Feminists confront sex work laws

NZ Herald 7 December 2013
On Berlin’s Kurfurstenstrasse, they are out in force – women in their late teens to late 40s, some of them perhaps older but dressed to look younger. Many are wearing puffer jackets and tight-fitting jeans under their miniskirts.

A shiny grey BMW stops and the driver winds down its window. One of the women steps up on the passenger side. There’s a brief exchange of words – five or six syllables, not more – and the car is driven off again. A few minutes later the same woman walks towards the LSD (Love, Sex & Dreams) adult entertainment store on the corner with Potsdamer Strasse, a client in tow. A girl on her way home from school skips down the road in the other direction.

Scenes like this can probably be seen in most large cities around the world. What is unusual about Germany is that prostitution there has been legal since the Social Democrat (SPD)-Green coalition Government changed the law in 2002.

The aim of that change was, as SPD politician Anni Brandt-Elsweiler put it at the time, “to improve the situation of prostitutes by giving more power back into their own hands, by strengthening their self-confidence and their legal position when dealing with clients and pimps”.

In Berlin, political support for the law change remains strong. This year, SPD and Green city councillors compiled a little booklet that they distributed among Kurfurstenstrasse residents, pleading for tolerance and understanding for the sex trade in their midst.