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Friday, 11 May, 2001, 16:51 GMT 17:51 UK
Germany to reform sex industry
prostitute
Prostitutes remain subject to widespread discrimination
By Rob Broomby in Berlin

Germany is poised to overhaul the laws governing the sex industry.

A bill to recognise prostitution as a profession and end the discrimination in health insurance has passed the first stage after a debate in the German parliament, the Bundestag.

The bill has to leap a number of hurdles before becoming law but it is expected to be enforced by the autumn.

It is the oldest profession in the world, yet prostitutes remain subject to widespread discrimination, according to the German Government.

In a bold proposal introduced to parliament on Friday they now want to end the hypocrisy whereby up to a million German men visit prostitutes every year but the women themselves are treated as second class citizens.

Benefits

Many prostitutes pay tax on their earnings but are routinely denied benefits.

brothel
A million German men visit prostitutes each year
The bill says prostitution should cease to be regarded as immoral under the law and a ban on health insurance cover should be lifted.

Under the proposals prostitutes will be allowed to receive some social security benefits and pensions.

Sex workers could even take their clients to court if they refuse to pay.

Prostitute groups have broadly welcomed the initiative but they say it doesn't go far enough and it will bring little support to those on the fringe.

They say illegal immigrants and women trafficked as sex slaves will continue to be exploited.

The liberal FDP party supported the measures but criticised the government for lack of courage in leaving it to the joint red-green parliamentary group to move the motion.

Germany's opposition Christian Democrats have acknowledged the need for reform but they say prostitution cannot be seen as just another service, they still believe it violates human dignity.

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See also:

30 Sep 00 | Europe
Dutch OK sex for sale
24 Jul 00 | South Asia
Sex workers fight for their rights
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