2015, October 22

National laws on prostitution: The cases of Netherland, Germany and Spain

First I would like to introduce the evaluation of the Netherland’s experiment, which legalized pimping and brothels in 2000. The Dutch Government conducted the evaluation in 2007. According to the Government, after the full legalization of prostitution, 95% of prostitutes still worked without contracts and considered themselves self-employed, despite the fact that there was a high level of control of their work by brothel operators. Accordingly, given the lack of work contracts, the majority of prostitutes were not entitled to any social service benefits.
According to official sources, the majority of prostitutes (more than 60%) did not pay tax on the income they earned through prostitution. In the escort sector, this increased to 75%. According to the Dutch government, the conditions under which prostitutes worked differed widely. Only 2% of the municipalities tolerated street prostitutes, which pushed them towards brothels, windows or other indoor establishments, where they were required to pay a rent and/or part of their incomes.
According to the evaluation, the emotional wellbeing of prostitutes has declined between 2001 and 2006 according to every variable assessed, i.e. the extent of distress was higher and the use of sedatives had increased. Only a small minority of municipalities (6%) offered an exit programs to prostitutes.
According to the government, the medium age of the prostitutes is much lower than in other sectors (29% of prostitutes in escort services are aged 18 or 19). More than half of the prostitutes who are working as escorts started when they were younger than 20, and more than 10% when they were underage
In 2012 Local police in Netherlands reported that low sentences for traffickers continued to result in the reappearance of the same offenders and thus the continued exploitation of trafficking victims within the regulated commercial sex sector.
Apart from improving the situation of prostitutes, the legalization of prostitution in Netherlands in 2000 aimed at reducing the prostitution by "irregular" migrants. However, work in prostitution is not considered as a valid occupation in order to provide work permits. As a consequence, non-EU nationals were pushed into the underground market where almost no controls take place, with no rights or protection available, and where prostitutes are thus more vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking.
In general, between 45-50% of prostitutes in Netherlands state that violence is their main concern. The fact that Dutch brothels must be equipped with "panic buttons" is illustrative of the high level of risk of violence that prostitutes face.
According to the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings (2010) in Netherlands:
“There has always been a clear relationship between human trafficking and prostitution in the Netherlands. Human trafficking has been associated with prostitution ever since it was included in Dutch criminal law”. We are still a long way from reaching a situation where there is sufficient control of the Dutch prostitution sector to substantially reduce vulnerability to exploitation in the sector”
All in all in 2012, alarmed by persistent abuses and the presence of organized crime in the prostitution sector, into which is estimated that between 60-70% of the women are governed by criminal groups, the Dutch authorities considered amending the national prostitution policy. Apart from that, in 2008 the Council of Amsterdam launched the so called "Project 2012", with the aim of reducing crime in the central area, through which up to 200 of the 480 windows have been closed.
German Government initiated the Report by the Federal Government on the Impact of the Act Regulating the Legal Situation of Prostitutes in 2007. However since then, the Government does not provide any official data. A study carried out in 2007 found that 92% of prostitutes had suffered sexual harassment, 87% physical violence and 41% sexual violence in the context of performing sexual services. Around half of interwied showed symptoms of depression, 41% used drugs.
In general, Germany is considered one of the major destinations for victims of human trafficking. The Guardian identified Germany as "Europe’s biggest brothel".
In an effort to combat sexual exploitation, and in order to implement Directive 2011/36/, Germany’s Bundestag voted in June 2013 in favour of a bill which foresees the implementation of greater penalties for human trafficking, as well as stricter controls and monitoring for sex businesses by regional labour safety authorities.
Under the Criminal Code of 1995, prostitution in Spain was decriminalized. According to enforcement authorities, this decriminalization contributed to growth in the national sex industry. In 2003, the Criminal Code was amended again, establishing the criminal liability of those who obtain benefits exploiting the prostitution of others, even with consent.
In 2013 the Spain government stated that the great majority of prostitutes who consume substances have started it after engaging in prostitution: 83.3% of the prostitutes who consume sedatives, 73.2% of antidepressants consumers, and 66% of cocaine consumers started consuming after engaging in prostitution. Use of cocaine is often instrumental and demanded by the clients of sexual services.
In 2013 it was also estimated that 90% of women in prostitution in Spain could be under the control of organized crime networks. And that prostitutes in Spain mainly are foreigners.
In 2006 the special Commission was created and the Final Report regarding prostitution was adopted next year.
The Final Report reaffirmed the abolitionist approach and rejected the possibility of the regulation of prostitution, which they saw interfer with labour law, the legislation on gender equality, and the fundamental principle of equality of the Spanish Constitution.
The Commission viewed prostitution as a form of gender-based violence, inflicting severe damage and risking the physical and psychological health of women and girls; as rooted in patriarchal structures of men’s sexuality and the domination of women; and as being fostered by gender discrimination, the feminization of poverty, and global migration patterns. It recognized also that prostitution is a lucrative business, mostly controlled by criminal groups, and is tightly linked to trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights aspects of the victims of trafficking in persons, especially women and children, Sigma Huda:
States Parties with legalized prostitution industries have a heavy responsibility to ensure (...) that their legalized prostitution regimes are not simply perpetuating widespread and systematic trafficking. As current conditions throughout the world attest, States Parties that maintain legalized prostitution are far from satisfying this obligation". Her statement regarding the danger inherent to legalised prostitution systems to enhance trafficking in human beings has been confirmed by recent studies.