Delegation from Liège studying the prostitution situation in Berlin, Nov 2007

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Introduction: Efus accompanied a delegation from the city of Liège which is interested in the current situation of prostitution in Berlin, and particularly in new developments since the legalisation of prostitution in Germany a few years ago. The delegation tried to study as closely as possible a legal prostitution centre in Berlin (Artemis). Efus welcomed this delegation and participated in meetings with the judicial police (Landeskriminalamt – LKA). Directed by Mr Serge Montovani and organised by Mr Ovart (manager of public nuisances), this delegation consisted of representatives of local politics, the Liège Public Prosecutor’s Office, the local police force and the national police.  A delegation from Liège had already visited the cities of Anvers and Cologne, in the same interest of reorganising prostitution in Liège. Roughly speaking, the local situation in Liège has been characterised by a large number of illegal immigrants since 2001, and has been aggravated by the closing of around 50% of the prostitution windows in one district, above all due to the insalubrious conditions. This has made controlling prostitution in Liège more difficult and the city is considering different options to reorganise this sector.

The background of prostitution in Berlin: prostitution has been legal in Germany since the paragraph describing it as being “against good morality” (Sittenwidrigkeit) was abolished and a new prostitution law adopted in 2005. The precedent for the latter was a decision by the Court of First Instance in a similar case in 2001/2002 (the Felicitas Weigmann case, a prostitute who had brought charges against the law, arguing that she worked independently in a job like any other).  On the other hand, prostitution of minors (under 18 years of age, special protection mechanisms are in place up to 21 years of age) and any form of exploitation, be it sexual or for work (exaggerated rent, forced labour, etc), remains illegal.  Furthermore, there are crimes linked to prostitution such as illegal immigration, tax evasion and paedophilia.
The results of the new law are neither negative nor positive. In reality, the law hasn’t greatly changed the prostitutes’ situation (many prefer working illegally; few women are registered with GPs, the Inland Revenue or with the health authorities).
In Berlin, three are three types of prostitution: street prostitution, escort services, and bars/brothels. There are around 6,000-8,000 prostitutes in Berlin (where there is a population of 3.5 million) and the police estimate that the number of brothels or places where prostitution regularly occurs is over 600.  This situation is a consequence of the falling of the Wall in the sense that the city changed suddenly from a relatively protected situation (where it was very difficult for illegal immigrants, criminals and others to access the city, the prostitutes were nearly all German, the police had a lot of control) to a situation characterised by being open to eastern countries, to trafficking, to foreign prostitutes and therefore to illegal immigrants.
With prostitution legalised, the police have had to form a completely new and creative approach, as well as make the public aware (as it has had to do before with the issue of trafficking human beings).
The LKA’s brigade against the trafficking of human beings is the largest in Germany, with around 120 police officers organised in seven brigades (“Dezernat”), of which four are specialised in sexual exploitation (forced prostitution), one brigade is specialised in child exploitation and trafficking, and two units are specialised in forced labour cases. There is also an operational unit (telephone surveillance etc.) and a strategic analysis unit. German law recognises the Palermo Protocol (i.e. that exploitation for work has been considered a crime since 2005).
The police recognise the enormous difficulties of detecting exploitation and forged papers. This follows on from the inability of the judicial police to systematically monitor places of prostitution in Berlin (one place could possibly be monitored once or twice a year).
Another difficulty for the German police, and even more so for the Berlin Public Prosecutor, concerns witnesses. Normally, women do not want to cooperate with the police, and above all, they do not want to give information as they fear reprisals against their families in their countries of origin. Therefore the best way for trials to succeed is to be based on technical evidence such as recorded phone calls etc. The Public Prosecutor has had positive experiences with trials based on technical evidence, and negative experiences with trials based on information coming from the women themselves (witnesses). 90% of cases concern 1-2 people (normally a prostitute accusing a man of exploitation, swindling, fraud, theft, etc.); less than 10% of cases include more people.
Cooperation between the courts and police is traditionally excellent with regards to prostitution; there is daily, direct, personal and effective cooperation between the two.
The police and the courts work very well with the associations and NGOs which are involved with women, helping victims of crime, and health, as part of an official agreement and excellent personal contacts between the police and NGOs.  There is an emergency number (BIG Hotline) and specialist NGOs, which deal, for example, with Asian women (Ban Ying) or domestic violence (Bora).

The Artemis Centre: The Artemis Centre is a building with four floors, in the style of a hotel, but really a brothel with a “wellbeing” area.  There is a reception with ticket and condom distributors, cubicles to get changed and shower, lockers for valuables, and a bar in the classic brothel style (where many lap dancers perform etc.). Upstairs there are 40 rooms available for sexual services, and right at the top of the building there are rooms for the women who live their permanently.  According to police information, Artemis is run by two brothers with German nationality and of Kurdish origin, who have invested around €5 million (£3.5 million), which officially came from their considerable success with a chain of gaming bars (Spielstätten – around €1 million) and from bank loans.  One of the city’s main conditions prior to permission being granted was that the location of Artemis was in an appropriate area – it is located in a former industrial area, next to the motorway and far away from residential areas.  After a difficult phase at the beginning, according to the police, the business is now working well. Entry costs €70 (£50) a day for everyone (including the prostitutes), which includes access to the centre and the bar, the swimming pool, the saunas, a room upstairs, and the use of an unlimited buffet, towels, and a bath robe.  Alcohol drinks can be bought but drunken people are not tolerated. Artemis is open from 11 o’clock until 5 o’clock in the morning everyday (two sessions of 11:00-20:00 and 20:00-5:00).
All sexual services are directly negotiated between the women and their customers. 40 bedrooms in different styles are available upstairs. Artemis does not employ prostitutes; the women are considered like any other visitor and are free to do what they want. That also means that they keep 100% of what they earn from sexual services.
Artemis employs a technical staff of about 50 people (mostly cleaners, people to maintain the swimming pool and the heating system, kitchen staff, and security). According to the police, the women who work there as prostitutes are different, very beautiful and well kept, and give the impression of being very happy, as Artemis offers them safe, clean and pleasant working conditions compared with street prostitution or a brothel (Wohnungsbordelle), which are characterised by a lot of violence and pressure from the pimps. Artemis is a legal enterprise which complies with all the conditions for an economic activity in Germany (Gewerbeerlaubnis, Gesundheitsamt, Bauaufsicht, etc.). Every woman who wants to work there as a prostitute needs to register in the office with valid ID, a residency permit (if foreign), regular health check-ups (either by the centre’s medical service or by another doctor), and a signed declaration stating that they are working as prostitutes voluntarily. German police regularly receive photocopies of documents from prostitutes (“for information”) which are posted to them directly from the Director of Artemis, who is very cooperative with the German police and Inland Revenue.
Prostitutes’ earnings are taxed in Germany, and the “Düsseldorf model” has been applied, which as a pragmatic system is considered by the police to be a positive example. Developed in 2005 in Düsseldorf by bringing together all the major partners around the same table, this system gives prostitutes two options: either they declare all of their earnings like someone who is self-employed (in which case they will receive a tax number), or each woman pays a fixed sum of €30 for each working day, with this sum collected by the Artemis management and transferred directly to the German Inland Revenue (with each woman retaining anonymity). Few women opt for the first option, both as this works out more expensive for them and because they fear being “outed” (they do not want their husbands, families or neighbours to be aware of their work).

Analysis: according to the police and the Berlin Public Prosecutor, a centre such as Artemis has the advantage that prostitution no longer occurs in “crime-linked” conditions (Begleitkriminalität – i.e. forced labour, violence, pressure, blackmail, arms dealing, trafficking and drug use, etc.), but Artemis has not being around long enough to confirm this impression. So far, there have been no charges brought against the management or the employees, nor the prostitutes who work there. The women who work at Artemis represent the “middle class” of Berlin prostitutes. The police are quite happy with the current situation, but don’t want to see other centres open in Berlin’s residential districts. According to the delegation from Liège, a similar centre could not exist in Belgium due to the differences in the law (it is illegal to promote or provide prostitution services).