New Zealand, Germany: decriminalization and legalization, trafficking and sustainability. And smoke screens.

In international sex industry marketing, New Zealand is touted as the “new model”. The “German model” has lost its usefulness as the sheer brutality resulting from implementing the sex industry’s demands can no longer be denied (not that pro-prostitution lobbyists aren’t trying), so now New Zealand is supposed to offer great opportunities for women in the “adult entertainment industry”.

The arguments rely on two aspects here –

  • New Zealand is rather remote to everybody but New Zealanders, and so like Snow White’s realm, beyond the seven mountains, over the hills, where the seven dwarfs dwell, – in this case, beyond the seven seas, where very far away people dwell – none is so fair as the New Zealand sex trade. Peddlers of this myth just hope that people’s knowledge of New Zealand and the sex trade there does not extend beyond (possibly) finding New Zealand on a map. And on little contact between abolitionists. Fail.
  • Confusion over “legalization” and “decriminalization” and a pretended profound difference between the two, which in practice does not exist.Germany is said to have a “legalization”/ “regulation” approach, whereas New Zealand is said to have a “decriminalizing” approach which is said to be so much better.It is true that Germany has now returned to a regulatory model, roughly of the kind the European continent has tried since medieval times, so we now see the kind of model which has been failing for more than 600 years, but hey – what’s wrong with history repeating itself, at least then we know where we are, new approaches are always so confusing, and Germany is deeply conservative at heart. (And we like Grimm’s tales.)
    What Germany has had up to now, from 2002-2017, and the new law is not yet applied in most of the country as it has only come into effect on 1 July 2017 and most municipalities haven’t yet begun implementation, has been a mixture of legalization and decriminalization. Germany is a federal state, so the 2002 Prostitution Act functions like a broad legal framework. Within that framework, the different Länder, or “states” then draw up the details of their own approaches. Broadly speaking, the 2002 act provided a more systematic approach to endorsing brothels. Municipalities with over 50,000 inhabitants are under obligation to designate prostitution areas, and in the wake of the Prostitution Act pimping (except for “exploitative pimping”) was decriminalized and so were certain forms of trafficking (directly or indirectly by making it almost impossible to legally prove either „exploitative pimping“ or trafficking). Basically, the act and the legislation following it just wrote existing practices into law.
    The different states then decided if they wanted a more decriminalized or legalized approach. Berlin for example chose decriminalization, and it is in Berlin that outcomes are the worst (if there is a “worst” in this field). “Hartgeldstrich” is a term here – “hard money prostitution area”, with “hard money” referring to coins as opposed to bills, as prices are so low they can be paid in coins. Used condoms and syringes litter the sidewalks, the playgrounds, the sandpits, even recreation areas at schools, and residents have begun complaining. Some streets have been put under some form of regulation – prostitution activities (punishment on the prostituted of course, remember, European medieval model) may no longer be engaged in during daylight. Other cities with similar approaches had to cancel this and went back to zoning and regulation.

A closer look at the various approaches in Germany and New Zealand reveals that the alleged differences between the two – legalizing and decriminalizing – are vastly exaggerated. The situation is more that of a sliding scale with a mixture of both in all those states that wrote the sex industry’s demands into law.

A look at the outcomes in Germany and in New Zealand also reveals that they are indeed, very similar. How could they not be? Similar policies yield similar results, who can possibly expect developments in New Zealand to be very different from those in Germany if the same approaches apply?

And how does anybody explain that New Zealand is decriminalized when it clearly has regulations (those penalizing women in prostitution included) which Germany has only introduced this year? This is not to engage in a derailing discussion on the merits of the German vs the New Zealand model or vice versa. This is to point out that there are no viable differences between the two approaches.

To quote from the 2012 summary on developments after the 2003 Prostitution Reform Act (PRA) provided by the New Zealand government (emphasis mine):

„Work conditions: The most common reason for entering the sex industry is financial. [52] In 2007 a Victoria University survey of brothel operators and community agencies found various positive attitudes towards the PRA. These included sex workers no longer being considered criminals, and having the same rights as those working in other industries. They could negotiate safe-sex practices more easily too. Areas requiring improvement included management practices and better administration of the brothel operator certification system. [53] Despite decriminalisation, some sex workers continue to experience adverse incidents such as exploitation and violence. However, it is unclear if more violence is being reported since the PRA. [54] The CSOM study found that street-based sex workers were significantly more likely than other sex workers to experience incidents such as violence, threats of violence, rape and theft. Clients were the usual perpetrators of these offences. [55] Other research indicates that men posing as clients are a major source of violence and harassment towards street workers, with these workers further harassed by some members of the general public. [56] There appeared to be ‚good‘ and ‚bad‘ operators regarding sex workers being allowed to refuse to provide commercial sexual services. [57] It has been reported that some unprotected sex occurs. [58] From 2004 to 2011 there were two prosecutions and two convictions (in 2005 and 2009) under the PRA for a sex worker or client failing to adopt safer sex practices. [59] The Committee was encouraged that most sex workers contacted for its report were aware of their right to say ’no‘ to sex, and that some brothel operators‘ behaviour here had improved. [60] “

In the German government evaluations, violence and crimes committed against those in prostitution weren’t even an issue, here they are minimized:

„… violence, threats of violence, rape and theft“ – these are „incidents“ when the victims are prostituted women.

And brothel operators find „various positive attitudes towards“ the New Zealand law. This mirrors the findings on the German Prostitution Act from 2007.

Please also take note of the interesting wording regarding who has  „postive attitudes“ towards the PRA: brothel operators and community agencies; and compare this to who experiences „violence, threats of violence, rape and theft“: street based sex workers, and sex workers.

It’s ridiculous to even pretend New Zealand is „decriminalized“ and Germany „legalized“ – apparently it was New Zealand that had a „brothel certification system“ long before Germany introduced this (as of July this year, not yet implemented in most of the country), and it is New Zealand that has punishments for „a sex worker or client failing to adopt safer sex practices“ i.e. mandatory „safer sex“ practices / i.e. condoms, before Germany had that. (In Germany it is the buyer only who pays the fee.)

We know the pro sex industry side is lying, but it’s still mind-boggling how blatantly they do it.

Existing differences might possibly be determined regarding human trafficking, as New Zealand’s borders are more easily controlled than those of Germany – that might be due to the fact that there’s this ocean somewhere around New Zealand and the fact that Germany is in the middle of a continent (and the EU, and as a member of the Schengen Agreement does not have closed or closely guarded borders, something to which we agree as pro-European democrats, but that is another issue). Other differences regarding trafficking can be put down to linguistic technicalities – if trafficking is defined as crossing national borders, then Indigenous women or children can’t be trafficked by definition. In the end, this too, exposes more of the similarities of the system – the creative lawyering and creative definition of terms. Germany has very few trafficking cases and almost no cases in “exploitative pimping” according to its official statistics, since the definitions of the terms used by German courts make it almost impossible to prove either – similarities to the implementation of our laws against rape (changed only last year in November) are certainly not accidental. The similarities between official approaches in New Zealand and in Germany lie in the creative use of the term „trafficking“ to define it out of existence.

And as a heads up to international activists: Germany has ratified a binding European directive on trafficking as late as possible, and certainly not by neglect. (New Zealand is regularly criticized in the annual “Trafficking in Persons” Report by the US State Department. The criticism from some of the reports sounds much like the one directed at Germany, again underscoring the overall point:  Similar approaches lead to similar outcomes.) German politicians and scholars are working hard on defining and re-defining trafficking. They are concerned that laws and practices preventing trafficking could prevent individuals from being trafficked. (Which is, of course, what the laws are about, but …. : ) Since these individuals may have “agreed” to being trafficked, existing national and international laws and conventions are interpreted (and defamed) as restricting the “freedom” of individuals. The aim is to replace a ban on trafficking with a ban on “exploitation”, aided by either omitting any definition of “exploitation” or by finding one that will be unworkable in a court of law. Similar attempts regard the term „coercion“. In brief: The aim, as with the legalization of prostitution, is again to write existing practices into law. Crocodile tears and possibly some provisions for the sustainability of trafficking are and will be included, the latter are probably still being debated. The wording and framing of laws will ensure that those whose rights are violated will have to address German courts as individuals, and go the entire procedure from reporting the crime to the police to standing up in court as witnesses alone, with an individual assessment of their situation. Some emotional assistance may possibly be provided. In other words: A trafficked woman from Nigeria or Thailand or Bulgaria, often from disenfranchised and very targeted communities, and with the lack of education and self-confidence that results from such targeting, will be expected to stand up against trafficking networks and a state that seeks to normalize those and to tax them, on her own. The current situation is already very much like this, especially for those over 21. We can expect golden evaluations, as both reports to the police as well as prosecutions as well as convictions will decrease even further. Yet speaking of the “individual freedom”, the “agency” and the “limited agency” of those trafficked sounds much better than flat out admitting that it is a shame for all these millions of profits from trafficking to remain illegal, hence difficult to tax and difficult to invest in the regular economy.

Sources on the situation in New Zealand here: “New Zealand. Sources.

2 Gedanken zu „New Zealand, Germany: decriminalization and legalization, trafficking and sustainability. And smoke screens.

  1. Pingback: Prostitution Policy and Law: What are the Options? – Nordic Model Now!

  2. Pingback: A critical review of ‘Revolting Prostitutes: The fight for sex workers’ rights’ by Juno Mac and Molly Smith – Nordic Model Now!

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