Legal prostitution in Germany: A failure?

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More than two decades after prostitution was legalised in Germany, the issue is once again sparking debate. The conservative opposition in parliament is campaigning to reform the 2002 law that made sex work legal. Former chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU party claims that the goal of improving the situation of sex workers and curbing human trafficking has not been achieved – rather the reverse. According to several studies, the overwhelming majority of women working in prostitution in Germany are in fact under the control of a pimp. Our correspondent Anne Mailliet reports.

In just over 20 years, Germany has become an El Dorado for sex tourism. People come from all over the world to visit Hamburg’s brothels and take advantage of perfectly legal “services”.

The law on the legalisation of prostitution, passed in 2002 by the Social Democrats and the Greens, aimed to provide security, protection and autonomy for sex workers by giving them a professional status. But this law also decriminalised pimping by creating the status of “sex entrepreneur”. As a result, this lucrative business is still largely dominated by organised crime.

Officially, the country counts 2,310 establishments offering sexual services, while some 28,280 prostitutes are registered, according to the federal statistics office Destatis. But the number of unregistered sex workers is believed to be much higher. Various organisations estimate that between 200,000 and 400,000 people work in this lucrative sector. According to several studies, 90 percent of them are victims of human trafficking.

Read moreProstitution continues in Germany, despite Covid-19

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