Experts Call for Tightening of German Prostitution Law

Sexual exploitation, they say, is commonplace under the current legal framework. At the same time, prostitution has an impact on society as a whole.

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Persistent myths surround the topic of prostitution, often with an unclear legal framework. Prostitution has been technically “legal” in Germany since 2002. But what does that really mean, especially in the fight against human trafficking?

The Ulm Alliance against Human Trafficking and Forced Prostitution recently invited two experts in this field to the event “Blue Light in the Red Light: Police Action in the Prostitution Milieu” at the Ulm Chamber of Crafts.

Simon Häggström, a detective and author from Sweden, has been working for 15 years on the introduction of the so-called Nordic Model and shared his experiences and insights from practice. He vividly described his personal encounters and conversations with women in prostitution. “In all my years as an investigator, I have not met a single woman who identified herself as a sex worker.”

Experts Speak of a Degrading System

Prostitution affects individuals and society. A degrading system like prostitution cannot be separated from society.

“What is the point of our efforts to combat sexual harassment and male violence at home, in the workplace, or on the street, if men are allowed to buy the right to commit the same acts against women and children in prostitution?” Häggström continued.

Häggström also reported that the prostitution law in Germany makes the country extremely attractive for human traffickers. “For human traffickers, Germany offers the highest profit and no risk.”

This observation was shared by Helmut Sporer, a former senior criminal investigator from Augsburg. “Germany is rightly called the brothel of Europe. The police estimate that there are 400,000 prostitutes and over one million clients per day,” said Helmut Sporer.

During his time in the police force, he also found that the majority of women in prostitution do not work voluntarily or autonomously. Official estimates suggest that 80 to 90 percent of women do not engage in prostitution willingly.

Rise in Prostitution, Experts Warn

In Germany, a conviction for human trafficking always requires the victim’s testimony. However, the women are usually unable to withstand the psychological pressure. The legislation makes it easier for the perpetrators to exploit the women in prostitution, and efforts to curb human trafficking have been unsuccessful.

On the contrary, since the legalization of prostitution in 2002, there has been an increase in the number of prostitutes in Germany and a rise in human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

With the planned EU expansion into the Western Balkans, the situation is expected to worsen. “It is clear that in the system of prostitution, it is the brothel owners, pimps, and human traffickers who benefit, not the women who are abused within this system,” Sporer added.

Focus on Studies

Following the event, human rights activist Inge Bell, Chairwoman of Solwodi Bayern, took over as the moderator. She referred to a research project examining the legal, ethical, and constitutional aspects of prostitution legislation.

Inge Bell quoted Elke Mack, a social ethicist at the University of Erfurt and one of the authors of the study: “In my research, I have identified the most significant violation of human dignity in Germany in the field of prostitution.”

Ulrich Rommelfanger, a former judge at the Thuringian Constitutional Court and lecturer at the Saxony Police University, also reached the same conclusion in the study: “Human dignity is violated in prostitution.” Rommelfanger further stated, “The state must fulfill its obligation to protect and put an end to ongoing violations of rights.”

The conclusion of all the experts on the panel was that a nationwide rethink of the prostitution industry is long overdue. It is hoped that the current study, “Sex Purchase: A Legal and Ethical Examination of Prostitution,” by Mack and Rommelfanger, will expedite the discussion in Germany towards a ban on sex purchase.

After numerous questions from the audience, Inge Bell concluded the discussion with a quote from survivor Sandra Norak: “Prostitution is soul murder.”

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