Germany Allows Some Sex Work Despite Virus Uptick

LOS ANGELES—Even as Germany has seen a recent uptick in coronavirus cases, several regions in the northern part of the country are now allowing sex workers to resume their jobs. Germany’s legal brothels have been shut down since March as a health precaution in response to the pandemic, and sex workers in Hamburg and Berlin have staged public protests against the government

Other close-contact businesses, such as beauty salons and massage therapy clinics have been allowed to reopen in Germany, even as brothels have been forced to stay shuttered. But sex workers in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, and in other northern jurisdictions, have filed court cases to force local officials to lift the ban, according to a report by Voice of America

On Tuesday, the Higher Administrative Court of North Rhine-Westphalia agreed that with similar businesses open, there was no rationale to keep brothels closed. The court found no clear evidence that one-on-one sexual activity carried a higher risk of transmission than indoor gatherings of up to 150 people, which are allowed under Germany’s current coronavirus health regulations

But while sex workers in North Rhine-Westphalia — whose capital is Düsseldorf and largest city is Cologne — may return to work this week, their counterparts in Hamburg and Bremen, where courts also overturned the ban, may resume their activities on September 15. 

Hamburg is home to Germany’s most famous red light district, the Reeperbahn, and has been the site of repeated protests by sex workers demanding their jobs back.

But the court ruling did not come soon enough for Cologne’s Pascha “mega-brothel,” which according to a Mirror newspaper report, was so devastated by the shutdown that it has now filed for bankruptcy and closed its doors, putting 100 sex workers and dozens of support staff in the 11-story facility out of work.

Germany has been one of Europe’s most successful countries in containing the pandemic, suffering just 9,412 deaths as of Thursday, according to Worldometers statistics, and 257,088 total cases. That is the equivalent of 112 deaths and 3,067 cases per 1 million population.

The United States has suffered 591 deaths and 19,799 cases per million, while the United Kingdom has seen 612 deaths and 5,270 cases per one million residents.

But Germany has seen a small but noticeable rise in cases over the past three weeks. On August 15, the seven-day rolling average of new cases stood at 1,084, but has risen to 1,280 as of Wednesday of this week.

Photo By Francesco Ronge / Pixabay