On June 2, 1975, more than a hundred prostitutes occupied the Church of St. Nizier in Lyon to protest their working conditions. Colleagues in other French cities followed. Under considerable pressure from the police in previous years, they were increasingly forced to work in secret, and two of their colleagues had been murdered the year before the church was occupied. After a good week, the church was cleared, but June 2nd is still international “whores day”.
And the situation of sex workers, which had partly improved in the years that followed, has long been aggravated again: In the Scandinavian countries there is a ban on buying sex, France followed suit a few years ago, and Spain’s left-wing government has just banned advertising for prostitution decided. Sex work has been legal in New Zealand since 2003, and Belgium is currently working on it.
Today’s commemoration and day of action in Germany is once again the discussion of the controversial prostitution law of the red-black coalition from five years ago. This year it will be evaluated, i.e. the examination of what has been achieved. The interest groups for sex work, such as Johanna Weber from the “Professional Association for Erotic and Sexual Services” (BesD), assume little or nothing in terms of its declared purposes.
The excitement about forced prostitutes is now being fueled again by reports about allegedly enslaved refugee Ukrainian women. But at the meeting of the nationwide advice centers this week, not a single case was known.
In the summer of 2017, the Merkel government replaced the liberal red-green law of 2002 with a “law regulating the prostitution trade and protecting people working in prostitution”, or “prostitute protection law” for short. The red-green regulation of 2002 abolished the immorality that made it impossible for sex workers to sue for their wages if they were refused. They were also given the opportunity to register for social security.
The new law, ProstSchG for short, tightened the requirements for brothels and obliges sex workers to register with the authorities. Above all, this met with resistance in the trade, where one felt reminded of the police law of the 19th century and the possibilities of abuse that registration enables – such as forced outings, which also affect the families, especially the children, of the sex workers.
Counseling centers, even those of the churches, stood by their side: Contrary to what it claims, the new law means “new dangers instead of protection,” explained women’s associations, the aid organizations and the evangelical diaconia, even during the preparatory work for the law. In any case, it will not prevent forced prostitution. Amnesty International argued similarly: the best way to protect sex workers is to decriminalize their work.
Hydra, one of the oldest self-organizations of prostitutes, also criticized in a statement on the current Hurentag that the required registration is only possible for people who have a registered address and a work permit in Germany: “In this way, the law systematically illegalizes poor people with and without a history of migration.”
Despite widespread protests outside of the trade, the current law should not be the end: In the SPD, which now provides the chancellor, there was a tendency in the last legislative period to completely ban sex purchases, as in Sweden. In an interview with the Tagesspiegel, Leni Breymaier, a member of the Bundestag, called this “a question of attitude”.
“Not every 18-year-old high school graduate should be allowed to think that he can do whatever he wants with a woman.” An advance by the SPD and Union shortly before the summer break aimed at punishing customers more severely for the time being.
In its statement on Whore Day 2022, the Frankfurt-based whore organization Dona Carmen severely criticized the value framework of the “ruling political class”, which is introducing a whore passport, as last introduced by the Nazi regime, and making judgments that “the language of the 50s years” speak.
As an example, the association cited the decision of the Federal Administrative Court against a battalion commander of the Bundeswehr at the end of May. She had been looking for an open sexual relationship on the Tinder dating platform, which the court saw as damaging the reputation of the Bundeswehr. The ad gives the wrong impression of an indiscriminate sex life.
The court confirmed that the soldier had “a significant lack of integrity of character”. In the face of such notions of morality, according to Dona Carmen, one gets “a vague idea of what will happen to dealing with prostitution in the course of the evaluation of the Prostitute Protection Act”. But you will get involved in this process.
The BesD wants that too. “Sex workers demand a say in the evaluation of the Prostitute Protection Act and the implementation of the law at the state level. We are the ones who are directly affected by these regulations – we can and want to work on meaningful solutions and contribute our expertise.
To this end, one will also seek talks with the researchers at the Lower Saxony Criminological Research Institute, which was awarded the contract to examine the ProstSchG. “We say: Talk to us, not just about us,” Johanna Weber told the Tagesspiegel. Of course, one does not want to tell scientists how to do their work. “But we can pass on our experience and give impetus.”
In addition, the BesD calls for a round table during the two years that the evaluation is supposed to last. In addition to politicians from the federal, state and local governments and experts from consulting and research, sex workers should also have a place there. Berlin in particular has had good experiences with this in recent years. “I’m rather skeptical about such events,” said Weber. “But everyone involved learned a lot here and was sensitized. That’s one of the most important things.”