The future of sex work laws in Germany (and the Netherlands)


Thursday April 14th
Center for Sex and Culture
1349 Mission Street, between 9th and 10th Streets
San Francisco, CA
*donations gratefully accepted*

NOTE: This event is not sponsored by SWOP Bay nor does SWOP Bay have any direct involvement.

In the past years, Germany continues to be mobilized in anti-sex work campaigns as an example that supposedly failed in both improving the situation of sex workers, but also in “ending” human trafficking. Especially during the campaign against Amnesty International’s push to adopt a policy towards decriminalization, Germany was once again used to oppose the decriminalization of sex work as a legitimate political demand. Not only anti-sex work activists, but also many sex workers seem to reject the German laws.

During this talk, I would like to speak about German laws on sex work, which are more complicated and contradictory than often assumed. I would also like to speak about the historical trajectory of sex work laws, since that is what I have worked on as a historian. I will show how the push to reform German prostitution law is actually a step back to regulations that, in one way or another, were implemented as early as the 18th century and peaked in the late 19th century: Mandatory registration (with the police), a so-called “Whore ID”, licensing of brothels (from 2 persons up), abolition of basic rights of the human rights of the inviolability of the home for sex workers working from home.

The law will, of course, criminalize non-registered sex workers. But it also has the goal to deter sex workers from sex work through forced registration. By overregulating sex work, the law wants to reduce sex work in a move that will bring Germany “a step closer to abolition”…It is very likely that there is long term plan here, to then completely criminalize sex work in 10-15 years. Anti-sex work activists have gotten really strategic about this.

I will speak about the plans for the new law, of which a draft will be debated in parliament sometime in the next months. Beyond the goal of information, I also hope to be able to encourage organizations and interested activists to send letters of protest to the German ministry or some MPs in charge of the law.

Last but not least, I would like to speak about how, in the context of the policy making process of this law, the idea of “sex work as work” (possibly, work like any other) has been used and twisted against sex workers and their demands.

Beyond my (rather informal) talk, I envision this as an opportunity to discuss about what is happening politically in various places right now around sex work laws (France is probably going to pass the “Swedish Model” this week), how we can stop and deflect anti-sex work activism and …well, what’s the future?

About myself (Sonja Dolinsek):
I am a doctoral student in Germany and I am doing a historical PhD on the history of the “transnational politics of sexual labour after 1945”. I look at the UN and what they did (I am happy to tell you what country introduced the idea that prostitution is against human dignity in the 1949 Convention against Traffic in Persons). I look at NGOs and researchers who worked at, with or against the UN to address sexual labour as either violence or labour at various points in time. Among other things, I have also consulted the COYOTE archives at Harvard.

I have been engaged in activism to spread sex workers’ rights and, especially in Germany, to dispel myths surrounding trafficking since 2011. Especially since the last election in 2013, I have been working with sex workers in and outside of organizations (BesD and Hydra) and supported their fight against the ever increasing attempts to introduce more repressive laws. I try to keep the topic visible in Germany on twitter and within feminist, academic and leftist circles, but also through my online writing. I am a member of ICRSE (International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe)

*Photo Credit: Hydra E.V.

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