CORONA: The chance to exit? by Chantal Louis from EMMA Magazine

Germany’s brothels are closed. What does that mean for the women? And why does the pro-prostitution lobby lament a threatening “homelessness”? And: will the Cologne mega-brothel “Pascha” really get short-time allowance from the Corona rescue funds for the economy?

24 March 2020
by Chantal Louis

Germany’s brothels have been closed for a week now. The city of Stuttgart was even a bit faster, as is so often the case where prostitution is concerned. Where a committed public prosecutor put mega-brothel operator Jürgen Rudloff behind bars for aiding and abetting human trafficking, brothels already had to stop operating on 13 March. What has happened since then?

“When the pimps realized that the money tap was turned off, they collected the women and drove them away,” says Sabine Constabel. “Which shows what we have been saying for a long time: almost none of the women has been working here without a pimp.”

The social worker and chairwoman of the aid association “Sisters – for the exit from prostitution” has been supporting prostitutes in surviving and exiting for over three decades and says: “It’s the pimps who abruptly lose their revenue. The women themselves had no money anyway, they have to deliver it to the pimps.” And the few women who worked independently to send the money to their families “went home very quickly. They weren’t here because Germany is so nice and the job is so great.”


Now the red light district in Stuttgart’s Leonhardstrasse is deserted. Also the Café La Strada has closed, where Constabel and her colleagues provide the women with a warm meal. But the counseling center on the first floor is still open.

By the way, “great job”. We remember the representatives of the pro-prostitution lobby who, in talk shows, were chanting the mantra of the happy prostitute: prostitution – a job like any other, only that the earnings are so much better than at the supermarket checkout. Independent, self-determined, gorgeous! Not a word about the army of poverty and misery prostitutes from Romania and Bulgaria, who now make up 90 percent of the approximately 300,000 women who have to serve German clients.

But now, suddenly, they sound quite different. Many of the “marginalized” women have “neither health insurance nor permanent residence,” explains Johanna Weber, ex-chairwoman of the “Berufsverband erotischer und sexueller Dienstleistungen” (Professional Association for Erotic and Sexual Services, BESD). They are now threatened with homelessness. Many sex workers have “almost no financial reserves”. They will probably continue to work despite the lockdown. “What else can they do if they have nothing to eat?”

We can also think of a few other questions: why did the BESD never call for a compulsory health insurance for prostitutes? Why not for a minimum wage? Why did they not demand that women should not have to vegetate in the same rooms where they work? (Which is why they are now on the street.) Why did they not request from the legislator to take action against the extortionate rents which brothel operators take from the women? And why did they never demand that the state should be able to prosecute pimping better? (For why do “sex workers” have no financial reserves or nothing to eat? Maybe because someone is taking away their earnings?)


The answer is more obvious than ever: because the “Professional Association for Erotic and Sexual Services” is a lobby association of excellent-earning studio owners who mostly work as dominatrices (like Johanna Weber, hourly rate: € 250) and have so far been very interested in preserving their own income, but very little in the situation of their colleagues from Europe’s poorhouses. Sorry, Johanna Weber, that we don’t believe your lamentations about the precarious situation of your “colleagues”. But good to know that you too can now no longer conceal the catastrophic situation of these women.

Even Armin Lobscheid, CEO of the Cologne mega-brothel “Pascha”, is suddenly quite frank about the women who (have to) work in his sex factory: “Many come from poor countries in Southeast Europe, they cannot afford to just go home.” Correct, and that’s, among other things, because they have to pay the Pascha a rent of € 160 a day. That is just under € 5,000 a month – which amounts to at least 100 clients for the tiny room alone.

By the way, Armin Lobscheid has now applied for short-time allowance. After all, he is currently losing a lot of money: the missing rents for 140 rooms alone amount to around € 672,000 a month in the Pascha cash balance. However, the money is not for the women, because, after all, they are “independent”. With the subsidy from the Corona billion dollar rescue funds, Lobscheid only wants to pay his 70 permanent employees: caretaker, hairdresser, security, all that a brothel needs.


And maybe a few more politicians in Berlin and elsewhere are now wondering how it can be that taxes collected from nurses or supermarket cashiers, who are currently protecting the country from collapse, are used to pay mega-brothels’ doormen. This is an inevitable consequence of treating prostitution as what it is not: “a normal business”.

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Back in Stuttgart. There, the local council has just approved an additional bridging allowance of € 60,000 for prostitutes who want to exit. Sabine Constabel: “The chances for women have never been so good to put into practice their deliberations to exit prostitution.” Or to say it with the tweet from Leni Breimeyer, SPD member of the Bundestag and also Sisters chairwoman: “Stuttgart prohibits prostitution because of Corona. There you go. It’s a good exercise.”

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