Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

January 31, 2005

German government tries to force women into prostitution

Filed under: — Different River @ 9:30 am

No, I am not making this up! Libertarians often argue for legalizing prostitution on the grounds that it’s a “victimless crime,” and if some people want to pay for sex and others want to have sex for pay, why should anyone else object?

Here’s one reason.

Germany legalized prostitution in 2002. The idea was to cut back on “combat trafficking in women and cut links to organised crime.”

Now, if you are an unemployed woman, and a brothel lists an opening at the unemployment office, you can lose your unemployment benefits if you refuse to take a job as a prostitute.

The story is here, in the London Telegraph. Some excerpts:

A 25-year-old waitress who turned down a job providing “sexual services” at a brothel in Berlin faces possible cuts to her unemployment benefit under laws introduced this year.

Prostitution was legalised in Germany just over two years ago and brothel owners – who must pay tax and employee health insurance – were granted access to official databases of jobseekers.

Under Germany’s welfare reforms, any woman under 55 who has been out of work for more than a year can be forced to take an available job – including in the sex industry – or lose her unemployment benefit. Last month German unemployment rose for the 11th consecutive month to 4.5 million, taking the number out of work to its highest since reunification in 1990.

The government had considered making brothels an exception on moral grounds, but decided that it would be too difficult to distinguish them from bars. As a result, job centres must treat employers looking for a prostitute in the same way as those looking for a dental nurse.

When the waitress looked into suing the job centre, she found out that it had not broken the law. Job centres that refuse to penalise people who turn down a job by cutting their benefits face legal action from the potential employer.

“There is now nothing in the law to stop women from being sent into the sex industry,” said Merchthild Garweg, a lawyer from Hamburg who specialises in such cases. “The new regulations say that working in the sex industry is not immoral any more, and so jobs cannot be turned down without a risk to benefits.”

Tatiana Ulyanova, who owns a brothel in central Berlin, has been searching the online database of her local job centre for recruits.

“Why shouldn’t I look for employees through the job centre when I pay my taxes just like anybody else?” said Miss Ulyanova.

Why, indeed. Maybe because the point of legalizing prostitution was to prevent “trafficking in women,” not transfering that trafficking to government job centers? Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to legalize it in the first place…

4 Responses to “German government tries to force women into prostitution”

  1. Dave Schuler Says:

    Yet another step in the EU Limbo: how low can you go?

  2. Ulver Nielsen Says:

    Berlin newspaper Tageszeitung, does not report that women in Germany must accept employment in brothels or face cuts in their unemployment benefits. The article merely presents that concept as a technical possibility under current law — it does not cite any actual cases of women losing their benefits over this issue, and it quotes representatives from employment agencies as saying that while it might be legally permissible to reduce unemployment benefits to women who have declined to accept employment as prostitutes, they (the agencies) would not actually do that. The thrust of the article seems to be that there is a loophole in the law which has not yet exploited and should be closed

  3. Different River Says:

    Tageszeitung presented it as a theoretical possibility, but in the article I linked, the Telegraph reported that it actually happened:

    A 25-year-old waitress who turned down a job providing “sexual services” at a brothel in Berlin faces possible cuts to her unemployment benefit under laws introduced this year.

    She received a letter from the job centre telling her that an employer was interested in her “profile” and that she should ring them. Only on doing so did the woman, who has not been identified for legal reasons, realise that she was calling a brothel.

    When the waitress looked into suing the job centre, she found out that it had not broken the law. Job centres that refuse to penalise people who turn down a job by cutting their benefits face legal action from the potential employer.

    Having said that, even if it were “only” a theoretical possibility that a law could force a woman into prostitution, that would be enough to make it a bad law!

  4. Mbuel Says:

    Funnily enough this story is relevant again with the law to legalize prostitution coming up in San Francisco.

    Like all government forcing, one cannot argue purely that this is a case against libertarianism because the government’s social welfare programs that help seek jobs. If the government sees no moral difference between a desk job and a bed job, then it can force them into the bed job because it is available.

    This is why I’m not a libertarian. There are immoral activities that people will try to perform regardless of their legal status. This is NOT a good argument to legalize them. The answer is to Punish the pimps severely and often. Alot of the time the women are slaves to the pimps, all this law does is LEGALIZE the pimp, and will make the goverment the pimp.

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