German Cabinet OKs Sex Worker Bill Requiring Condom Use

German Cabinet OKs Sex Worker Bill Requiring Condom Use
Rhett Pardon

BERLIN — Germany's Cabinet today gave the green light for mandatory condoms for sex workers.

The new bill, which would require sex workers to register with the federal government, also places stricter regulation for brothels and requires official permits for operators, who will be screened for certain convictions. Those who have a history of fraud, blackmail or smuggling won’t be able to qualify for permits.

Sex workers, with the proposed bill, also must receive health advice at least every two years, and brothel operators will be forbidden from giving them orders on the "the nature and scale of sexual services."

The new bill, slated to be placed into law by July 2017, now moves forward in Germany’s Legislature and requires parliamentary approval for it to become law.

Violators could be assessed fines of up to €50,000, or $56,000, according to the proposal.

Cornelia Moehring, a senior lawmaker with the opposition Left Party, told the Associated Press that many sex workers will balk at registering because of the fear of social stigma — "so they will continue working illegally and really lose any protection. Obligatory condom use can't be checked and is a pure illusion.”

Hydra e.V., Germany's first sex workers’ association based in Berlin, earlier this month called the piece of legislation as one about “controlling us not protecting us.”

“It would minimize our already scarce chances of finding another job, if we want, or drive us into illegality if we chose not to register for these very reasons,” the group said. “Moreover, we are sure that enforced counselling and registration would not present us with the perfect environment for reporting situations of abuse or exploitation. Finally, the legal enforcement of a practice within the realm of sex, however advisable, would affect our right to sexual self-determination over our own bodies.

“Although not in force yet, we have noticed a growing panic around this threatening new law. Many are unsure of its precise stipulations and are scared of its consequences,” the group said. “The vast majority of us refuse the mere idea of ever getting registered. Sex workers are getting more and more suspicious of authorities and institutions, insecure about their future livelihood, and angry.

“Our conviction is that sex workers know best what would improve their lives.”