Berlin Sex Workers Stage Protest Against Continued Shutdown

LOS ANGELES—More than a month after Germany began to reopen businesses from shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, the country’s sex work industry remains banned. Sex work is legal, though heavily regulated, in Germany. Sex workers are entitled to social security, and other benefits enjoyed by workers in ot her German industries.

Nonetheless, brothels and similar sex-related businesses have been closed since mid-March due to the pandemic — though other close-contact businesses such as nail salons and massage therapy parlors have been permitted to reopen

In response, a group of sex workers in Berlin staged a protest on Friday, wielding an inflatable sex doll outside the Bundesrat, the upper house of Germany’s parliament. 

The protesters also brandished placards with slogans including, "Let us work," "Open the brothels now,” and "Our sector is being driven underground.”

"Hairdressers, massage parlors, beauty salons, fitness studios, tattoo shops, saunas, restaurants and hotels have been allowed to reopen," the Federal Association for Erotic and Sex Services — a trade association and lobbying group for the sex industry — said in a statement last week, saying that the sex workers "seem to have been forgotten by politicians.”

The trade group called the continued shutdown of the sex industry "incomprehensible in view of the developments in other sectors.”

Other western European countries have already allowed sex workers to resume their jobs, including Switzerland, Belgium, Austria, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands.

The Netherlands had intended to keep sex workers idle until September, but last week announced that the ban on legal sex work would be lifted July 1.

In Canada, Amnesty International has taken the call for lifting the pandemic-related ban a step further, calling for the government there to simply stop enforcing all laws against sex work and related activities at least for the duration of the COVD-19 pandemic, according to a report by the CBC

"Government has put them in a position where they won't provide them income supports and yet will criminalize them if they work,” said Jackie Hansen, a women’s rights campaigner with Amnesty Canada. “That just needs to stop."

Hansen said that Amnesty aims to “make sure the existing laws on the books aren't enforced," and have petitioned Canada’s Justice Minister David Lametti to place a moratorium on enforcement of anti-sex work laws.

Though sex work itself is decriminalized in Canada, most activities associated with sex work — including paying for sexual services — remains illegal, effectively outlawing sex work.

Photo By Nikolaus Bader / Pixabay