Germany is the Capital of Sex Work in Europe

Sex work. I found myself watching a DW documentary “Exploiting the poor – sex work in Europe”, which threw me back to a Telegraph feature “Welcome to Paradise” that I read sometime back. Legalization of sex work is often touted as progressive advancement within the sexual liberation literature, as an aspect of choice, a desired pursuit of dreams and economic empowerment, with Europe’s policies being elevated, but the data and documentaries point to a rather unsettling situation.

The feature and documentary detail where the prostitutes/sex workers come from and where they end up. In general, some women are kidnapped, others are tricked with the promise of jobs as nannies and waitresses, and others choose to go work as prostitutes but usually have no idea of what is awaiting them. Sometimes it’s the families who pressure girls into prostitution in the first place – unable, or unwilling, to think of another way for a woman to earn a living.

This is how it works. The market is controlled by mafia-like sex-trafficking rings and pimps, that manipulate and hoodwink young girls in poor European countries with the promise of gold and honey in rich European capitals. Once they get there, as the story goes, their passports are taken away, they are given fake identities and herded, either on the streets to be picked up by men seeking sex or perform in brothels.

Prostitutes/sex workers flow from poor Eastern European countries to rich Western European countries. In these poor countries, where sex work is often illegal, there is a narrative pushed to women and girls that sex work is legal and well paid in the capitals of Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and France. This narrative makes it easier to either go by themselves or make it easier to be easily convinced by pimps about the earning opportunities, that there is demand for their services and opportunity to carry them out.

The result: “60% of sex workers in Europe come from Romania and Bulgaria. And nearly half of them are minors.” The age of consent is 14 years in Bulgaria and 15 years in Bulgaria. So you are looking at children way below 15 heading to rich Western European capitals for sex work. These are the kids pimp line up on the streets. The number of prostitutes across the European Union’s 28 members states ranges between 700,000 and as many as 1.2 million .

Germany has become a “center for the sexual exploitation of young women from Eastern Europe, as well as a sphere of activity for organized crime groups from around the world” and “the selling of young women into sexual slavery has become one growing criminal enterprises in the European Union.”

A 2009 study by TAMPEP showed that 63% of the sex workers in Germany were foreigners, with two thirds of them coming from Central and Eastern Europe.

“People think Amsterdam is the prostitution capital of Europe but Germany has more prostitutes per capita than any other country in the continent, more even than Thailand: 400,000 at the last count, serving 1.2 million men every day. Those figures were released a decade ago.”

The Telegraph carried a feature sometime back, “Welcome to Paradise” – a mega brothel in Stuttgart, one of the many that look like “a Sultan’s palace crossed with a Premier Inn, then wedge it between anonymous office blocks on an endless industrial park.” “Paradise is a chain, like Primark or Pizza Hut, with five branches and three more on the way. So business is booming.”

“Prostitution was legalised “for the government to make a lot of money,” Beretin says.

Germany makes good money from the industry. The industry is estimated to be worth $16.3 billion, according to Germany’s Federal Statistics Office .

For context: Germany collected slightly more money from sex workers alone than what the Kenya Revenue Authority collected from all Kenyans in 2019 (1.607 Trillion, approx. USD 16.07 billion).

“In 2016, the government adopted a new law, the Prostitutes Protection Act, in an effort to improve the legal situation of sex workers.” But these laws are impotent. They don’t protect the poor foreigners.

The mistreatment in brothels is extreme, sometimes women are forced to have sex up to 40 times a day. The clients pay USD 50 dollars for a session, but the women are only paid USD 200-300 per month. They’re also moved regularly from capital to capital depending on demand.

In good establishments like Paradise or Pascha, their core business is renting the rooms to sex workers. At Pascha, women pay 175 euros for 24 hours’ use of a room, meaning at the prevailing rates, they will need to sleep with at least four men to break even.

To tackle the problem, that is, reduce the influx of poor women from Eastern Europe, there are German organizations going every year to Bulgaria and Romania to carry out education and awareness campaigns targeting young girls to tell them that the narrative of sex work being a gold mine in Western Europe is a lie, and shouldn’t be their aspiration. They are pushing their governments to be more responsive in tackling the problem of women poverty.

So many layers. Just shows you how parroting some liberal buzzwords hides a bigger story.

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