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Does legal prostitution really increase human trafficking in Germany?

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Does legal prostitution really increase human trafficking in Germany?

Guest post by Matthias Lehmann and Sonja Dolinsek

[In the Irish campaign to criminalise sex workers’ clients, supporters of this proposal have regularly pointed to the German experience as “proof” of the failure of legalisation – despite the fact that Germany’s model is not actually advocated by anyone in the Irish debate. A recent article in the German newspaper Der Spiegel appeared to provide support for the view that legalisation has failed, and this has been picked up on and quoted by campaigners for criminalisation in Ireland. In this post, translated by the authors from the original German, two Berlin-based researchers explain what Der Spiegel got wrong.]

Last week, leading German news magazine DER SPIEGEL published a cover story – now published in English – on the alleged failure of the German prostitution law (ProstG) which rendered the State complicit in human trafficking. The deeply flawed report fails, however, to address numerous relevant aspects of human trafficking prevention and prosecution, including victim protection. It also fails to insert much needed factual evidence into the broader global debate on human trafficking, which is also about labor rights, migration, sustainable supply chains and human rights. DER SPIEGEL thus contributes to a very narrow debate on human trafficking and to the wrong debate around sex work.

Our blog post is based on a longer critique published in German on the blog “menschenhandel heute”. In this shorter version, we would like to critically engage with the international community on the difficult relationship between trafficking and sex work.

The myth of legalization

Prostitution, understood as the selling of sexual services, has been legal in Germany since 1927. In addition, Germany’s sex workers have been obliged to pay taxes since 1964. The new prostitution law of 2002 changed some aspects pertaining to the legal relationship between sex workers and clients and some criminal law provisions. It recognized the contract between sex workers and clients as legal and introduced the rights of sex workers to sue clients unwilling to pay for sexual services already provided. In addition, sex workers received the right to health insurance and social security. The law also forbids the right of direction (Weisungsrecht) by the employer in cases where a sex worker is employed at a brothel, for instance. In this way, a sex worker would always be able to determine to which sexual practices she or he would agree or not. What is misleadingly called the ”legalization“ of prostitution is actually the recognition of sex work as labor.

However, the law has encountered opposition in the implementation process. Rather than the law itself, as DER SPIEGEL claims, it is the unwillingness of some German states to correctly implement the law. Germany’s federal structure requires every state to issue its own implementation directives, which, as political science professor Rebecca Pates explains, did not happen in states like Bavaria or Saxony. Pates argues that some states actually never implemented the new law due to moral reservations with regard to prostitution. “The ProstG might in fact have the distinction of being the only federal law intentionally not implemented by Germany’s public administration”, she states in her paper “Liberal Laws juxtaposed with rigid control: an analysis of the logics of governing sex work in Germany” (2012). Other researchers presented similar findings. Her claims are supported by an official government report of 2007 (a shorter English version can be found here), which identifies the political unwillingness to implement the law as a reason for its failure. DER SPIEGEL’s analysis ignores this fact.

Technically speaking, prostitution is not legal everywhere in Germany. Most states prohibit prostitution in areas close to schools, churches, hospitals or residential areas, and most cities have defined restricted areas (Sperrbezirke) and times, where and when prostitution is not allowed. Some cities declare the whole city a restricted area, mostly with the exception of dark and dangerous outskirts, or allow prostitution only during the night. Furthermore, most states prohibit prostitution in cities with less than 30,000 inhabitants. This makes prostitution de facto illegal in most places and at most times, and sex workers receive fines or jail sentences if they violate the restrictions. In addition, sex work is not allowed for non-EU nationals (third country nationals), who would breach their residency requirements, if they engaged in prostitution. Non-EU nationals engaging in sex work are thus criminalized and made vulnerable not by the law, but because they are excluded from the law. Therefore, the incomplete legalization of prostitution may be the actual reason why the German prostitution law is failing its purpose to protect sex workers on the one hand, and why, on the other hand, most victims of human trafficking are from third countries.

“Pimping” in Germany and the war with numbers

New criminal law provisions were introduced with the reform. As DER SPIEGEL correctly points out, the criminal offence “promotion of prostitution” was replaced with “exploitation of prostitutes”. In his response to the Spiegel’s cover story, Thomas Stadler, attorney at law, explains:

‘The claim that procuration would only then be a criminal offence if it was “exploitative” or “organized in a dirigiste manner”, which is hardly verifiable, is tendentious, at the very least. According to prevailing legal norms, those activities are deemed as procuration (“pimping”) where someone exploits a person that works as a prostitute, controls this person’s work to gain pecuniary advantages, dictates the place, time, degree or other circumstances of this work or takes measures to prevent this person from exiting prostitution that go beyond an isolated incidence. Insofar, there might be individual cases, just as in other criminal proceedings, where evidence is hard to come by. One has to ask, however, what procuration actually is and how the legislator is supposed to define it. According to previous legal norms, cases could be built on the establishment of a pleasant atmosphere, which rendered virtually anyone a “pimp” that had some sort of function in a prostitute’s orbit. The decrease in convictions might therefore result from the removal of juridical measures that were questionable in the first place. And that surely wouldn’t be a step backwards.’

In addition, the new criminal offence of “human trafficking for sexual exploitation“ was introduced. As Stadler points out:

Human trafficking is certainly a criminal offence. In §232 StGB, the criminal code even contains its own article that deals with human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation. The level of the penalty ranges between six months and 10 years. Introduced in 2005, this article is a considerable increase from the previous regulation, §180b StGB, both with regards to content and the penalty range. Since this article includes the so-called “forced prostitution”, the actual topic of the SPIEGEL article, the message of DER SPIEGEL’s cover is entirely incorrect. A sincere report should rather have pointed out that the legislator introduced considerably tougher laws to penalize “forced prostitution” in 2005. Therefore, to claim that the State promotes trafficking in women and prostitution is absurd. The opposite is true. The legislator increased penalties for “forced prostitution” and human trafficking.

Thus, with a strengthening of labor rights for sex workers came a stronger criminal law, making the exploitation of sex workers as well as human trafficking for sexual exploitation criminal offences.

DER SPIEGEL suggests that the case of 16-year old Sina, forced to work in a flat-rate brothel, is a typical example illustrating the failure of the German prostitution law, since the law would not protect her. However, employing a person less than 18 years of age at a brothel is a criminal offence under German law. Thus, Sina’s situation is not one that the prostitution law aims to address, and therefore, the law does not fail her in this regard. The failure of the legal system towards her situation and towards other victims of exploitation must lie somewhere else.

Contrary to DER SPIEGEL, the number of convictions for “pimping” did neither decrease nor increase in statistically significant ways with the new law. DER SPIEGEL claims 32 identified “pimps” were convicted in 2011, as opposed to 151 in 2000. An official government reply to a parliamentary enquiry from 1997, however, shows that low convictions for “pimping” were actually a trend: in 1994, there were only 39 convictions for “pimping”. Numbers from the federal statistics bureau suggest similar developments.

According to official statistics, the number of officially identified victims of human trafficking decreased significantly in the past fifteen to twenty years. The same government reply from 1997 mentioned 1,196 victims of human trafficking in 1995 and 1,473 victims in 1996, while the statistics of the past four years on record show steady figures of an annual 610 to 710 victims of human trafficking for sexual exploitation, i.e. 640 victims in 2011.

Human trafficking for labor exploitation is also a criminal offence, which so far has failed, however, to attract much interest by the German public. Recent research has shown that, until recently, even counseling centers for victims of human trafficking were mostly unaware of the possibility of labor trafficking and unprepared to provide adequate support. The general lack of interest towards labor trafficking is reflected in the low number of identified victims: only 32 individuals in 2011.

So, where is the real problem?

DER SPIEGEL’s greatest omissions are victim protection and victims’ rights when it comes to human trafficking. A narrow focus on the prostitution law and sex work prevents the authors from dwelling into the more complex web of legal regulations that make the prosecution of cases of human trafficking difficult in Germany.

First, human trafficking cases are dependent upon the testimony of victims. If they are for some reason unwilling to cooperate with the police and do not wish to testify, their cases will most likely fall apart. Furthermore, psychological support for victims of human trafficking is very limited. In many cases police officers and investigators expect linear and consistent narratives from victims from the very beginning, and utterly fail taking into account any traumas they may have endured just moments before. Victims are therefore not only forced to narrate their experiences over and over again, while their traumas are well and alive, but will also have their credibility judged and refuted as potential witnesses, if for some reason their stories show inconsistencies.

Before we talk about the prostitution law, let’s talk about how (potential) victims of human trafficking are treated once encountered by the police, and let’s talk about how those practices may in fact reduce to a minimum the willingness to testify.

Second, most victims of human trafficking who are third country nationals or from Romania or Bulgaria are repatriated to their home countries after their testimony. If they do not testify or cooperate with the authorities at all, they will be deported immediately after a reflection period of three months. Many decry the unwillingness of victims to testify as one central reason for the failure of trafficking prosecution. So far, however, little has been done to encourage testimony and cooperation by strengthening victims’ rights. What DER SPIEGEL fails to understand is that a reform of the prostitution law would have no impact on this aspect whatsoever. By focusing on the victims, the authors risk tapping into a dangerous rhetoric of victim blaming, and thus miss how not the prostitution law but the German immigration law actually contributes to much of the vulnerability of migrant women who are victimized. Germany should rather look towards Italy, where victims of human trafficking are unconditionally granted a residency permit and can begin re-building their lives.

Last but not least, Germany and the German media have so far missed the opportunity to broaden the public debate on human trafficking and modern slavery to include labor trafficking, organ trafficking as well as labor exploitation in supply chains of large corporations. Instead, the term human trafficking is often equated with prostitution by the media, politicians and even activists, thus perpetuating a selection bias towards women in the sex industry. Victims of other genders or in other sectors run not only a very high risk of never being detected but also of not even being believed. In this sense, we believe DER SPIEGEL has failed its declared commitment towards human trafficking victims – as the majority are conveniently left out, while others, like self-determined (migrant) sex workers, simply are not victims of trafficking.

The story and representation of Carmen, a sex worker from Berlin

The German print version of DER SPIEGEL’s cover story also featured an inset profile about Carmen, a sex worker from Berlin. Carmen works as an escort as well as a sex workers’ rights activist, a role she also fulfills as member of the German Pirate Party. She reacted to the profile by publishing a counterstatement, in which she quoted the email exchange with DER SPIEGEL’s journalist prior to the interview and publication. Contrary to the agreed terms, Carmen writes, the profile dealt only marginally with her “thoughts about prostitution policies, the sex workers’ rights movement, the discrimination of sex workers” or other relevant subjects. Whereas Carmen had agreed to the interview to introduce “arguments instead of prejudices into the public debate about prostitution and allow insights into an occupation that most people have no access to”, 80 per cent of the eventual profile contained stereotypical descriptions of Carmen’s appearance and her escort website

“I am not prepared to be made a projection screen of any clichés. I will not answer any personal questions that concern aspects outside my work in prostitution/politics”, Carmen had written prior to the interview.

In addition, DER SPIEGEL had altered the photo that Carmen had provided to be featured. While blackening her face without her consent anonymized her, the color corrections effectively highlighted her décolleté, further adding to the overall tone of the article.

After Carmen’s statement had gone viral, the journalist published his own counterstatement on DER SPIEGEL’s blog, only to draw more criticism. Under the headline “An Escort Lady makes Politics: Be truthful”, he admitted the non-consensual alteration of the image but claimed it was done to protect Carmen’s privacy, even though she had not explicitly asked for any such changes. Where the article’s focus and tone were concerned, he invoked the freedom of the press.

Interestingly, DER SPIEGEL also tried to do damage control by sending customized tweets to those who had twittered Carmen’s statement, and for its international online publication, DER SPIEGEL then chose to omit Carmen’s profile entirely, thus removing the one voice, if poorly presented, opposing the cover story’s narrative that legalizing prostitution in Germany had failed.

DER SPIEGEL also published a photo series to support the article’s narrative, which included voyeuristic images, a photo of Christine Bergmann, Federal Minister of Family Affairs when the German prostitution law was passed (of whom no other picture seemed available as that in front of a sign about child abuse), an angelic picture of Swedish anti-prostitution activist Kajsa Ekis Ekman, and to counter that, an unflattering photo of Volker Beck, human rights spokesperson of the German Greens and a staunch supporter of sex workers’ rights.

About the authors:

Sonja Dolinsek is a graduate student in Contemporary History and Philosophy at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. Her research project focuses on the history of prostitution in the German Federal Republic since 1949, with a particular interest in the gendered construction of sex workers. She is also the founder and editor of the German news blog on human trafficking “menschenhandel heute”, where she critically engages with anti-trafficking discourses and practices. She also volunteers as a translator for PICUM (Platform for International Cooperation on Migrants). She lives in Berlin, Germany.

Matthias Lehmann is an independent German researcher currently based in Berlin after extensive stays in East Asia. A graduate of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and Kyung Hee University, he has conducted research and fieldwork in Thailand and South Korea. In 2012, he participated in the Sex Workers’ Freedom Festival in Kolkata, official hub of the 2012 International AIDS Conference. His research focus lies on the collateral damage caused by anti-trafficking and anti-prostitution legislation, in particular where the rights of sex workers and migrants are concerned. With his on-going research project, he aims to add to the knowledge about the experiences of sex workers in South Korea.

65 responses

  1. Thank you so much for this, I have already had people quoting the Der Speigel article at me, this will help so much.

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  9. But what should be done, according to you?
    A humble question from a humble prostitute

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  11. How about treating prostitution as work and criminals as criminals? There is not even need for a special law concerning prostitution. Why should there be? If a man and a woman meet in a bar and have a one-night-stand, it is fine, but as soon as one gets paid, it should be regulated?

    • I totally agree with you. I’ll never understand it either.
      Killing ‘potentially’ bad people in Iraq and getting paid for it, is ‘not so good’, but having sex and getting paid for it is ‘evil’….Hmm…don’t get it either
      And by the way, what if prostitution IS a crime?
      → Crime doesn’t end and will not diminish because people make all kinds of laws about it. Everyone who thinks that doesn’t really understand his own species yet.
      The only durable ‘solution’ to fight crime is to shift the people’s attention from the ‘bad’ things towards ‘good’ things,

      • We could castrate men who use prostitutes. That would get rid of the excess sex drive issue and get rid of prostitution, eventually. Since only about 18% of the socially inept have to use prostitutes, we probably wouldn’t miss their contribution to the gene pool! 🙂

        • I really hope you’re joking. with that one. Socially inept are the only ones who use prostitutes? Ok, buddy.

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  15. Pingback: Does legal prostitution really increase human trafficking in Germany? | respectsexwork

  16. Reblogged this on respectsexwork and commented:
    Absolutely fantastic piece, very much suggest you give this a read.

    • Why should we respect sex work?

      • Because it’s good decent work that helps some people and can be very valuable. Basically, why wouldn’t you?

        • georgefinnegan

          Apparently, someone didn’t like my common-sense response, so you can trip along in your world of make believe!

        • I didn’t get to read it.

        • georgefinnegan

          Unfortunately, it was brutally honest, but I think, a pretty widely accepted reason for people not respecting sex workers and sex work. Thinking of you as a person, I wouldn’t want you to have read it. As an idea on a blog, I thought it was important to say.

        • That doesn’t make much sense. You think it would hurt me but you think it’s true? I think it’s revealing to see you say there is a reason to disrespect sex workers. Means you don’t actually value sex work as work. Which to me means you don’t get it. If you did you wouldn’t say this. Brutally “honest” doesn’t mean true.

        • To georgefinnegan, no it wasn’t a common sense reply, it was an absolutely disrespectful and out of place reply. You can’t say that sex workers are people who would do “anything for money” (and believe me, they don’t do *anything*, they have their standards too, they choose their clients and their practices) and therefore deserve not to be respected… Show me where you called “ass kissers” all lobbyists, politicians, bankers, and well… pretty much everyone kisses ass at some point and the result is a lot worse than someone’s orgasm.. It actually takes a lot of courage for sex workers to do what they do in this society.

        • georgefinnegan

          I apologize!

        • I’m a little shocked at the disconnect with some people. They completely see sex work as this evil thing yet completely brush off the actual brutality of other careers that ruin lives, make people homeless or kill people.

        • georgefinnegan

          Most jobs don’t involve sex.  If they do, then their situations usually lead to problems where everyone is unhappy and someone is getting sued.  Sex has a very strong influence on what people think and feel on a personal level.  Most people I know can’t separate love from sex.  They can’t imagine what commercial sex is like, thinking that it’s mechanical and un-fulfilling and they will never engage in it or come to know what it’s like.  And they aren’t going to ever do so – why bother?  If a person doesn’t come to know what it’s like, they can’t empathize.  Or, maybe they’ll find out their husbands have been seeing prostitutes, and be hurt by that.  Prostitutes don’t care where they get their money – they’re always in bed with married men – they have all sorts of excuses why it’s OK (i.e. blame the victim by saying she didn’t do what he wanted to do).  You do realize that that really causes pain and you cannot separate yourself from the responsibility of it, unless you have a policy not to have married men, or men in what should be committed relationships, as clients.  You can come up with all kinds of wild ideas of how society should be, but you really are only going to be able to speak for a small fraction of the population (I know the statistics, please don’t repeat them – the number of men who regularly use prostitutes is not very big and the number of those who would put themselves on the line to defend or promote prostitution is even smaller because many of them are married and just won’t do it.)  Most other jobs don’t have the element of causing harm from sexual misconduct and sexual harm weighs heavily on most people’s minds.  

        • You have no idea what’s I do or what sex workers do. You have a made up idea of who we are and what we do and you’re projecting your own ideas on us and it’s false and dangerous.

        • I haven’t made up my mind about who you are or what you do. My mind is always changing. But, there is no way for me to imagine what you do without projecting my own ideas into the mix – that’s the limitation of everyone’s mind and that’s the best I can do. You do the same thing when you guess what I’m thinking or feeling about prostitution. It’s impossible for me to be accurate or correct in this situation – I can’t be a prostitute. How is it that you think not being accurate is ‘dangerous’?

        • Not being accurate is dangerous. Have you read any of my blog posts? Do you follow me on twitter? It’s one of the most dangerous things we face as sex workers. It gets us killed when people make up what we are like and what our lives entail and then they make laws based on lies and based on bias and we get killed because of those laws. Criminalizing sex workers gets them killed. I’m not kidding, I’m not being dramatic, it’s why it’s important to me. When you tell someone that they have to go underground to do their job, you put them in a place of great risk. When you tell someone that they are worth less than any other person, and you make them illegal, and you tell others that they are bad, you put them at greater risk.

        • That does make sense. I don’t follow your blog…maybe I’ll go take a look.

        • What doesn’t make sense? People treating someone poorly, or hurting them because they think it’s ok to do so, that’s what’s dangerous and that’s what lies cause. It happens to people from different countries who are here illegally, it happens to sex workers, it happens to people of color. It happens because of stigma and lies that people perpetrate and the idea that sex workers are this whole one type of thing that isn’t to be respected or treated humanely, instead of a group of people that exist.

          That’s why it’s dangerous. Ignorance is always dangerous and when we tell people it’s ok to abuse other people, that’s what they do.

        • So there it is, georgefinnegan – yesterday you said you’re not taking a moralistic or puritanical approach but you start your post now with “most jobs don’t involve sex”. I understand from this that your objection to sex work is based on a purely moralistic and puritanical approach (if you don’t object to someone cleaning toilets but you object to someone selling sex – this is a moralistic approach) – a job that involves sex is immoral; sex outside marriage is immoral. I don’t want to “put words in your mouth” but from here the objection to sex outside the missionary position, sex outside hetero sex and sex outside vaginal penetration is a stone’s throw away. Of course I don’t know if you object to homosexuality, certain kinky sexual practices or promiscuity but it sounds like the people you know have had … what – 5-10 sexual partners (since they can’t separate sex from love)?
          I agree that in a perfect world there would be one true love for us all that satisfies all our sexual, emotional and physical needs and desires but we don’t live in a perfect world.
          All your thoughts on sex work can be transposed to pretty much any other work – not every employee knows or cares where the company gets its money from – could be child labour, could be arms dealing, could be corruption (or these don’t weigh so heavily on most people’s minds??)… Not all people enjoy their jobs, probably 90% of people hate or almost hate their jobs… But because a sexual transaction is so direct, so open and honest (no bullsh*tting) and obvious – you prefer to object to it. Again, show me where you objected to the work of lobbyists, investment bankers, politicians, CEOs – people who are corrupt to their bone, who caused the world economic crisis, who pay workers minimum salaries so they can get millions in bonuses, who use child labour to produce their iPhones and Nike’s, who keep 10 domestic workers (maids) toiling as slaves cleaning their houses… Do you object to these things? Or do you never think about them because they don’t involve sex? Either show me a post where you explain that the work of investment bankers and CEOs is dirty and immoral, or admit that your stance is purely, utterly and hypocritically moralistic and puritan.
          Sex workers are at least honest and don’t pretend to be all high and mighty!

        • The reality is, most jobs do not involve sex. My job doesn’t involve sex. No one I know has a job where sex acts are done. Everyone I know has a job where, if they have sex at work, they will be fired. It’s a pretty simple fact. I don’t understand how you contorted that simple fact into some idea that I’m a religious fanatic.

        • I didn’t say you were a religious fanatic but that your opinion is moralistic. And there’s the sex again… Can you not make analogies between things? At my job I would be fired if I served alcohol. Most people I know would be. Yet, there are bartenders whose job is to serve alcohol. Should I speak against bartenders because I and my friends are not? Do bartenders realise how they ruin lives – people’s health, their marriages? I don’t see people despising them for that, they even tip them! Other people sell weed (in coffeeshops in Amsterdam) – I would be fired if I sold weed at my job, why aren’t they? Yet other people make crappy investments with our savings – do they realise that they are ruining our future or do they only care for their bonuses and fat cheques? I still think you don’t object to jobs that are indecent or damaging in principle, but only to one job that involves exchange of sex for money…

        • I went on to say that sex holds a very important part in our minds. For most people, there are lots of emotions connected to it, so when a job is associated with sex, aspects of that job will evoke emotional response. We don’t have that sort of all encompassing, universal trigger for alcohol or greed of bankers. You can try to ignore the idea or belittle it, but psychotherapists make millions in their efforts to help people come to terms with how their minds work with sex. They’ll tell you that sex really does occupy a much more important part of our minds than most things that are dealt with in other occupations. That’s the defining difference. As a prostitute, you may not see sex in that light, but this isn’t about what a prostitute thinks about sex work. I was asked why I wouldn’t respect sex workers and, as a representative of many others, I am giving a response. Once again, it isn’t religious, it’s about being human.

          Further, although some people in doing other jobs ruin lives, most don’t because people usually can’t be employed very long where they hurt other people. Where I live bartenders are sued or thrown in jail for serving drinks to someone who drives drunk. Further, the waitress who served me my lunch didn’t hurt anyone – I can’t imagine how that would happen. I haven’t hurt anyone as a result of doing my job. My boss didn’t hurt anyone; the secretary across the hall has been hugely indispensable and has never hurt anyone at work; security guy down the hall – always helpful. But, with prostitution, how many prostitutes don’t sleep with married men or men who someone thinks is in a committed relationship? You don’t want to address that, do you? In that case, just about 100% of the prostitutes in the world engage in harmful sexual activity like that. Or, is that not important unless you/he gets caught? You can say I’m being moralistic, if you want, but I think of it as being humanistic.

  17. Eliot Spitzer is an expert in this topic

  18. Pingback: ¿Es cierto que la prostitución legal ha hecho que aumente la trata de seres humanos en Alemania? | El estante de la Citi

  19. ethanvanderbuilt

    There is really no logical reason to legalize prostitution. The legalization of prostitution will increase the availability of prostitutes and lower the cost of their services. This would then increase demand, drawing even more under aged girls and boys into prostitution. As a society we have an obligation to try and limit the amount of people involved in a job that is basically sexual assault for money.


  21. Thank you for this piece, very useful! The article in Spiegel is quoted also in the report of an MEP on prostitution ( where, of course, the conclusion is that all planets in the galaxy should adopt the Swedish model) and our organisation is planning to write a criticism towards the report and your article is very helpful!

  22. I fully agree that trafficked prostitutes should be treated as victims and not as people engaging in illegal activity. All of the World’s laws should seek to treat trafficking victims with compassion.

  23. Pingback: Does legal prostitution really increase human trafficking in Germany? | Sexworker Blogs

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  25. you do not know the REAL situation of prostitutes in Germany. THis article is a joke. A bad one!

  26. georgefinnegan

    The main problem with this blogger’s analysis is, on one hand she says that trafficking hasn’t increased and, on the other, she says the police haven’t been doing their job enforcing anti-trafficking laws, not realizing that she only really knows of how many people are being trafficked by how many traffickers the cops bust. Fewer busts, and her statistics show fewer trafficked women. And she wants to dismiss any idea that the cops, who have active investigations going, do really know that there is more trafficking going on, they just haven’t been able to act on their information, for whatever reasons. So, she should confess that it could be true that the increase in demand for commercial sex does increase the demand for trafficked women and she really doesn’t know from the statistics she has.

    • Dear George,

      Thank your for your comment.

      First, a note on your language: Since this is not a Catholic Church, I’d rather not use the term “confess”, as if I did anything wrong and willingly lied to you about anything. So let’s put this religious speech aside.

      You say that I should “confess” that “it COULD be true” that there is an increase in demand for trafficked persons. Well, if you write it like this, I cannot really answer. Anything could be true, everywhere. But you have not really given any reason why I should “have reason to believe” that there was such an increase.

      I am not even sure how you would measure this demand in trafficked persons, because it is really not always the case that clients know that some sex workers are victims of human trafficking. And if they did know, well, then sorry, this is plain sexual abuse, not prostitution/sex work. And I’d rather not talk about a “demand” of rape, but rather of the “crime” of “rape”!

      Numbers: Me, you, anyone for that matter, only know the numbers of official statistics. They show a decrease. My point here is: The media, globally, ignore those statistics, because – like you – they prefer to talk about what “could” be true, rather than about what we actually know. I don’t wanna begin with any speculations, even if you are explicitly asking me to speculate about the unknown. And I wonder why people alway feel the need to speculate in this field rather than talking about the knowledge we have (and its limitations).

      Second, it is really no contradiction to say that the number of officially identified victims of human trafficking has decreased while pointing out that many victims go undetected or are not identified as VoTs. It is not a contradiction, because this (the fact that many go undetected) is true not just since the new prostitution law was passed, but even before. Actually, it is also true for countries, where prostitution is illegal. Actually, there it is even more likely so, because sex workers are first and foremost treated and arrested as criminals. In a regime where prostitution is criminalized, the likelihood of a trafficking victim being re-victimized by the police is much higher.

      Studies have shown and as far as I know pretty every anti-trafficking activist knows that anti-trafficking actions mostly fail (and are bound to fail), because of their lack of priority for the victims of trafficking. Anti-trafficking is all about increasing police powers, funding media campaigns, writing sensational articles, but rarely it is about actually increasing the help and protection for the victims. Most countries deport foreigners, when they are no longer needed in the trial, thus basically treating them in no better way than their exploiters. Rarely there are compensation schemes. And even more rarely do the traffickers have to compensate their victims. But hey, it is much sexier to speculate about high numbers and about what “could be true”, rather than talk about the very unsexy lack of interest most states have for the lives of trafficked persons.

      Last, you speak about “fewer busts”. That is the wrong term. You probably have in mind those picture from the media, where the police arrest and handcuff people during raids. But that is not the way the German police find most of their “traffickers”: Most traffickers are fund and arrested, because
      – sex workers got to the police by themselves in around 40% of the cases (because it is legal, they do not have to fear to be arrested)

      • georgefinnegan

        Your comments about issues regarding trafficking are greatly appreciated and I am grateful for your passion for changing the condition.

        First of all, I didn’t use ‘religious speech’ since I am not a theist – that would be absurd. If you see it as that, then you’re letting your prejudices show and you want to degrade my argument by attacking some religious problem you have. My being argumentative and judgmental is actually against my religious beliefs – believe it or not, I am working on that!

        Lets talk about liking what ‘could be true’. You are promoting prostitution as a decent and wholesome way to make a living. You didn’t like the Spiegel article because it didn’t present prostitution in a flattering light and people were using concerns over trafficking to attack prostitution. In your propaganda counter the attack on prostitution, you use statistics to your advantage. You went on to say that trafficking hasn’t changed or hasn’t increased from the numbers you saw, regardless of the change in prostitution laws. At that moment you were speaking of what you thought ‘could be true’ because of the information you thought you had. You now admit that you don’t know how many people are trafficked. If you want people to take you seriously, in the light of the fact that you have a new perspective, you should make sure you own up to your mistake and not make it again. That is, actually say that you don’t know that trafficking has not increased due to the open market for sex in Germany because you were relying on statistics based on how many traffickers were arrested.

        Additionally, the article you wanted to criticize was of prostitution in Germany, where it is legal. The fact is, trafficking is still going on in Germany, despite of what you say – that prostitutes are turning in the traffickers. And still, using your numbers, 60% of the arrests are by police actions – which really is ‘most’ of the arrests.

        Now, are you going to say that they don’t have investigations going on that may give them insights into how many traffickers there are that you, i.e. the public doesn’t have? That is the part of ‘could be true’ that is actually important. I realize that you have some problem over how the police do their business and don’t want to admit that they may have important information you don’t have, especially when it would counter your idea that free market sex doesn’t increase sex trafficking, but, a rational person would understand that they could have such intelligence. They would also understand that only a hot head would say absolutely that they know the numbers of trafficked women because of what the cops say, so they might say something like ‘it could be true’, so that they realistically own up to the fact that it is an unknowable. Admitting you don’t know what is unknowable, to many, makes the person more believable.

        I don’t expect that everyone would have an understanding or appreciation of how the government and police have to deal with trafficking. The police have rules and procedures to follow. These rules are set up by, say, our democracies. In democracies, there are always measures to protect personal freedoms. Here, the personal freedom is being able to be a prostitute. The reality is, though, legalized prostitution does make it more difficult to deal with trafficking when cops have to work through the system that is set up to accommodate it. The police have to continuously compare what they ‘have reason to believe’ to what ‘could be’ and then how that relates to laws and procedures. And when they have to examine what they think is going on to what the law allows, there is that added level of complication that slows the process down. The public, as back seat observers, thinks in black and white – they think “it’s obvious that trafficking is going on – why didn’t they arrest the traffickers? They’re so inept and are obviously corrupt!” – where the police really do have to operate in a huge gray zone where it isn’t so clear. The more the doubt in what they think they know, the longer it will take them to react, if they can react at all. Sure, if prostitutes are turning in traffickers, that’s a great thing. But, you can’t arrest someone based on anyone’s say- so. There still has to be more evidence obtained before an arrest can be done and they still have to go through the ponderous evaluation of evidence. The inevitable backside to legalized prostitution is, yes, it really does make it harder to arrest traffickers. Although, it is also apparently helpful, you can’t expect legalized prostitution to be a panacea for sex crimes of this nature. It’s just the way it is.

        Although you wanted to counter the tendency that many have to attack prostitution for the reasons given in the article, using statistics didn’t work out. You didn’t need to go into that in this situation. Stating the case that legalized prostitution can also be of use in fighting trafficking would have been enough.

  27. I also haven’t told anyone here ‘all my thoughts are on sex work’ – it seems like you’re extrapolating wildly! I fully acknowledge that there are people out here who don’t have committed relationships and I don’t care if they use prostitute’s services or not. I would not oppose the legalization of prostitution where I am, but I also wouldn’t promote it because my wife would look at me funny. I have come into contact with prostitutes, but have never used their services. I found them to be friendly and fun to talk/flirt with and never thought that I would want to hurt them, either physically or emotionally, but I also noticed a tension or fear in their eyes. The plain truth is, though, and one you don’t seem to want to admit to is, having sex with someone who someone else thinks is in a committed relationship does cause sexual harm when the other person finds out. And you, as a prostitute, may not give that proper consideration. This isn’t a religious issue – this is a humanistic issue. If you want to promote prostitution, you’ll have to face that fact because society isn’t going to easily come to think it’s OK for married men to consort with prostitutes. And, guess what? These aren’t all of my thoughts on sex work either – I have many more. I just don’t have time to write them all down.

  28. Pingback: The truth about sex trafficking statistics research | Human Trafficking Statistics, Facts, number of victims of sex trafficking, prostitution, sex slavery, myths, lies, truth

  29. I can’t believe how much this seems to be accepted in this world. This is a disgusting thing, and shouldn’t be allowed in any country.

    • georgefinnegan

      There’s always a part of the population that wants everyone to think what they do is normal and OK. They’re blind to the harm that it causes because they become inured to what they do. They’re so wrapped up in pursuing their pleasures that they don’t realize that they’re causing problems for everyone else.

      • Legalized sex work is a disgusting thing? Regardless of whatever walk of life you claim to come from, sex is something that always comes with a “cost”.

        Quite frankly, I believe it should be allowed in EVERY country. I can’t understand how any man can be against legalized sex work. I know plenty of women who would never engage in legalized sex work but are all for it being legalized.

        People, this is the world’s oldest profession. It’s been around since humans have walked the planet and still exists today regardless of whether it’s legalized today. So, why is that? Regardless of culture, religion, race… sex is about who we are as a species. It’s like food, water, and shelter. If you don’t have any of those, you’re going to make some kind of an effort to do your best to acquire it. You can never, ever get rid of a service that is substantiated by an endless and ever-present supply of demand. Especially a service such as prostitution that has shown such historical resilience despite the state of its legality in many countries around the world.

        When it’s regulated, everybody wins. Sex workers get a safe environment to work in and they’re protected by the law so they get police protection. They don’t have to worry about getting raped, killed, robbed or beaten by clients/police/pimps. The spreading of disease is controlled since they’d be required to get tested often.

        And instead of raping women, flying planes into buildings and shooting up schools and colleges, the tension built up from sexual repression in men is stabilized since they can legally engage in a service that allows them to vent this aggression. It’s human nature. Violent crime and rape will decrease in the area where sex work is legalized and regulated. There are statistics to support this which shouldn’t even be necessary to research because it’s all really common sense if you understand the basics of human biology/physiology.

        • georgefinnegan

          As I’ve said, people like you who use prostitutes are inured to the fact that prostitution causes problems for people. I’ve heard all of your arguments many times before. Yes, prostitution has been around for a long time, but disdain for prostitution has been around for just as long. I suppose if they could keep it indoors, it wouldn’t be such a problem. But, you know, they’re up for making a profit in any way they can and don’t really think of sex work outdoors as a real problem. This is an example of how their losing their inhibitions leads to problems for other people. When they do it in public, it becomes everyone’s business and it pisses people off. And keeping prostitution illegal is how we react to that – like it or not.

          The idea that sex comes as a cost, so we should think that prostitution is OK is another weak argument. Some idiot wanted to say that being married is like being a prostitute – bull shit! I’m sure, for some people it is, but there’s something more spiritual about real marriage that you aren’t going to get with a prostitute.

          Blaming all of the world’s ills on pent up sex drives is more bull shit. If prostitutes have been around forever, then, if prostitution is going to solve those problems, why hasn’t it done that already? Those problems will always be there – prostitution isn’t going to fix that reality. You can cite your statistics, but I doubt they’re big enough studies, inclusive enough or they’re biased.

          Finally, humans aren’t animals. We’re a lot more. We go well beyond just biology. That’s where our minds come in. If you’re into mechanical, commercial sex, well, good for you. But don’t try to make it sound like some wholesome requirement for life. The reality is, there just a small population out there that want to think that prostitution is OK, and even fewer who will actually stand up and support it. Why? Because a lot of their clients are married men, and they aren’t going to ruin their home lives so they can use a prostitute – it just isn’t that important to them.

        • Seriously? Ok, for starters: How dare you call my commentary bullshit while having the audacity to retort with complete utter nonsense. Regardless of how technology has evolved or sophisticated we’ve become as a species, reproduction (and engaging in the act of reproducing) will always play a significant part of genetic makeup, if not the main point of our existence. Just like every other animal. So accept it and get over it. And if you truly believe that the population which habitually or even sparingly purchases the services provided by a sex worker is indeed small than you should do something about adding more sunlight to your daily regimen.

          You might be too shortsighted or small minded to participate in a civil debate about the legalization of sex work. You are over-generalizing and misinterpreting my points while exhibiting harsh judgment toward people who choose to engage in this type of service/activity.

          I am not advocating that sex workers should personally advertise their services in the street, so we may, in fact, agree in this regard. But I see no plausible reason to object to the existence of regulated legalized brothels and escort agencies that service incall and outcall requests. If you have a problem with sex workers soliciting patrons in the street, than argue the point of why they should remain indoors instead of demonizing the entire industry and vilifying the people who choose to take part in it.

          Also, I never said I blamed the world’s ills on sexual repression. Of course, sexual repression is not the main reason of why some people commit violent crimes. But you cannot deny the fact that it often appears to be a prominent ingredient in a recipe for these type of disasters. If you took the time to do research and think before posting idiocy in a forum, you’d probably realize the fact (yes, fact), that many perpetrators of violent acts (especially violent acts against women) have a history of sexual repression, achieved minimal success with women, and generally have low self esteem.

          And who said sex work is going to solve all the world’s problems? As you demonstrated in your comment above, we live in a world of idiots so we may indeed always have violence, murder, rape, and war. However, legalized sex work has already been proven to “decrease” violent crime in areas where they are legalized and properly regulated. Again “decrease” violent crime = positive step in the right direction. Just understand that you yourself are demonstrating bias by discarding research which disproves your assumptions simply because you believe it’s biased.

          And what’s this nonsense about sex work making problems for “other” people you speak of? I’m very curious to see you attempt to debate on how the harm done to “other” people from legalized sex work weighs in comparison to the harm that is done and will be done to the working conditions of sex workers/escorts by making sex work illegal.

          The freedom to legally conduct business within this industry along with the civil liberties that are enjoyed by sex workers and their patrons should not be sacrificed or condemned just to simply appease the discomfort you and “others” may experience when sex workers happen to occupy your field of vision. That’s selfish of you to believe and despicable of you to even suggest.

          Go do yourself a favor: Just end your day having “spiritual” sex with your wife and leave the rest of us “mechanical” sex addicts to our own devices.

        • Kevin, if you have the time and patience to read all of georgefinnegan’s comments, you may realise where he’s coming from.. I don’t want to make bold assumptions but since he once made the assumption that I’m myself a sex worker, which I’m not, I will make an assumption about him: He mentioned once at least that he’s had interaction with a sex worker (just talking and flirting) which made me think that his attitude towards sex work is based on an internal conflict – a desire to engage in sex with one but at the same time a conscious decision not to cheat on his wife. So I get the feeling that his opinion is something like “sex workers should not exist because they tempt me” (he has also expressed in his comments his strong disapproval of sex workers because they sleep with married men – another evidence to my assumption). If this is the case, then you can’t expect a change in his attitude, regardless of the arguments you provide.

          As a gay man I find george’s attitude very similar to that of homophobes – in the same way men who have repressed homosexual desires are the most vocal opponents of LGBT rights and everyone knows this. Similarly, with sex work, men who oppose sex work are often ones who either visit sex workers and are afraid of being found out, or ones who are afraid they would be (wrongfully) perceived as punters.

          And both george and Thomas, again, your comments could well be translated to homosexuality and they both sound homophobic: “I can’t believe how much this seems to be accepted in this world. This is a disgusting thing, and shouldn’t be allowed in any country.” –> this is exactly what religious fanatics are saying about homosexuality!

          “There’s always a part of the population that wants everyone to think what they do is normal and OK. They’re blind to the harm that it causes because they become inured to what they do. They’re so wrapped up in pursuing their pleasures that they don’t realize that they’re causing problems for everyone else.” –> this is exactly what religious fanatics and biggots are saying about homosexuality!

          And we live in the 21st century, wake up and smell the coffee people – everyone should have the right to do what they want with their lives and with their bodies, it’s no time to be homophobic or deny people their choices!

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