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Congressman Accuses Germany of "Complicity in Promoting Sex Trafficking" (UPDATE)

Congressman Christopher Smith, chairman of the human rights subcommittee, held a hearing to investigate Germany's World Cup Brothels, because "40,000 women and children [are] at risk of exploitation through trafficking":
An estimated 3 million fans from around the world will attend the games, and vast numbers of them are expected to buy sex as a form of entertainment. As many as 40,000 additional women are expected to be added to the approximately 400,000 women in Germany’s sex industry. Germans are accommodating the trade in women by facilitating the construction of mega-brothels and "sex huts," and cities hosting the games will issue special permits for street prostitution, creating a virtual partnership with brothel owners, pimps and traffickers.
 
Representative Smith does not specify the "children at risk" and the "vast numbers" of soccer fans who are expected to buy sex during the World Cup
from June 9-July 9.

The spokesperson of the Sozialdienstes katholischer Frauen in Köln said those "sex huts" have existed for five years and protect prostitutes against violence and drugs and help them to leave the business.

The U.S. and the German approach towards prostitution are fundamentally different. The Congressman considers not only sex trafficking, but also the legalization of prostitution in Germany outragous.  The legalization supporters believe that criminalizing of prostitution would increase underground prostitution with even more severe abuses of the prostitutes, while legalization gives at least some protection (legal protection against non-paying customers, health care, social security, unions). Wikipedia has a lot of info and links about Prostitution in Germany.   NYT Columnist Nicholas Kristof considers the issue of the legalization of prostitution not that important. The real issue is sex trafficking. He praises President Bush for making a "historic contribution: he is devoting much more money and attention to human trafficking than his predecessors." (Access to column only for subscribers.)
 
According to the Guardian,
Representative Smith accused the German government of "facilitating prostitution":
Brothels in Germany, where prostitution is legal, are expecting a big increase in trade during the World Cup and concerns have been raised that vulnerable women could be forced into prostitution to meet the expected demand. "It is an outrage that the German government is currently facilitating prostitution and we believe women who will be exploited will be treated as commodities," Smith, a Republican, said in a statement. President Bush has very strong views on this issue and will make them known to the German chancellor, who will be asked to step up for women who are about to be exploited.
It is not known, whether President Bush did indeed bring up this issue during Chancellor Merkel's recent visit. President Bush certainly did not mention it in his press conference with Merkel or in his interviews with German TV and a tabloid, which were all full of praise and free of any criticism of Germany. While Angela Merkel told President Bush on her first visit as chancellor in January that Guantanamo should be closed, President Bush did not publicly tell Merkel that the "World Cup Brothels" should be closed.

 
Chairman Smith told the Congress hearing (pdf):
I was joined by other European parliamentarians who were sobered by the expectation that, especially since the matches are being held in Germany which legalized pimping and prostitution in 2001, the World Cup fans would be legally free to rape women in brothels or even in mobile units designed specifically for this form of exploitation. Of the approximately 400,000 prostitutes in Germany, it is estimated that 75 percent of those who are abused in these houses of prostitution are foreigners, many from Central and
Eastern Europe. (...)
According to the BKA (the German Federal Criminal Investigation Office) annual report in 2001, an inquiry of 414 trafficked women revealed that 45% were forced into prostitution through violence, torture, rape or intimidation. Research conducted by Melissa Farley at Prostitution Research & Education found that 71% of women surveyed were physically assaulted while engaged in prostitution and 89% wanted to escape prostitution.
I am aware that the German Government is supporting public awareness efforts regarding trafficking for forced prostitution in the context of the World Cup. This is a somewhat absurd effort given that the infrastructure of legalized prostitution allowed in Germany is gearing up to expand its capacity during the World Cup and there is every reason to believe that the "new recruits" into prostitution will be trafficked women and girls. I see this as flagrant state complicity in promoting sex trafficking. (...)
I look forward to hearing the perspective of the witnesses today. I hope that the German Government is listening, too.
The written testimonies and a video of the hearing are available here (filed under May 4, 2006). I don't know if the German government was indeed listening. I did not find a public response.

There was not much German media coverage of Representative Smith's charges of human rights violations, let alone a significant public debate. Most papers just printed a short wire report. The Hamburger Morgenpost, the leftist tageszeitung, and the conservative Welt and others wrote a bit more.
Alleged CIA rendition flights and other alleged U.S. human rights abuses appear to be more popular topics in the German media than sex trafficking.
 

There was, however, significant coverage in the United States, for example in the Charlotte Observer:
"The sad and disturbing news is that the German government currently is facilitating prostitution," Smith said at a Capitol Hill news conference. "There will be a very significant influx of trafficked women who will be exploited. They will be raped as a direct result of their having been trafficked into Germany for the World Cup event."
Prostitution was legalized in designated areas in Germany as of 2002. About 400,000 people are registered as full- or part-time employees in the sex trade; bordellos are regulated and the prostitutes pay taxes and are entitled to government benefits.
In anticipation of the World Cup, scheduled June 9-July 9, cities where the games will be played plan to provide special licenses for additional sex workers. Some have been planning temporary "sex huts" to accommodate the increased demand from patrons, and in Berlin, sponsors are being sought to distribute some 100,000 condoms near the soccer stadium. (...)
At the Washington news conference, Barrett Duke of the Southern Baptist Convention said the decision by German authorities to accommodate rather than clamp down on the pimps, johns and prostitutes is "immoral and reprehensible" and represents a "total disregard for the young girls and women whose lives are stolen from them." (...)
Martina Nibbeling-Wriessnig, a spokeswoman for the German Embassy in Washington, said prostitution was legalized in Germany so women could get medical screening and have legal remedies if they are abused. She said there may be foreign women coming into the country for the World Cup, but suggested that estimates of 40,000 new arrivals reported are nonsense.

 
RELATED: 
Bret Stephens, member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board, writes in the WSJ about arranged marriages:
They are called Die Fremden Bräute--the foreign brides. This year, thousands of teenage girls, very few past the age of consent, will arrive in Germany from Turkey for arranged marriages and lives of domestic servitude enforced by tradition, isolation and fear. It's a thriving one-way trade that has been going on for more than three decades, and it sits at the core of Europe's greatest predicament today: the widening gulf between an increasingly postmodern society and its often premodern immigrants.

UPDATE: The Knight Ridder Wire (via Blognjus) reports:
Stopping human trafficking was one of the reasons that Germany legalized prostitution. The logic was that by legitimizing the trade, it would become safer and healthier. But a United Nations report on human trafficking released last month still rated Germany "very high" as a destination for women forced into sex work, and some of those who supported legalization are reconsidering.
"I was with my party, the Greens, when we pushed for legalization," said Hiltrud Breyer, a German member of the European Parliament. "We really believed it would bring the profession out of the shadows and improve lives. I'm rethinking that position."
In Germany, as in the rest of the world, prostitution is big business, with annual revenues estimated at 14.5 billion euro, or $18 billion - slightly more than those of Karstadt, the nation's largest department-store chain." (...)

"The idea behind the change in legislation was, I believe, that prostitutes should be able to leave the `gray zone' of semi-illegality and be registered and have social insurance like other professions," Fitzgerald (who works with Solidarity With Women in Distress) said. "Reality has since shown that very few prostitutes are officially registered and the police have practically no way of justifying brothel raids, so that now fewer victims of trafficking are actually discovered."

 

Since Representative Smith spoke about rapes: There have been three times more rapes per 100.000 inhabitants in the United States than in Germany in 2004 according to statistics from the FBI and BKA, which is the German equivalent of the FBI.

Trackbacks

Anglofritz on : It Goes Both Ways

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The American press gets raw on German prostitution laws This post on the Atlantic Review illustrates the press dissonance between Germany and America has two sides -- or backs, should I say? Americans just don't understand, either -- at least when it comes to legalized prostitution. I have to admit, we have this weird deal with it. America was established by Puritans that got kicked out of Europe for having bizarre beliefs, ones that they were willing to colonize a remote, unforgiving wilderness in pursuit of. Thus begins the saga of a country that still sins as much as or more than any of its compatriots, but still insists on calling it sin. Can't spell "godless" without "God," I guess.

Atlantic Review on : Soccer in German-American Relations

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1. Celebrating German-American Friendship!The Berlin chapter of the Fulbright Alumni invites everybody to a German-American Soccer World Cup Game Watching Party for the match USA vs. Italy. The party will start on Saturday, June 17th, 8:00 pm at Rock Berl

Liberty Corner on : Carnival of Liberty XLIX

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Welcome to the 49th Carnival of Liberty. These Carnivals celebrate the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and property -- all of which are essential to the pursuit of happiness. Carnivals (of the real kind) attract a motley cross-section of humanity.

Liberty Corner on : Carnival of Liberty XLIX

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Welcome to the 49th Carnival of Liberty. These Carnivals celebrate the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and property -- all of which are essential to the pursuit of happiness. Carnivals (of the real kind) attract a motley cross-section of humanity.

Atlantic Review on : State Department Uses the World Cup to Improve U.S. Image

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From the United States Mission to Germany:A delegation of 30 young soccer players participating in the World Cup Sports Initiative organized by the U.S. State Department will travel to Germany June 21-23 to attend the FIFA World Cup match between Ghana an

Atlantic Review on : Germany's National Holiday and the "Summer Dream" Documentary

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October 3rd is German Unity Day. It has been often said that there would be less Anti-Americanism in Germany, if Germans would be more patriotic. Anti-Americanism has been described as:inverted nationalism for people who think nationalism isn't cool. (thi

Comments

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Andreas on :

Well, it's very complicated. I suggest, that everybody critizing the German government for the legalization of prostitution asks himself: would it really be better, if it wasn't legalized? Be honest - if prostitution wasn't legal, would it prevent pimps from bringing prostitution to the cities with games? Wouldn't there be a much higher percentage of trafficked women? By the way, the German section of Amnesty International and other organizations have started actions against trafficking (the name is "Abpfiff").

Joerg on :

It's indeed complicated. I guess there are arguments for both sides. Does anyone know of a comparative study about the consequences of legalization and criminalization of prostitution?

chris on :

Sweden made prostitution illegal not too long ago, I have heard that it had positive effects. However, have not researched the subject in any detail. Might be worth looking into, Joerg.

Andreas on :

By the way, an estimated 45000 to 50000 children and women are trafficked every year to the United States: http://www.cia.gov/csi/monograph/women/trafficking.pdf It seems, prohibiting prostitution doesn't help to prevent trafficking. It just makes those women, who are doing sex jobs on their own free will, criminals.

Hardy on :

In the U.S. more woman are forced into prostitution, are raped and killed than here in Germany, where the prostitutes have rights after their legalization. Instead of the U.S. where even every little policeman can put a prostitute under pressure that she does what he wants. And when I hear words like "immoral and reprehensible", I must say I have to puke. Especially when I see what the church has done to people(child molesting, killings of new born babies, or last week the priest who was sentenced lifelong imprisonment for killing his wife). I'm against prostitution, if the woman are forced to make it, but if they want to do so, than nobody has the right to forbid that, because it's their body, and they have the right to decide what kind of job they like to do. That's democracy too. Representative Smith should keep his stupid, prudish nonsense for himself.

Joerg on :

Thanks for your comment. Where did you learn that "In the U.S. more woman are forced into prostitution, are raped and killed than here in Germany"? I would appreciate a link.

Joerg on :

I found one statistic and updated my post

joe on :

Some how so much of this sounds like a rationalization.

Joerg on :

What do you mean? "Rationalization" has a positive ring to me as non-native speaker. Did you mean "excuse"? Or do you look at the issue of criminalization or legalization from an abstract moral point of view? I look at from a practical point of view: Whatever works best to minimize the abuse of women and to reduce sex trafficking, is fine with me. I thought you are a practical and results oriented guy as well....

joe on :

Looking at something from a practical point of view, is this now an acceptable means to analyze an issue?

Zyme on :

Maybe its typically german to see things in the practical and rational rather than the moral way :) And I agree here, illegalizing prostitution because of outdated moral understanding... come on and wake up, we are living in the 21st century. It simply is the oldest form of Dienstleistung of mankind.

Anonymous on :

Rationalization is an ego defense mechanism. "I failed that test because the teacher doesn't like me." What Rationalization does is present a pseudo/semi plausable explanation for a shortcoming. Hardy #2: "...the priest who was sentenced lifelong imprisonment for killing his wife." As I read this comment and the "the church" phrase, I tended to think of the Roman Catholic Church and a RC Priest. However, they are not allowed to marry so I'm wondering who Hardy is talking about. There is nothing inherently "bad" (or good for that matter) about prostitution. There are those of us who because of our faith believe that sex should be reserved for marriage, but that is not the belief of all. To my knowledge (uncertain at best) there is plenty of anecdotal evidence on both sides of this (illegal vice legal prostitution) issue but no definitive answer. However, having said that, I cannot see any thing that would indicate that any traffiking in human beings for sex, slavery etc is anything but bad. Thanks for the post Jorg.

Hardy on :

I know that he was not from the RC, I guess he was from the babtist church, I saw it on the news(N24), but with child malesting or other thinks I meaned specially the RC. And prostitution, but only if the woman wants to work that way, has nothing to do with slavery. If you would know some of them as good as I do, you would know that too.

alec on :

I'm not sure if America or Germany deals with prostitution better. I know that the experience is pretty miserable for a lot of girls who get brutalized into this profession. When I worked for the State Department in Romania, a primary goal for funding NGO's was informing girls about the dangers of traficking. To me it seemed kind of mindless -- I didn't see statistic that suggested girls agree to this in the hope of financial benefits. I think the traffickers, and the lack of willingness of Eastern European countries to pursue things that often deal with complicated international law, were the culprits.

Hardy on :

Well Alec, I know a lot from poland which just make that job for money and where not pressured in it. And they make between 10000,- and 20000,-$ a month. But, of course, they have no pimp. But I also know girls which where pressured into prostitution, cause I helped a few of them to get away from their pimps(sometimes Albanian,sometimes Turkish or Arab), which was sometimes a bit dangerous. But I was able to help them. But here in germany we also have organisations of prostitutes which help them now, since it was legalized. And that woman are fighting for their rights, to do that job, too.

Hattie on :

You would think that men, supposedly the ethical gender, would be trying to find commonalities with women in order to make a just and equitable world for everyone. But as long as men enjoy fucking women for money I don't see that happening. Commercial sex really spoils everything and demolishes the normative authority of men.

Joerg on :

The ethical gender? Okay, I know you are joking. For more fun, I recommend [url=http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0300106645/ref=nosim/atlanticrevie-20]Prof. Mansfield's latest book on "Manliness"[/url]. This Harvard professor is serious. He does not teach gender studies, but politics... Can you believe it?

Thomas on :

Americans might be freedom loving, but in when it comes to anything concerning sex they are against freedom and pretty rigid and uptight puritans and calvinists. It's their history. I don't mean forced prostitution or sex trafficking, but homosexual marriage, the media circus about 1 second of Janet Jackson's nipple, abortion and women who freely chose to be prostitutes. Many Americans do not want to give women the freedom to do with their body what they want, like prostitution.

James on :

I note most of the comment-posters on this blog-page are men. It would be interesting to get an equal number of opinions from both sides of the Atlantic, from women. I think one would find a more uniform condemnation of this World Cup "Brothel-World" fantasy-land which is cropping up in Germany. This is all going quite a bit farther than merely legalizing prostitution, but trying to sanitize it, make it a part of the mainstream, and the fact is the whole profession of prostitution springs forth from sexual pathology and frustration within a society. It is one thing to legalize it, and tolerate it, but another to celebrate it like a Carnival. The USA also has brothels in remote areas of Nevada, and presumably there are some women who fall into those social traps unprepared as well, but in larger measure the illegality of prostitution in the USA leads to many abuses, which by itself is an argument for legalization -- but not wild public celebration and mainstream support, complete with gigantic brothel-hotels, f**k-mobiles, and importing women from all over. This is clearly being done for money reasons, to make the World Cup attract more and more men, who know they can "get laid in Germany" even if they cannot back home. Also of concern, the major customers of prostitutes tend to be old men living trapped in love-less marriages, or young men unable to find a sexual partner. Or crass drunks like the soccer fans, whom no decent woman would have, out for an easy f**k. This reflects that there has NOT been any genuine "sexual revolution" in the sense of a change away from antisexual Puritanism towards a more loving relations between men and women. Prostitution can thrive in such a situation, and perhaps it ought not to be legalized until the old men are free to find new partners, and the younger ones aren't mistreated like Romeo and Juliet. Then there's the problem of the pedophiles, who are pushing hard to do away with all laws prohibiting them from raping children. That's on both sides of the Atlantic as well. It is easy enough to speak about "legalizing victimless crime", but is it really victimless? Is a woman forced into prostitution due to several children to feed and the man having abandoning them, living next to poverty, is she really happily volunteering to be the "happy hooker"? Or the confused adolescent or even child, whom the pedophile wants to grab, should the laws regarding legalized prostitution and age-of-concent allow it , or turn a blind eye to legal grey-shades while the pimp puts money into the hands of the cops -- where is the line to be drawn? I don't trust any of the male politicians backing this World Cup Carnival, who simply have not considered this issue with any care. Does Germany need another public shitting and street-pissing, orgy festival, as what the annual Berliner "Love Parade" had become?

Gavin on :

The World Cup Soccer tornament is due to be played in South Africa in 2010 and I am concerned for the children and woman in my country. We are trying to create an awareness around the child sex tourist industry and the profile of the person who attends a World Cup Soccer tournament. I welcome anyone who is able to furnish me with stats on the number of children that were forced into prostitution over this period. Thank you.

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