extent that is actually necessary, but too seldom or only superficially. However, professional surveillance measures with which significant results can be achieved require more effort than mere checks of presence and personal data.
The disproportion between currently estimated around 250,000 prostitutes (a high percentage of them are so-called victim types) and just under 300 recorded victims of human trafficking for all of Germany (BKA situation report on human trafficking 2019) is also evidence of the currently insufficient control and investigation options. In addition, it must be taken into account here that the number of cases recorded is merely suspected statistics. A large part of the investigative proceedings recorded has to be discontinued because of the notoriously difficult gathering of evidence in this crime sector, so that, generously estimated, only around half of the proceedings can be concluded with a conviction of the perpetrators.
With the introduction of the Nordic model, the market would shrink by an estimated 80 percent. So initially (with a decreasing tendency) a maximum of around 50,000 prostitutes would still be active. The police could then monitor this smaller and more manageable market with the same personnel deployment as before and in a much more targeted manner and would certainly be much more successful than now in identifying victims and convicting offenders.
In view of the development of police personnel and tasks, I consider a sometimes demanded increase in police surveillance personnel as unrealistic. Therefore, when evaluating future solutions, the necessary personnel requirements are also relevant.
The Nordic model is sometimes viewed critically because the investigative authorities then fear additional work. It is argued that now we at least know where the prostitutes are. However, the following must be taken into account:
What is the use of knowing in which brothels the prostitutes are if, as described above, usually nothing can be done against the grievances and – to put it crudely – human trafficking, forced prostitution and pimping happen, so to speak, in front of the eyes of the prosecuting authorities whose hands, as already described, are usually tied without concrete investigative approaches? The marginal number of cases in the BKA’s situation report on human trafficking demonstrate this deficiency.
- A ban on buying sex does not actually prevent prostitution.
Note: This is not the central question. Regardless of other aspects, the extent of prostitution and thus the extent of the grievances, i.e. the frequency factor, are also important. The current conditions in Germany are probably not comparable with any other country. This is why prostitution tourism has also established itself in Germany. A large number of official houses for the purchase of human beings (whorehouses or nudist clubs in technical jargon) are part of everyday life here. This is not about buying any random service like washing a car or hairstyling, but about the very intimate sphere of human beings, knowing full well that most of these people who are offered for sale do not offer themselves voluntarily, but that they are in constraints or distress.
In parts there is a mentality of not taking note of reality. That is why Germany is being criticized abroad. For, on the one hand, Germany has very high standards when it comes to protecting private and intimate spheres; just to mention the example of acoustic surveillance of living spaces (also known as « eavesdropping »). Here even in the area of serious crime, measures have to be immediately interrupted if the privacy of a suspect, the so-called « highly personal living sphere » (including intimate conversations) is affected. Unfortunately, when it comes to protecting the highly personal living sphere of other-directed prostitutes, standards are different. Therefore, the containment of the number of cases is of particular importance.
- This is what we are currently experiencing in the COVID-19 pandemic. It was simply pushed out of the public space and thus withdrawn from sanctions. This has fatal consequences for those affected, mostly women. They become invisible and can no longer be reached by supporting specialist advice centers and authorities. Violent crimes are reported less often.
Note: The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed that after brothels have been closed, many official prostitutes are destitute and homeless, even though they had previously made sufficient money. The profiteers of the scene with their horrendous, exploitative room rents, the costs of Internet advertising or other forms of exploitation are responsible for the destitution of many women. However, this observation also shows that exploitation is widespread in official prostitution sites, i.e. in the area known as « legal bright field ».
The fear of insufficient accessibility is unfounded. As already described, prostitution needs publicity. The assertion that violent crimes are allegedly reported less often is incomprehensible. It is generally a problem in the milieu that prostitutes hardly ever report offenses because they are afraid of the consequences. As far as I know, there are no comparative statistics on reporting behavior before and during the pandemic. Furthermore, the short period of time would not be suitable for a reliable statement.
- A criminally sanctioned prohibition of prostitution opens up an uncontrollable market that defies transparency and the criminal prosecution of the perpetrators.
Note: This fear corresponds to the statement in Section 6. The uncontrolled market is already a reality. There is hardly any transparency. For example, it cannot be determined how many women are working in a certain city or in Germany. The prosecution of the perpetrators is already very unsatisfactory. The BKA situation reports on human trafficking of the last 10 years with its negligibly small number of cases, which are still falling further, should be pointed out again, although it is undisputed that the majority of the 200,000 to 300,000 prostitutes do not work voluntarily and independently. So the case numbers do not reflect reality in any way. In view of these circumstances, it is not convincing to argue with the fear of even worse possibilities of prosecution.
- In addition, a ban on buying sex counteracts goals such as improving working conditions, protecting against sexually transmitted diseases and curbing illegal forms of prostitution.
Note: These fears are not realistic. The conditions are already miserable now, without the Nordic model. The reasons for the poor working conditions are known (including an oversupply of women, competitive pressure, exploitation by landlords because of horrendous room rents and by brothel operators due to the limited right of direction, advertising companies, pimps, etc.) Because of the competitive pressure and the resulting dumping prices, many women in regular prostitution are forced to accept clients’ requests that are dangerous to health such as unprotected sexual practices in order to generate income at all and to be able to meet the financial demands of the profiteers.
The ProstSchG has actually not been able to improve these conditions. Future regulations beyond the Nordic model will not be able to change anything decisive in these grievances.
Currently illegal whatever forms of prostitution would remain illegal even without a sex purchase ban.
- Many professional associations and advice centers are critical of a ban on buying sex because it primarily disadvantages those who need support the most.
Note: A « disadvantage » would not be recognizable. The opposite will be the case, because a large number of vulnerable women or victim types will no longer have to or be able to work in prostitution due to lacking localities. One has to get rid of the idea that victim types should remain in prostitution under all circumstances. Instead, alternative employment opportunities that do not affect human dignity must be created. Fighting poverty through prostitution must no longer be a state strategy or find any other acceptance.
- Studies show that those working in illegality, in which prostitution must take place after such a prohibition law has come into force, are more frequently exposed to violence.
Note: This statement is very general, without reference to the quality of the « studies » or the specification of the term « violence », and does therefore not provide substantial evidence. It can give the inaccurate impression that the current situation is good or at least barely characterized by violence. But the milieu is generally characterized by violence. The fact that subtle coercion or violence against women is only little officially known and legally dealt with does not change the precarious realities. According to several studies, including a much-cited study by the University of Heidelberg, liberal prostitution legislation promotes human trafficking.
- They no longer have access to security services that are available in brothels.
Note: Security services exude authority on the clients as well as on the prostitutes working there. To some extent, they are also part of the suppression system (as became very clear in the proceedings against the Paradise in Stuttgart) and then primarily have the task of ensuring that the women comply with the in-house regulations so that the brothel is kept going and, in particular, that there are always enough women available for the clients.
However, in the small segment of the apparently actually self-employed prostitutes hardly any security guards can be found.
- The option of enforcing agreed wages and better working conditions also with legal remedy is dropped without replacement.
Note: This argument completely ignores reality. There are only around 40 prostitutes with employment contracts in the whole of Germany (= approx. 0.002% of prostitutes in Germany). This aspect is therefore absolutely negligible. In addition, I am not aware of a single legal dispute between a prostitute and a brothel operator about wages or better working conditions. By contrast, the limited right of direction, which is still in force, can stipulate bad working conditions for women in the brothel. It favors the brothel owners at the expense of the women. Worse conditions than currently with work or presence obligations of up to 24 hours, horrendous daily rents, rules of conduct, restriction of the right to self-determination, etc. are hard to imagine.
Besides, the introduction of the Nordic model would not automatically, as suggested here, exclude legal action.
- Since the clients of a sexual service are exposed to the risk of being sanctioned, they will exert pressure on the prostitute to make the sexual service cheaper and more rewarding in the risk assessment.
Note: This claim is incomprehensible. It is just the other way round. The prostitute is then in the stronger position. The clients then behave illegally and are naturally in a worse (negotiating) position, because they are likely to face state persecution, not the prostitute. In contrast to the client, she has no sanctions to fear. This view is also confirmed by the bodies directly entrusted with prostitution in Sweden.
- A further reduction in prices, an expansion of the offered practices or a lack of contraception and protection against sexually transmitted diseases can be the result.
Note: This fear is also unfounded. Due to the development of the past years, the oversupply of prostitutes and the resulting competitive pressure, the prices for sexual services are currently at a historically extremely low level that cannot be reduced further. Unsafe sex is widespread because of the clients’ requests. The prostitutes are forced to endure such hygienically dangerous practices in order to generate income at all and to be able to pay their high debts. A large number of women are therefore currently in a precarious health situation. A further deterioration is not imaginable.
- Furthermore, in the case of criminal pursuit in the context of the sex purchase ban, the prostitutes concerned, as witnesses and potential accomplices, must make use of their right to refuse to testify in case of doubt. However, the deterrent effect of the ban can only be achieved with a successful enforcement culminating in the conviction of the perpetrators. This is inconceivable under these circumstances.
Note: This argument is incomprehensible. The separation of (alleged) perpetrators and witnesses/victims is inadmissibly mixed up here. The prostitutes have the status of witnesses in criminal proceedings against third parties (clients, pimps, brothel operators) and do not have to fear sanctions either currently or when the Nordic model is introduced. There is therefore no reason to refuse to testify, unless one person is involved in the exploitation of another person, e.g. as an overseer on site on behalf of the primary profiteers. This constellation is found relatively often to keep prostitutes under complete control. But in this case, an overseer has the status of a suspect.
- It can also be assumed that a sex purchase ban changes the perception of prostitution: several examples from Sweden show, for example, the loss of custody of some mothers due to the stigmatization of their work, although at no time was there any suspicion that the child’s welfare was at risk.
Note: I contacted the Swedish police about this allegation. The reproaches were rejected by them. This statement is therefore incorrect. In Germany as well as in Sweden, interventions in custody only occur when the child’s well-being is at risk, not per se because of the exercise of prostitution. This is a generalized reproach that the authorities are not acting appropriately, but in a stigmatizing manner.
In another respect, however, the perception of prostitution would change, indeed: in contrast to now, as a result of a changing social consciousness, it would be evaluated in future more from the point of view of exploitation and human dignity.
- Prostitution, forced prostitution and human trafficking must be consistently demarcated. However, the terms are often mixed up in debate and public perception. This prevents a differentiated view of people, especially women, who offer sexual services professionally.
Note: This requirement is unrealistic. Prostitution cannot be generally demarcated from forced prostitution and human trafficking. Large areas of prostitution are characterized by coercion, pressure and human trafficking. The prostitution milieu as a whole is and will remain a highly criminogenic area as long as a high proportion of so-called victim types practice prostitution in regular locations. Accordingly, milieu-specific crimes such as forced prostitution, pimping, etc. are mainly committed in regular, well-known prostitution sites, i.e. where the victim types are working. This is also documented in the BKA situation report on human trafficking.
A separation into « good official » prostitution and « bad illegal » prostitution would falsely suggest that the official brothels and the official places for street prostitution are free from crimes typical of the milieu, such as forced prostitution. In fact, the opposite is true, as investigations such as the « Paradise » case regularly show. The decisive factor is whether you let yourself be blinded by a facade or look behind the scenes and only then make a judgment.
There is no intention here to convey the impression that all prostitution sites are generally subject to crime. There are operators who are striving for correctness. But even they cannot always judge whether a prostitute is controlled by others. The more vulnerable women work in a prostitution site, the higher the probability of secondary criminal phenomena there, regardless of whether or not the operators are aware of it or involved in it.
The demand for separation can only appear conclusive when viewed superficially. As described above, a distinction cannot be made on the basis of locations. It remains a theoretical construct and possibly an attempt by interested parties to divert attention from the conditions in official prostitution sites that are worthy of criticism.
For a realistic assessment of regular prostitution, it is also helpful to take a look at the client forums. Here clients exchange their experiences in brothels and with prostitutes, evaluate the women and thus give a certain live impression of the conditions in regular brothels.
- The aim must be to make an exit possible to those who want it and to protect those who want to continue doing this work.
Note: The need for exit assistance shows that prostitution is not, as is sometimes asserted, a regular employment. This instrument is not known in any other business. Exit aids for prostitutes working in regular, publicly known (« clean ») prostitution sites also prove that, contrary to certain claims, the conditions there must be irregular.
- As the NRW coalition we want to protect sex workers, in particular women, from being perceived as consumable and service-providing objects. Therefore we have to be in dialogue with those affected and listen to them. We want to protect prostitutes instead of making decisions over their heads, which would make them vulnerable and thus endanger them. Our approach is to bring prostitutes out of the dark field into the bright field. A change of course towards the Nordic model is therefore the wrong approach.
Note: This paragraph appears to be self-contradictory. Trying to prevent prostitutes from being perceived as objects is of course to be welcomed. However, it is usually impossible to enter into a dialogue with the group of prostitutes that needs protection most, the vulnerable victim types that have already been quoted several times, and to listen to them as intended. This large group has no opportunity to express itself publicly or politically because of its personal situation such as external control, lack of language skills, lack of contact with the outside world, etc. This group has no vote and no lobby. Nor does it appear on talk shows. The idea, for example, to get a truthful statement about her personal situation, her psychological and physical condition and her wishes from an 18-year-old Romanian girl without knowledge of German who can be found in a bordello, or from a Bulgarian woman in street prostitution and with a pimp in the background, is very theoretical.
The official and political dialogue is thus limited to a comparatively small group of people who work in prostitution and who are able to formulate their concerns. This can give the wrong impression that this minority also speaks for the concerns of the great majority of women. But that is wrong, because this privileged minority has completely different interests and needs than the large « speechless » majority. This minority consists of self-organized, independent people without typical victim characteristics.
As for sentence 3 of this paragraph: finding suitable protective provisions does not mean a contradiction to vulnerability or endangerment for those in need of protection.
Furthermore, there is no evidence to suggest that the Nordic model is « the wrong approach ».
With the Nordic model nothing will deteriorate, as has been suggested several times. In contrast, the current conditions are very deplorable, otherwise changes would not be discussed again. But it is suggested that the current situation is good and that the Nordic model would create a kind of chaos. For the majority of women, however, the opposite will be the case. It also has an impact on the profiteers in that scene, who with the currently valid model often achieve considerable profits at the expense of the victims and would have to forego daily rentals and income from Internet advertising etc. with the Nordic model. It would also affect the silent partners in the brothels. These also come from the regular economic life and invest, with the corresponding return expectations, large sums of money in the construction and operation of large prostitution sites such as nudist clubs. The investigations into the « Paradise » in Stuttgart also showed that several solid entrepreneurs had brought large sums of up to millions into the brothel.
D – Further aspects regarding the motion and the issue of prostitution regulation
– The wording of the motion suggests an obvious rejection of the Nordic model. This can have an impact on an open-ended expert hearing. There are points in the motion that are mere allegations not confirmed by hard facts or that are simply false.
– The critical assertions about the Nordic Model are in complete contrast to the experiences and reports of Swedish experts such as the special envoy Per-Anders Sunesson or the Stockholm police officer Simon Häggström. It is irritating that dubious and lobby-related claims are presented as more credible than the experience of experts.
– The quality of studies that evaluate the Nordic model negatively should be questioned. For example, the study by the Queens University of Belfast, Northern Ireland, is questionable in many respects, does not stand up to scrutiny and is not representative.
– Regrettably, the motion does not mention the difficult conditions of many prostitutes in regular brothels; in particular, it does not address the proposed increase of the age of protection to 21 years; the problem of the limited right of direction; the sleeping in the brothel without contacts with the outside world; the exorbitant rents for prostitution rooms and other high ancillary costs, etc.
– It would also have been very important to provide information on the (very small) proportion of self-determined, apparently voluntary prostitutes in relation to the (very large) number of apparently externally determined prostitutes who do not work voluntarily under various constraints. As described, the target groups have different concerns and (protective) needs. Future regulations cannot meet the needs of all groups equally satisfactorily. The prostitute scene is too heterogeneous for that. It remains to be weighed up which regulation can bring about a majority of significant improvements for the situation of those affected. If the regulations are primarily based on the requests of the approximately 5 percent self-determined prostitutes, the protection of up to 90 percent externally determined, non-voluntary prostitutes is dispensed with for the most part (as was largely the case with the ProstSchG of 2016). In the end, there is a risk that there will be no noticeable change for the better for the majority of the women.
– Politics is required to prioritize.
A concrete example can illustrate this: in 2012, the situation of the street prostitution in Augsburg, which until then had been rather inconspicuous for the police, escalated. Eastern European groups with their women occupied more and more places and fought each other with brute force. There were serious crimes such as extortionate kidnapping, human trafficking offenses, dangerous bodily harm, extortion, etc. After careful consideration by the responsible authorities, street prostitution as a whole was ultimately banned as the only effective solution. The measure was a complete success. The criminal scene, unless it had been arrested, quickly disintegrated. However, the ban also affected a few German women who had worked in prostitution at their places for many years without any security breaches. But the restoration of public safety, which had also been massively demanded by the population, had absolute priority here. Exceptions could not be implemented. The women affected had to reorient themselves.
– Germany must become less attractive for human traffickers. That is the central point for a good solution. This goal is most likely to be achieved if the opportunities/sites to place the women are eliminated. Corresponding to this, more preventive measures must be taken, i.e. it must be prevented that the victim types of young women are brought into prostitution at all. That is at least as important as trying to help women exit after they have been harmed.
– In order to improve the deplorable situation of many prostitutes in the long term, the focus must be more on the causes of these conditions. At the moment, it is almost entirely about combating symptoms. Providing the victims with hygiene articles, for example, is certainly right and well meant as an immediate measure, but not a solution to the problem. Likewise, to name another example, the setting up of so-called « Verrichtungsboxen » [ https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verrichtungsbox ], as is the case in the Kurfürstenstraße in Berlin. This does not really help the women, but only secures the income for their pimps, and is not a solution, but an administration and manifestation of grievances. In this context, the guidelines of the BMSFSJ [Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth] for health advice according to §10 of the ProstSchG must also be viewed critically.
E – Summary
In the meantime, there is a cross-party consensus in the political discussion on the following aspects:
– The ProstSchG did not meet the expectations and did not bring the hoped-for improvements. The grievances have remained.
– The vast majority of prostitutes in Germany do not correspond to the type of the self-determined woman, but are not voluntarily or not really voluntarily in prostitution.
– The prostitution law needs to be considerably improved to achieve a better protection of the weak and the victims of prostitution.
As for the question of a suitable approach, two opposing positions have meanwhile developed between supporters and opponents of the Nordic model.
The critics of the Nordic model want to improve the situation of prostitutes, but what is usually missing here is concrete information on possible solutions. These would include: age of consent 21 years; functioning registration obligation for prostitutes for more transparency; prohibition of registration for disabled and illiterate people; limitation of rental prices and other horrendous ancillary costs; abolition of the limited right of direction; mandatory health insurance; health examination and tax registration; residence in Germany; better applicability of formal and substantive criminal law; functioning punishment of the clients, etc.
Unfortunately, the declarations of intent are exhausted in very general, diffuse formulations, which raises the question of what is to be changed at all. The core question of the assessment spectrum, namely the division into self-organized and externally determined women in prostitution, is not or only marginally addressed. This creates the impression in parts that the realities are not taken into account and that an illusory world is assumed.
The Nordic model, on the other hand, has a completely different approach; it is an expression of a modern understanding of society and, with its four pillars, has a coherent overall concept. In 2002, too, politicians undertook a rigid change of direction with the then newly passed Prostitution Act.
The Nordic model will certainly not create completely non-violent conditions, but will significantly reduce the denounced grievances as a whole. The leverage effect will be greater than in other countries that have introduced the Nordic model because, for example, France or Sweden did not even come close to the percentage of prostitutes that Germany currently has, before the Nordic model was introduced there.
Finally, I would like to point out the following:
In case a decision is made against the Nordic model, it is to be feared that after an evaluation some years later there will be more discussions going on for years and a presumably lukewarm compromise solution might be adopted in 2026. Until then, nothing would change in the current situation. Many thousands of new victims would be created during that time.
But even if all conventional improvement requests (from age of consent of 21 years to a limit on rental prices, etc.) could be implemented, there would still be no decisive change in the unfortunate situation,
- a) as long as the supply of women from Southeast Europe is almost infinite, this flow from EU countries cannot be regulated and every exhausted woman who has left prostitution is immediately replaced by a new one, and
- b) because the necessary staffing of the prosecuting authorities to implement the new regulations – generally to monitor the prostitution scene, which is predominantly associated with serious crime, and to maintain the control pressure – cannot be provided either now or in the future, and
- c) the principles of our legal system in criminal proceedings for forced prostitution etc. also require direct evidence, personal evidence, usually combined with the victim’s statement in court. Most investigations fail because of this requirement. »