European & International News

Germany - "Prostitution and human trafficking cannot be separated"

[Original article in German here, EMMA Magazine, 18 August 2014] Manfred Paulus knows the red light milieu very well. For more than 30 years, he was in charge of prostitution and trafficking in women as head of a criminal inspection unit in Ulm. Even before his retirement, the EU sent him as an expert into the "recruitment countries" of the women who end up in German brothels, model apartments and walking the streets. Paulus researched from Belarus to Romania the paths used to bring sold women to Germany. The interview was originally published in German. The international feminist network Ressources Prostitution translated it on their webpage.

The SPD emphasizes that one must distinguish between prostitution and human trafficking.

In Germany we now have up to 100 percent of women imported from abroad for prostitution. It should be clear that a Belarusian woman from the Chernobyl area or a Roma from the ghetto in Romania can never make her way alone to Germany to work in prostitution. They have no money, no reference persons, no contact point. The women are trafficked into the country, and in this sector, highly criminal structures have developed. Organized crime is controlling the business. The demanded distinction [between prostitution and human trafficking] gives reason for fearing the worst.

But how do you explain such unrealistic assessments?

There are obviously people involved who are not at all or too little informed about the milieu, and who, consciously or not, give in to the myth of "clean" prostitution, whispered to them by the lobbyists. This seems to have already been the case in 2001, when the SPD and the Greens wrote the current prostitution legislation. For example, the law explicitly gave "directive powers" to brothel operators. We are probably the only country in the world that explicitly gives brothel operators the right to decide for women.

The SPD has recently organized a hearing of experts where guests included the "Association of erotic trade entrepreneurs in Germany", as well as the "Professional association for erotic and sexual services". Although it does not even represent one percent of the prostitutes, this lobby constantly declares that the vast majority of prostitutes work "voluntarily" and that forced prostitution is a "marginal phenomenon".

I share the view of many colleagues that 98 percent of the women who prostitute themselves in Germany are other-directed. There is only one place where I meet voluntary prostitutes: in talk shows. There, after 30 years of working in the milieu, I saw for the first time women who since their youth had nothing else in mind but to make men happy in this manner – and that out of conviction – and who had never seen a pimp. But "voluntary" is just a magic word. If prostitution takes place voluntarily, then the brothel operator, the bar owner and the john no longer have a problem. And then the police, judiciary and political systems are helpless. That is why many people really love this word. But the truth is quite different. Speaking of voluntariness is frankly, to my mind, quite cynical.

What should then be included in a new prostitution law?

It is very important that "directive powers" be abolished and that prostitution be only allowed as an independent activity. It is also essential that prostitution may not be exercised under the age of 21, because most of the victims are under that age. A mandatory registration and deregistration of the prostitutes is important and so is reintroducing health examination. Free access of police officers to the brothels must be reinstated. Basically, all the demands submitted by the CDU/CSU should be included in the law. To settle for a licensing requirement for brothels and to a few small regulations would in no way be sufficient. That would be even counterproductive.

Because the brothel owners would then have a kind of state certification?

Exactly. Today we have noble brothels, decorated in marble and stainless steel. This does not exclude that pimps are hiding behind this facade, and behind them some mysterious company such as "GmbH & Co. KG". And if we look behind this letter-box company, we might discover Albanian clans, the so-called Russian mafia or the Hells Angels. And then we are dealing with organized crime controlling everything. In order to bring down these structures, it is not enough to call for registration of the brothel owner, who might be only a straw man, and then everything is fine. It must not happen that the reform results in another patchwork which again will only serve those who profit from prostitution.

You write in your book that abroad people shake their heads in disbelief about the German legislation.

I recently had to do with the chief prosecutor in Palermo, who is fighting the mafia in Italy. He was stunned and asked me, "Do you really not notice what is happening in your country? Are you still not willing to create other laws?" In Romania and Bulgaria, I hear the same thing. I think that pressure on Germany from the women’s countries of origin will increase. In all these countries, what happens to women in our country is well-known. And there is much despise at our not taking any effective measures to prevent this. What we call freedom here is a total lack of freedom for countless women – this is sex slavery.

In its "Lagebild Menschenhandel" (Annual report on trafficking in human beings), the Bundeskriminalamt (BKA, Federal Criminal Police Office) reports approximately 700 cases every year. This is cited as evidence that the problem is not too big in Germany.

For me this is not a "report", but rather the documentation of policy failure! We have in our country hundreds of thousands of women exposed to a milieu which is in parts highly criminal. The fact that only 500 or 700 trafficking cases are reported annually to the BKA attests to the existence of a gigantic blind spot / underground world. First of all, the offense of trafficking is defined in a highly complicated manner, and the hurdles to proving it are quite high. The second problem lies with the judicial processes: the red light milieu has succeeded like no other to stall application of the law in court. For example, milieu lawyers file evidence motions that lead to Belarus, the Ukraine or to Absurdistan. So the courts are eventually forced into settlements – in favor of offenders and to the chagrin of victims and investigators. And in the end, we see a popping of champagne corks in the courtroom. So it is no surprise that the few women who dare to testify withdraw their statements in the course of such processes.

Germany has not yet implemented the 2011 EU directive to combat human trafficking.

This shows that in this country one continues to attach far too little importance to this (organized) crime. Is it still possible to reverse this at all? We will not change it overnight, because in the prostitution milieu the organized crime is sitting very firmly in the saddle. But in the short term, we can at least prevent further growth, if we no longer make our prostitution law so offender-friendly. Because we have prepared the ground for perpetrators with the 2002 law. With the freedoms they enjoy in this country, we have practically lured them to Germany. It has got around everywhere how easy it is to operate a business with sold women in Germany. And if we now turn back those freedoms 180 degrees for the perpetrators, this too will get around.

So what must happen now in your opinion?

The grand coalition must not yield to a few lobbyists! We will have to live a long time with the new prostitution law. And if now again compromises are made, traffickers from Odessa to Bucharest will rub their hands with glee.

Manfred Paulus is the author of the recently published book "Organisierte Kriminalität Menschenhandel. Tatort Deutschland: Frauenhandel, Kinderhandel, Zwangsprostitution, Organhandel, Handel von Arbeitskräften" (engl.: Organized crime – Human Trafficking in Germany: Trafficking in women, child trafficking, forced prostitution, organ trafficking, trafficking in labor), Klemm + Oelschläger

Translation: Ressources Prostitution.

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