European & International News

Germany: Abolition 2014 denounces the lobby of the sex industry towards the federal government

Press release on the hearing of 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)

On 12 June 2014, the BMFSFJ held a hearing on the planned reform of the prostitution law in order to
gain a "comprehensive picture" on the subject. The hearing was held behind closed doors. Already in
advance, the public had been left in the dark about whom the Federal Ministry had asked and invited as
experts to give their opinions. (2)

Before the German Government goes into the summer break, we believe it is important to lift the veil of
secrecy that is obviously desired by the responsible Ministry in order to conceal what interests play a role
in preparing the reform of the Prostitution Act.

"We" - that is, a group of women from all over Germany, from different parties, professions and backgrounds.
We cooperate with international abolitionist organizations, scientists, counseling services and
prostitution survivors, and we are committed to provide the public with in-depth information on the

Fact is:

Lobbyists are trying hard to influence the revision of the Prostitution Act according their own

Who were the experts that were invited to the hearing by the Ministry, and who were asked to give an
opinion? The BMFSFJ report reveals that neither petitions and initiatives critical of prostitution were taken
into account, nor were the voices of exited women or survivors of prostitution heard.

Instead, relevant 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 and criminogenic area.

As "stakeholders" not only of the "entrepreneurs of the prostitution and erotic industry", but at
the same time of the "sex workers" (panel 2) were exclusively heard:

  • The "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 negotiations to convene an interdisciplinary round table "to develop a package of laws which
    includes the regulation of prostitution and prostitution sites, with the participation of those working in this
    industry, free from speculation and manipulative influence by the media" (4).
  • The "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 pimping. (6)
  • The "Berufsverband erotische und Sexuelle Dienstleistungen e.V." (BesD) [professional erotic and
    sexual services association]: 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. However, it does NOT represent the
    estimated 400,000 prostitutes in Germany who ar working 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 escorts and dominatrices, some of whom being
    themselves operators or pimps. Among other things, the BesD promotes "flatrate and gangbang sex - in
    order to guarantee a variety of jobs" (7).
  • The lobby-friendly lawyer Margarete von Galen. (8)

A "comprehensive picture"?

None of the panels took into account the statements of well-known critics of the sex industry - neither the
panel representing counseling centers (none of those invited have serious exit programs), nor that of the
police, nor the panel for human trafficking and the "socially relevant alliances".

At best, moderate 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, the supporters of the claims of the
BesD and BSD had a say, such as the senior representatives of the German Women’s Council.

No experts criticizing the legalization of prostitution were invited to the hearing

Specifically missing:

  • The German NGO "SOLWODI" [SOLidarity with WOmen in DIstress] that addressed the Federal
    Government before the elections with their petition [pun intended]: "No more hustle! - No woman 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 warning against the
    consequences of the Prostitution Act from 2002. And with them, the voices of over 12,000 citizens were
    ignored who had 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 educates about 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"; and police experts such as Manfred
    Paulus, Helmut Sporer, Uwe Dörnhöfer and others.
  • Also no experts were heard from abroad or from the European Women’s Lobby, whose application for
    an adoption of the Nordic model as a resolution for the Member States was accepted in late February
    with a clear majority in the European Parliament.
  • Ignored was also a large-scale study, published last year, that shows the relation between legalization
    and human trafficking. (12)

The BMFSFJ thus make itself the accomplice of relevant lobbyists!

The Federal Republic of Germany is obliged to arrange for the disposal of disadvantages for women
(Art.III, paragraph 2 GG). Likewise, it is the State’s obligation to protect its citizens from violence,
regardless of which country they come from. However, continuing and facilitating the "business model
prostitution" promotes the exact opposite!

We expect that the Family Ministry will propose effective measures against trafficking and for the
protection of - especially young - women in difficult material circumstances, instead of supporting the
lobby groups of the sex industry.

We expect that for the Federal Government the rights of women against exploitation are more important
than legitimizing a "man’s right" and more necessary than the local revenues through the taxation of
women, but also men and trans people in prostitution.

We call for:

Abolition 2014 advocates for a legislation modeled after the "Swedish (resp. Nordic) model", adopted also
by the EU as a directive for the member states.
The Swedish (Nordic) model aims at limiting the demand for prostitution and at bringing about a change
of perspective: not the prostitutes, but the buyers of sex, the pimps and the brothel owners must be
targeted by the legislation.

The Swedish (Nordic) model includes:

  • - an effective and long-term support of people who want to exit prostitution;
  • - health care and other support (debt counseling, therapy ...) independant of an exit request;
  • - 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 on the operating of brothels and on 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 Family Ministry will step back from the legal restrictions of the sex
industry, announced in the coalition agreement, and from the protection options for prostitutes and that it
will also 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

(5) Sex als Arbeit: Prostitution als Tätigkeit im Sinne des Arbeitsrechts Bernhard Pichler; disserta Verlag; 2013; Seite 164

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