German sex industry waits for mega football event

Berlin, August 8:

Germany’s sex industry here hopes to notch up its own successes during the 2006 World Cup. From street prostitutes to the upmarket escorts of flashy clubs, sex workers are preparing a major offensive to find clients among the millions of fans — most of them men — that will take part in this sporting mega event. Prostitution has been just one more career in Germany since 2001, when the Social Democratic-Green government of chancellor Gerhard Schroeder approved a law legitimising sex workers but made sure they paid taxes. From that point on, their profession ceased to be considered immoral or contrary to the public good. So long as their papers are in order, they are in the country legally and have not been forced into prostitution; neither the women nor their clients need to fear police crackdowns and the like. The powers-that-be seem to have recognised the economic potential of the industry. In Cologne for example — a city of one million located on the Rhine — the municipality introduced a ‘sex tax’ of $180 per prostitute, per month two years ago. This is on top of the income tax licensed prostitutes must pay.

Of course, out-of-doors sexual activity remains strictly off limits. And that could create some problems given the avalanche of sex workers that will try and come to Germany next year to ply their trade. Due to the expected growth in demand for women during the four weeks of the World Cup, Ulrike Hauffe, head of the Women’s Committee in the city of Bremen, predicts a ‘veritable flood of prostitutes’ will enter Germany next year. “The estimates are in the region

of 30,000 to 40,000 women,” she recently warned. In Cologne, one of the host cities of the World Cup, city authorities have put up a complex of custom-built cabins on the outskirts of the city, where escorts can attend to clients out of sight of the rest of the city. In so doing, they keep prostitution out of dirty car parks and away from cheap hotel rooms and dark street corners. These pre-built units, that Germany’s bureaucrats have christened

‘Verrichtungsboxen’ — something akin to ‘action boxes,’ action of the sexual kind, of course — seem more like garages. They were imported from Utrecht, where the idea was first tried.

In these custom-built ‘garages’ that the women call ‘boxes’ or ‘singles’, the clients drive in directly with their cars. The units are built in such a way that the driver cannot open the main door, but the workers have enough space to get out and away if attacked. The units also contain an emergency alarm, basic sanitary facilities and bins to throw out used condoms.

According to the authorities, the units have helped move sex workers out of the city centre and have reduced attacks on the women by clients and pim-ps. The latter are also ban-ned now from the complex, which was set up almost four years ago. So far, it is a unique project in Germany — one that is jointly funded by city authorities, the police and the Social Service of Catholic Women at an annual cost of 480,000 euros.