On the hearing by the BMFSFJ [German Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth] about the regulation of the prostitution industry on 12 June 2014, published on 26 June 2014 (1)(german original)
On 12 June 2014, the BMFSFJ held a hearing on the planned reform of the Prostitution Act in order to gain a "comprehensive view" of the subject. The hearing was held behind closed doors, i.e. the public and the media were excluded. Even before the hearing, the public had been left in the dark about who the Federal Ministry had asked and invited as experts to give their expertise and opinions. (2)
Before the German Government goes into summer recess, we believe it is important to lift the veil of secrecy that is obviously desired by the Ministry in charge, a veil intended to conceal what interests are at play when it comes to preparing the reform of the Prostitution Act.
"We" - that is a group of women from all over Germany, from different parties, professions and individual backgrounds and experiences. We cooperate with international abolitionist organizations, prostitution survivors’ initiatives, scientists, and counseling services, and we are committed to providing the public with in-depth information on the subject.
Pro-sexindustry lobbyists decide which direction the revision of the Prostitution Act is to take.
Who were the experts to be invited to the hearing by the Ministry, to voice their opinions? The BMFSFJ report reveals that neither petitions nor initiatives critical of prostitution were taken into account, nor were the voices of exited women or survivors of prostitution heard.
Instead, outspoken interest groups of the prostitution industry (i.e., brothel owners and pimps) received ample opportunity to express their wishes for the least possible regulation and government intervention in this sexist, violent and criminogenic field.
Panel 2 “Stakeholders” was exclusively made up of pro-sexindustry groups, and comprised both entrepreneurs of the prostitution and erotic industry" and at the same time "sex workers”:
- "Unternehmerverband Erotik Gewerbe Deutschland e.V." (UEGD) [trade association of the erotic industry in Germany]. It "represents the interests of companies offering erotic services" (3). In a letter dated 06 November 2013, it suggested to the Federal Government and to the representatives of the coalition government to convene an interdisciplinary round table "to develop a package of laws which include the participation of those working in this industry in the regulation of prostitution and of prostitution sites, free from speculation and manipulative influence by the media" (4).
- "Bundesverband Sexuelle Dienstleistungen e.V." (BSD) [federal sexual services association] It represents brothel operators and independent sex workers and "served the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs as an expert contact in matters of prostitution" (5). It was founded in 2002, immediately after the adoption of the Prostitution Act by the then Red-Green Government and the concomitant deletion and amendment of the penal code for operating brothels and for pimping. (6)
- "Berufsverband erotische und Sexuelle Dienstleistungen e.V." (BesD) [Association for professional erotic and sexual services]. It was founded hastily in October 2013, among others by Johanna Weber and Undine de Rivière, and is an offshoot of the BSD, probably used for PR purposes in order to be able to present "real sex workers" to the media, the politicians etc. Members need to have spent some time in prostitution. However, it does NOT represent the estimated 400,000 mostly foreign prostitutes in Germany who work in prostitution out of economic hardship, often having been recruited by improper means such as force, fraud or deception, and who have no choice or alternatives. The BesD is a privileged group of (ex-)escorts and (ex)dominatrices, some of who are currently themselves operators, brothel managers, or pimps. Among other things, the BesD promotes "flatrate and gangbang sex - in order to guarantee “a variety of jobs" (7).
- Margarethe von Galen to submit her expertixe. Professor von Galen, a lawyer, has been pro-prostitution for years. She defends the rights of brothel owners in criminal or civil justice proceedings and trials. (8)
A "comprehensive picture"?
None of the panels invited or took into account the statements by well-known critics of the sex industry - neither the panel representing counseling centers (none of those invited have serious exit programs), nor the panel for the police, nor the panel for human trafficking and nor panel 8 - "socially relevant alliances".
At best, moderately critical voices got a chance to speak - e.g. some representatives of the federal states and municipalities and the equal opportunity officers. In most cases, even these panels only included those known to be more than sympathetic to the claims put forward by the BesD and BSD, such as the senior representatives of the German Women's Council.
Experts criticizing the legalization of prostitution were excluded
- The German NGO "SOLWODI" [SOLidarity with WOmen in DIstress] that addressed the Federal Government before the elections with their petition: "Make the final stroke! No women’s slavery in Germany!!", calling on the Government to ban the purchase of sexual services. Their proposal for the revision of the 2002 Act was not taken into account either. (9)
- Representatives of the German feminist magazine "EMMA", who have long been informing and warning against the consequences of the Prostitution Act since 2002. And with them, the voices of over 12,000 citizens were ignored who have signed the "Appeal against prostitution" since the end of 2013. (10)
- The initiators and supporters of the "Karlsruher Appell für eine Gesellschaft ohne Prostitution“ (Karlsruhe appeal for a society without prostitution). (11)
- Cathrin Schauer from the German NGO "KARO e.V.", who has been educating the public and politicians and police on the criminal activities of traffickers for years;
- Social worker Sabine Constabel from "La Strada Stuttgart" [a refuge for prostitutes], who is tirelessly working for the prostitutes, informing the public about the reality of prostitution;
- Organizations such as "INGA e.V.", "Zora e.V." and "KOFRA";
- Police experts such as Manfred Paulus, Helmut Sporer, Uwe Dörnhöfer and others.
- No experts were heard from abroad or from the European Women's Lobby, whose support for the Honeyball report helped pass the resolution for the adoption of the Nordic Model as recommendation for EU Member States with a clear majority in the European Parliament in February 2014.
- A 2013 large-scale study into the relation between legalization and human trafficking was also ignored. (12)
The BMFSFJ thus makes itself the accomplice of pro-sexindustry lobbyists!
The Federal Republic of Germany is obliged to work towards the elimination of barriers to equality for women (Art.III, paragraph 2 GG – German Basic Law). Likewise, it is the state's obligation to protect its residents from violence, regardless of which country they come from. However, continuing and facilitating the "business model prostitution" promotes the exact opposite!
We expect the Ministry for Families and Women to propose and implement effective measures against trafficking and for the protection of, especially young, women in difficult economic circumstances, and not to support the pro-sex industry lobby groups.
We expect the Federal Government to respect that the rights of women against exploitation are more important than legitimizing "master’s right" and more necessary than the local revenues through the taxation of the women, but also men and trans people in prostitution.
Abolition 2014 advocates for legislation modeled after the "Swedish (resp. Nordic) model", adopted also by the EU as a recommendation for the member states.
The Swedish (Nordic) model aims at significantly reducing the demand for prostitution and at bringing about a change of perspective: not the prostituted women, but the buyers of sex, the pimps and the brothel owners must be targeted by the legislation.
The Swedish (Nordic) model includes:
- effective and long-term support of people who want to exit prostitution;
- health care and other support (debt counseling, therapy ...) independent of any exit wish;
- training of the police to implement the Act;
- education and campaigns in society and in schools for an equal coexistence and equal relationship in sexuality;
- a prohibition of the operating of brothels and of pimping;
- criminalizing the purchase of sexual access to the bodies of others.
Our request to the press:
It is to be feared that the SPD-led Ministry for Families is stepping back even from its propositions announced in the coalition agreement between the three leading parties, CDU, CSU and SPD, which envision at least a few and tenuous legal restrictions of the sex industry and propose some protective measures for women and others in prostitution. We also fear that the Ministry will further delay the implementation of the EU directive against human trafficking.
We therefore ask you to inform the public about the influence of interest groups from the prostitution industry on the BMFSFJ.
For more information on this topic please contact us:
Abolition 2014, in collaboration with abolitionist initiatives in Germany, Europe, Canada and the United States.
(5) Sex als Arbeit: Prostitution als Tätigkeit im Sinne des Arbeitsrechts Bernhard Pichler; disserta Verlag; 2013; Seite 164
(9) http://www.solwodi.de/931.0.html http://www.solwodi.de/